2019 NBA Draft: By adding De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, rebuilding Hawks take page from Warriors' winning playbook
Atlanta's future is looking even more promising after GM Travis Schlenk spent another draft night wheeling and dealing
NEW YORK -- Once again, it took some wheeling and dealing, but the Atlanta Hawks got the guys they wanted. They didn't do anything quite as bold or divisive as passing on Luka Doncic this time, but they at Thursday's NBA Draft to select De'Andre Hunter, then used the No. 10 pick -- the one they got in the Doncic trade -- to select Cam Reddish.
Last year, there was lots of chatter about general manager Travis Schlenk, who was hired away from the Golden State Warriors, drafting his own version of the Splash Brothers: Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. The Warriors' influence on the league, however, is about more than just launching deep 3-pointers. It is about length, switching on defense and putting playmakers all over the court. The Hawks are only getting more Warriors-like, with a pair of big wings who should fit right in.
The Hawks clearly targeted Hunter. They sent the New Orleans Pelicans the No. 8 pick (Jaxson Hayes), the No. 17 pick (Nickeil Alexander-Walker), the No. 35 pick and a heavily protected 2020-first round pick for Hunter, the No. 57 pick and a future second-rounder. They also took on the final year of Solomon Hill's contract. Hunter did not work out for any other teams before the draft, and his Virginia teammate Kyle Guy texted him excitedly when news leaked about Atlanta trading up.
It is not hard to figure out why the Hawks wanted Hunter so badly. He might be the best defender in the class, and they needed a 3-and-D guy. He is the rare rookie who should be able to hold their lineups together right away, and they have enough playmaking that they can afford to bring him along slowly as a creator. In a draft where there was nothing close to a consensus fourth-best player, the No. 4 spot turned into a potentially perfect marriage of player and team.
Reddish is less of a sure thing. At his best, his smooth, effortless game makes him look like a future star -- his shot is pretty, his dribble moves are polished and his upside is undeniable. His lone year at Duke, however, was disappointing, which is why he wasn't a top-five pick. It is easy to find clips of him driving out of control, picking up charges and missing wildly around the rim. He has landed, however, in what might be the best possible environment for him.
In Atlanta, Reddish will have the sort of spacing he never had at Duke. In Reddish, the Hawks' player development staff has its most exciting project yet: a talented, versatile forward who has all sorts of room to grow in their system. If he improves as a finisher and becomes more disciplined on defense, watch out.
Hunter and Reddish are both from the Philadelphia area and played against each other in high school. They know each other a bit, but what's more interesting is how they should get along with the rest of the roster. Next to Young, Huerter and emerging big man John Collins, Atlanta doesn't just have arguably the most League Pass-friendly young core in the league, it has five players under 22 years old who fit together. Do not expect coach Lloyd Pierce to make this unit his starting lineup, but do not be surprised if he throws them all out there at some point.
"I think they have a great young nucleus," Hunter said. "They have great coaching. Trae Young is a great player. Kevin Huerter. John Collins. Those are all great young players. I feel like I can come in, provide a defensive spark, score a little bit on the offensive end and do the things needed to win."
Reddish said he wanted to bring a "winning mentality" to the Hawks, which is a funny thing to say if you're 19 years old and joining a team as young as this. Atlanta, however, improved significantly in the second half of this past season, even if only hardcore fans were tuning in to see Young's pretty passing and Collins' vicious dunks. In those games, you could already see the outline of a winning team. Now that Hunter and Reddish are aboard, the picture Schlenk is painting is about to get much clearer.
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