ATLANTA — The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, and although the New Orleans Pelicans selected Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the draft, I am not quick to name them the winners of the lottery. Williamson is the most athletic and dominating athlete we have seen since LeBron James made his arrival in the league, but we have seen countless times that athleticism can take you but so far in the NBA. So that is where the Pelicans have a problem. They have one player that the basketball world is projecting to be a stud.
The Hawks possibly have two future All-Stars.
I would love to crown my New York Knicks as the winners of the draft since they drafted RJ Barrett No. 3 overall, but the reality is, Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk, had to finesse and make deals to position his franchise to have two lottery-draft picks. So while the Pelicans had the first pick in the draft, the Hawks doubled down and selected two quality players in De’Andre Hunter (No. 4) and Cam Reddish (No. 10) that could collectively have a more significant impact on the franchise’s future, even though Hunter won’t officially be a Hawk until July 6.
Do the new pieces fit in the puzzle?
Schlenk was unable to address the media regarding Hunter, and how he will mesh with the rest of the young, talented weapons this Hawk’s roster bolsters. However, one thing is sure: Hunter is a well-rounded basketball player and was presumably the most versatile player in the draft.
With his ability to play both forward positions, Hunter gives head coach Lloyd Pierce depth at multiple positions. Last year at Virginia, he averaged 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists last season, shooting 52 percent from the field, including 43.8 percent from 3-point range. The dynamic forward was also the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Hunter wasn’t considered an attractive selection at No. 4, but he will have opportunities to prove his worth this year.
If there were any speculations as whom the Hawks should have picked at No. 10, it was Reddish. Hawks fans were hoping when Schlenk traded their two first-round picks, Nos. 8 and 17, and their remaining second-round pick, No. 35, to the Pelicans for the No. 4 pick on Thursday, it was to select Reddish. But as Schlenk said to the media following their draft picks, being good is not always the goal.
“We had him ranked higher than that on our board, but we felt like we might get him there,” he said. “So, we rolled the dice, and we won today. It is better to be lucky than good sometimes.”
The Hawks were lucky, and Reddish is good.
He is another complimentary piece that is talented enough to contribute to a team’s success. He just was not sure which team he would be improving.
“I had a small idea, but draft night is crazy,” Reddish said. “You never know what can happen. But I’m extremely blessed to be in this position, and I’m excited to get to the ATL.”
It’s worth mentioning, though that while he was the third option on a Duke team that was anchored by Williamson and Barrett, Reddish averaged 13.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. His style of play is like that of Joe Johnson, but he has a higher ceiling, and more importantly, he’s a better defender.
What’s missing now?
The Hawks also drafted big man Bruno Fernando Maryland. Fernando, 6-10, 240 pounds, averaged 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds last season at Maryland. The motto of the draft for the Hawks must have been quality players, but there is one thing missing, and that is a proven veteran that can play the center position. The Hawks have scorers at every position now, but they lack a legitimate rim protector.
With free agency lurking, the Hawks should target players such as Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah or DeAndre Jordan if they are available.
Chandler is a champion and a leader in any locker room, which would be ideal for a young team. He’s a veteran that would be a low-risk-high-reward caliber player for the Hawks. He is skilled in the pick-and-roll, which would lead to many lobs from Trae Young.
Noah is a high-energy player that brings grit to a team that needs a player to do the dirty work. Noah is also a crafty center around the rim, and his defense is still serviceable.
Jordan would be an exciting option simply because he is still a walking highlight reel. If the Knicks do decide to let him walk, the Hawks should seek a reasonable deal to bring Jordan to the Hotlanta. He would contribute to the excitement surrounding Young, John Collins, and the new draft picks. He would also be a mentor for Collins, who needs to improve defensively.
The Hawks proved once again they are not afraid t make bold moves in the draft, but will they make splashes in free agency?
Who knows? But the future of the Hawks is trending in the right direction.