A flurry of pre-draft activity was promised by insiders throughout the week, and it arrived in a hurry with less than an hour to go before the draft officially began. The Atlanta Hawks were prominently involved, as they traded up from No. 10 to No. 4 in a multi-pick trade that also brought Solomon Hill to the club.
From there, he reports immediately started to flow that De’Andre Hunter was the Hawks’ target and Adam Silver made matters official later in the night, even with the caveat that the pick is technically owned by the Los Angeles Lakers, pending completion of the high-profile deal involving Anthony Davis. That deal is expected to go through on July 6, though there was some speculation that the trade could be delayed until July 30. Atlanta expects Hunter to be ready to play with them in Summer League, which begins on July 5 in Las Vegas.
Hunter comes to the Hawks after three years at the University of Virginia, where he won a national championship a few months ago with the Cavaliers. Atlanta was the only team for which Hunter worked out and there was a lot of mutual interest before the draft, which was consummated on draft night as the club moved up to No. 4 to grab him.
He’ll bring a strong defensive presence at the forward position, something the Hawks have sorely lacked for the last few years. Hunter was one of the safest picks in the early part of the 2019 draft, as he comes in with more college experience and a much clearer NBA role than many of his draft classmates. The 3-and-D forward is a very valuable archetype in the NBA and he will fit perfectly on a Hawks team that already features a primary creator in Trae Young and multiple secondary creators. Hunter will be able to swing between the forward positions with relative ease, which makes the Hawks more versatile defensively, particularly if they want to play John Collins at the center position more often going forward.
Hunter drew interest from the top teams in this year’s draft and did not participate in the Combine last month after it was clear he was one of the best prospects in the 2019 class. His three years of work in Charlottesville spoke for itself, as did the championship he won as the team’s best player in April. He plays the game of a veteran without ever having stepped on an NBA floor, with the mind and body to compete at the highest levels immediately.
While lacking the true upside of some of the players who were picked around him, Hunter’s floor is immensely high as a very good defensive player and solid spot-up shooter. His lack of ceiling is informed by his decision making on the floor; he’s a very conservative player on both sides of the court, often opting to make the play with the best median outcome rather than a play that could go very well or very poorly. He moves his feet well and stays in front of his man defensively, but doesn’t necessarily make plays as a defender in the form of highlight steals or blocks. It’s the same on the other end of the floor, where he’ll knock down his shots and take the occasional pull-up jumper, but for the most part plays within the offensive scheme and won’t deviate from the script all that much.
You can read Peachtree Hoops’ full scouting report on Hunter’s game here.
Hunter fills a role the Hawks desperately needed, particularly in the wake of the Taurean Prince trade that was agreed earlier this month but won’t go through officially until July 6. Projected as a low-usage forward who will get the job done defensively, Hunter is precisely the sort of player the Hawks were missing last year and he should fit perfectly in the squad moving forward, giving them more defensive versatility without taking much off the table offensively.
Hunter is the centerpiece of what the Hawks will do in the 2019 NBA Draft as they continue to build out their young core alongside Young, Kevin Huerter, and John Collins.
More to come.