The Atlanta Hawks entered the week of the 2019 NBA Draft with six picks in the top 44. By the middle of draft night, that number was slashed in half but, in addition to the headline-grabbing trade that netted Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter (Editor’s note: more to come on this in the near future), Travis Schlenk and company “stayed put” to grab Duke forward Cam Reddish and traded back into the second round to snatch Maryland big man Bruno Fernando.
First, the team’s investment in Reddish was anything but surprising. The Hawks were linked to the talented freshman throughout the draft process and, after the selection was made, Schlenk admitted that the organization had been keeping close tabs on Reddish dating back to his high school days.
“What we like about Cam is obvious, right? The length, the skill set, he can dribble, pass, he can shoot,” Schlenk said. “He is a good defensive player. Played on the ball a lot in high school, and then he had to take a step back this year at Duke and he did that willingly. So, we love his commitment to the team and his skill set, so we were extremely excited he was there.”
Though many believe in Reddish as an upside-related pick, there is great value in his “floor” outcome, with strong defensive potential given his 7’1 wingspan and general acumen on that end of the floor. As Schlenk noted, the team was clearly drawn to his ability to “dribble, pass and shoot,” but Reddish’s offensive game is a bit of a mystery at the moment.
At Duke, his issues with finishing near the rim were well-chronicled, as Reddish finished with a dismal 39.4 percent shooting on two-point attempts. Some of that could be traced to reported injury concerns but, when prompted about that potential shortcoming, Schlenk wasn’t hesitant in stating his belief in improvement.
“He did struggle a little bit with that,” Schlenk said of Reddish’s finishing. “But he’s got a great skill set and ability to finish with both hands. I think, you know, there was a lot of traffic in the lane at Duke this year. Besides Cam, there weren’t a lot of shooters on the team. So, getting used to that, so we feel like once he gets up here and we have more space on the floor, because we’re going to have more shooters out there. And, with practice, and getting stronger, being able to finish through contact, we’re not concerned with that at all.”
Undoubtedly, the situation at Duke was not perfect for the 19-year-old Reddish, as he was actually the first of the team’s big three — Reddish played with Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett — to sign on the dotted line to spend his college tenure in Durham. The team wasn’t built in an ideal way to complement his skill set and, at the end of the day, many believe that Reddish will enjoy improved results on the NBA floor.
Hawks fans will have to wait to see those results come together, though, as a core muscle ailment will keep Reddish off the floor through summer league before a projected return in late July.
“I don’t think he’ll be ready for summer league,” Schlenk said of Reddish’s injury status. “They said it was a six-to-eight week process. I think we’re about four weeks into that. So, he probably won’t get on the court until the end of July. But, we’ll get him in here next week and we’ll get on top of his rehab. We had him in here last week, so we’ve seen him, the doctors have seen him, everything is coming along great on that front, so we don’t have any concerns about his injury. But unfortunately, he won’t be able to play until then.”
As for Fernando, the Atlanta faithful should have the opportunity to monitor the newly acquired big man in Las Vegas and this is an intriguing pick on a number of levels. For a few hours, it appeared as if the Hawks would be picking (very) late in the second round, if at all, which would have taken Fernando off the board entirely. Then, Atlanta swooped into action, using future draft capital to select a player that they have been drawn to for some time.
Given the complicated nature of the trade involving Hunter and the presence of the No. 57 pick in both transactions, Schlenk was not able to field public questions about the Fernando selection. However, the Hawks will be getting a big man with legitimate two-way potential and intriguing collegiate production.
The 6’10 big man has a 7’4 wingspan and an impressive physique that should translate comfortably to the NBA game. Most valued Fernando as a late first/early second round pick in this class and he profiles as a long-term option in Atlanta, with ability to create for himself and others in the short roll. Fernando is an elite rebounder who can function defensively and, despite a lack of overwhelming upside, he comfortably fits with the Hawks, especially if his jump shot can take a step forward in the NBA.
From a value perspective, it remains to be seen as to what the second-round picks look like that will be used in the Fernando acquisition but, ultimately, the Hawks targeted him when he began to slip in the draft and pounced when given the opportunity. In fact, that was a theme of the evening, with Atlanta prioritizing quality over quantity and manipulating assets to net players that the organization wanted to build with alongside its already present core.
Reddish presented fantastic value at No. 10 overall — after being projected as the No. 8 pick in many, many circles — and Fernando did the same early in the second round. All told, the deal for Hunter might amount to a mild overpay in a vacuum but the Hawks picked up three players that make sense within the confines of their rebuild and they did so without mortgaging the future to a significant degree.
It should be noted that the team’s five-player core of Hunter, Reddish, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Trae Young may not be championship-caliber on its face, and there is certainly more work to be done as Schlenk attempts to construct a full-blown title contender. However, Atlanta is putting together a coherent plan for the future and, within the 2019 NBA Draft, the Hawks found significant value in both Reddish and Fernando, pairing that with the acquisition of their top priority in Hunter.
All in all, that sounds like a pretty good recipe.