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Atlanta Hawks 2019 Summer League preview: What to watch for in Las Vegas

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

After a whirlwind in 2018 that featured trips to both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, the summer is a little more tame for the Atlanta Hawks in 2019. The club will join 31 other squads in Las Vegas for the 2019 NBA Summer League but, this time around, the “Summer Hawks” could be limited to only five games.

Given the seemingly never-ending nature of the 2018 journey, that might be refreshing but, in the same breath, there are many story lines to monitor and this is the only real, live basketball for fans to monitor until training camp opens in the fall. With that in mind, here is a look at what to expect when the team gets going on Saturday in the desert.

The Schedule

  • Saturday, Jul. 6 - vs. Bucks (5:00 pm ET, NBA TV)
  • Sunday, Jul. 7 - vs. Wolves (5:30 pm ET, ESPN2)
  • Tuesday, Jul. 9 - vs. Pacers (5:30 pm ET, NBA TV)
  • Thursday, Jul. 11 - vs. Wizards (6:30 pm ET, ESPN2)
  • Tournament/Consolation — Jul. 12 through Jul. 15

The Roster

One bit of uncertainty

No. 10 overall pick Cam Reddish is notably absent from the proceedings, though there is a clear reason in that he is recovering from a core muscle injury. However, No. 4 pick De’Andre Hunter and No. 34 pick Bruno Fernando are not listed on the roster above, prompting many questions from the fan base.

In short, the Hawks (still) don’t have either Hunter or Fernando on their official roster, simply because the trades to acquire them are not yet official. That stems from the Anthony Davis trade in both cases, with Atlanta acquiring the selections to take both players from New Orleans, even with the caveat that the Pelicans didn’t technically own those picks until July 6.

Eventually, Hunter and Fernando will arrive and it could be as early as Atlanta’s first game on Saturday, July 6. Trade calls must be completed but, assuming that transpires, Hunter is (easily) the biggest draw for the Hawks in Summer League, as top-five picks usually garner the lion’s share of attention.

Hunter doesn’t exactly scream “Summer League star” because he isn’t a primary initiator or play-finisher on offense, but he projects as a high-level (or even elite-level) role player in the NBA and he has more than enough physicality and skill to take advantage of opponents. It would be a plus to see the 21-year-old operating at a high level, particularly in the area of shot creation, but simply getting Hunter on the floor alongside his teammates would be a good start and he’ll be dissected throughout the week-plus in Vegas.

As for Fernando, the Maryland standout easily could have been a first-round pick and, though the Hawks were able to grab a bargain in acquiring him, he projects as the Summer League team’s No. 1 center option. From an evaluation perspective, a lineup featuring Hunter, Fernando and Omari Spellman would be the dream scenario for the 2019 Summer Hawks, and Fernando has the kind of physical presence that can be very effective in this setting.

The returnees

Spellman is the main attraction among the returning players, as the No. 30 overall pick was a rotation player for the big league club as a rookie. The former Villanova star battled an ankle injury at the end of the campaign but all signs point to Spellman being healthy, and his head start (i.e. playing quality minutes in the NBA) should help him to separate from the rest.

One year ago, John Collins was simply overqualified for Summer League and that was strikingly clear as soon as he took the floor. Spellman isn’t quite as talented as Collins but, in similar fashion, it would be encouraging for Atlanta if he was visibly different from the rest of the competitors in a positive way.

Elsewhere, Jaylen Adams is the other member of the current, full-time roster and the second-year point guard should have the ball in his hands quite a bit. Adams struggled at times as a professional last season, but he became more comfortable on the NBA court as the campaign progressed and his shooting, both off the catch and off the dribble, is quite valuable. Adams has the opportunity to impress as a play-maker, though, and this is a chance to cement his status on the roster, as his contract is non-guaranteed for the 2019-20 season.

Charlie Brown

Yes, the Hawks employ a player named Charlie Brown.

Get your jokes off.

In all seriousness, Brown is one of Atlanta’s Two-Way contracts for 2019-20 and, until Hunter arrives, he is clearly the most interesting wing player to monitor, in part because he’ll actually be around during the season.

The 21-year-old wing stands at 6’7 with a 7’0 wingspan and he profiles as a 3-and-D player, knocking down 37 percent of his threes at St. Joseph’s over the last two seasons. Brown was a draftable player (in fact, he was higher on my board than a few players that were drafted) and he brings significant talent to the table.

Can anybody else crash the party?

At the moment, the Hawks have 12 players on guaranteed contracts, one player (Adams) on a non-guaranteed contract and one player (Fernando) still unsigned that will assuredly fill a roster spot. That leaves only one open roster spot and one Two-Way slot up for grabs and, considering the roster situation, it would be fairly surprising if any non-roster invitee made the cut on a full-time basis.

Training camp invites are certainly possible, though, and there are some intriguing names. Jordan Sibert spent time in Atlanta on a 10-day contract last season and he fits the 3-and-D archetype. Matt Mooney was a high-level college player that can shoot and defend as a combo guard. Reid Travis is a former top-50 recruit with big-time talent and pedigree.

Surprises are possible but, if forced to predict anything, the only players that will spend quality time in Atlanta during the 2019-20 season are those that are already under contract. Due to the nature of the Summer League roster (11 players right now with the potential for 13), there will be playing time available in Vegas and, once the ball is bouncing, anything can happen.

While the level of basketball isn’t always off-the-charts, Summer League is fun and it should be treated as such. Stay tuned for full coverage from Las Vegas.