In the doldrums of summer, the Peachtree Hoops staff came together for a 10-part roundtable series, answering a series of prompts with an eye toward the upcoming season for the Atlanta Hawks.
Part six takes a glance at the incoming rookie class.
Jeff Siegel: Part of what the Hawks liked about Hunter is his plug-and-play ability. He should be able to step in right away and contribute on both ends of the floor, though having that sort of expectation about a rookie can be dangerous. For 2019-20 alone, Reddish and Fernando are closer to lottery tickets -- if the club gets anything positive out of those guys, they’ll be thanking their lucky stars, but the expectations for both should be heavily neutered for year one.
Graham Chapple: I’m expecting Hunter to be able to come in and make at least some impact defensively in the starting lineup, something the Hawks need badly. He’ll be heavily scrutinized by many, given his selection and what the Hawks gave up to acquire his draft rights. Offensively, I’m not expecting much from Hunter right away. I’m not sure what to expect from Reddish, given his, shall we say, interesting year at college. I could honestly see it go a number of different ways and nothing would surprise me. Fernando, I’m expecting to contest some back-up center minutes throughout the season. He might be behind Jones in the pecking order to begin the season but likely won’t end the season there.
Rashad Milligan: I think Pierce will ease each three of the players into the rotation as the season goes on. The depth picked up from the remainder of the offseason ensured Atlanta not having to throw the rookies into the fire immediately.
Zach Hood: I think all of them will be in lower-leverage, complementary roles, at least initially. That’s why you go get all of those serviceable veterans (Turner, Crabbe, Parsons, Parker) I think, so the rookies can learn and develop at a fair pace. Fernando probably has the clearest shot at a defined role (backup center), while Hunter and Reddish should have to prove they’re ready to contribute with established options at wing already on the roster. Hunter should be ready to step into the rotation due to his length and ability to guard multiple positions, while Reddish will probably come along slower due to the lack of work he’s been able to put it this offseason as he tries to get back to 100 percent.
Toby Adeyemi: I have high expectations for the rookie trio. I believe they will all play significant minutes for the Hawks this season. Hunter will be in the best position to start the season. He fits what the Hawks need in being a 3-and-D player and, being the No. 4 pick, he’ll likely have the starting gig at small forward. I expect him to be solid, but he won’t live up to his draft position, at least not this year. Fernando will have to work his way into the rotation, and I believe he will. He played well in summer league and could earn himself significant minutes at center. People are sleeping because of what they saw at Duke, but Reddish will be the Hawks’ best rookie this season. It might take him a month or so, but Reddish’s scoring ability will break out. He’ll be competing with Huerter for the tertiary scoring slot.
Sam Meredith: I look for Hunter to secure the starting small forward role early on, if not right away. He’s easily the most NBA ready player of the three. Reddish will get his opportunities to backup Huerter in the early going and might break into a role that requires him to handle the ball if Turner is a complete mess. Fernando just needs to be in the gym daily with Pierce working on his footwork and defensive abilities. Fernando’s way to stick around is going to be through his defense I think, but he is far from a sure-fire NBA player currently.
Matt Harris: The expectations will be high for Hunter due to talent and because the Hawks traded up for him. High minutes bench player is probably the floor of what Atlanta needs from him this season. Reddish and Fernando are projects compared to Hunter and will require patience. Reddish comes with plenty of upside but he needs to be developed. This could be one of the last low expectations Hawks teams which hopefully means Reddish can get some quality low pressure minutes this season.
Glen Willis: For Hunter, it is mostly about wanting to see him establish himself as a legitimate defender. He’s a rookie so he will make plenty of mistakes, but if he can just be a guy can make opposing players uncomfortable, that would constitute success for this season. The more perimeter shots he makes the better, and I think he will surprise some people with how polished his face up game is and might get to explore that pretty regularly against opposing team’s second units. For Reddish, I just want to see him have fun. He had such a rough season at Duke that it would be encouraging to see him enjoying the game. From a confidence perspective if his season tracks a little bit like Huerter’s did last season, there is nothing wrong with that. For Fernando, I just want to see him move the basketball and work hard in the offensive scheme. Setting good screens, being decisive in the pick and roll. Defensively, I’m mostly just hoping that he can get better at defending without fouling as the season progresses.
Andrew Kelly: I expect Hunter to immediately slide into Taurean Prince’s vacated role at small forward in the starting lineup. His on-ball defense, in particular, will be a welcome addition to Atlanta’s defensively deficient unit. The Hawks are more or less hoping for Hunter to do what Prince was supposed to do when he was drafted: knock down open triples and guard the opposing team’s best perimeter threat. If he can hit the ground running in this capacity, it will do much to alleviate Atlanta’s anxieties in a very difficult early season stretch. For Reddish, coming off a historically poor offensive season for a high draft pick, expectations should be lower. However, Reddish flashed defensive upside at Duke, snatching steals in passing lanes and turning them into transition opportunities. If he can carry over his defensive playmaking instincts, and turn his three point volume into three point efficiency, Reddish could see a large role in Atlanta’s rotation, with upside for more. Coming off a breakout year at Maryland, Bruno Fernando brings athleticism and intensity to Atlanta’s frontcourt. Though raw in terms of decision making, Bruno possesses an excellent physical profile and figures to be a lob threat for Trae Young passes. His nascent three point shot also has long term upside in Lloyd Pierce’s offense. However, Atlanta will only likely see flashes from the rookie center, as his immediate role in the rotation remains to be seen.
Dylan Hughes: I am expecting this trio to be fairly productive compared to most rookies. We know Lloyd Pierce will give them a ton of opportunity to play out their kinks and discover their largest strengths and weaknesses. Hunter should be a fine starting wing for a 30-plus-win team while Reddish has an up-and-down season as his backup. Fernando is a big body and will most likely be another center Trae Young loves to feed down low off pick-and-rolls.
Greg Willis: I expect Hunter to make a decent immediate impact on the defensive end. Offensively, he will not need to be a playmaker. He’ll just need to make good decisions and limit his mistakes on that end of the floor. Reddish will likely show flashes of the talent belies his significant upside, but I would not be surprised if his rookie season is marked by very inconsistent play. Fernando also has significant upside but has a long way to go before he is a rotational NBA player. I expect his rookie season to be heavy on development and light on minutes.
Brad Rowland: I think Hunter will be a better-than-average rookie due to his combination of age and skill set. Is he going to light the league on fire immediately? Probably not, but he’ll defend adequately and present a floor-spacing threat, even in his first season. As for Reddish, the sledding could be a bit tougher. He wasn’t exactly an exceptional college player and, with kind of a lost off-season due to injury, it might take him a while to get acclimated. Fernando is in for an interesting battle with Damian Jones for backup center minutes but, on the flip side, he does profile as the kind of rookie that might be decent in a small role as a rim protector, rebounder and play finisher.