Over the next few weeks, Peachtree Hoops’ Zach Hood will run through a ‘State of the Atlanta Hawks’ series. The series will break down the roster from both a basketball and asset building perspective in an effort to access where the franchise is after being left out of the 22-team Orlando bubble.
In a relatively short amount of time, Travis Schlenk (predictably) transformed the Atlanta Hawks roster from top to bottom. The wing position was no exception. Far from the days of now established veteran role players Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince, Atlanta now sits with a trio of young wings that each feature their own brand of intriguing upside.
Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish make up 60 percent of the fabled ‘Core Five’ that has been referred to immensely since the 2019 NBA draft. With the acquisition of Clint Capela, that seemingly now becomes a ‘Core Six.’ Assuming some of the Hawks’ cap space is spent on another wing, head coach Lloyd Pierce will potentially have the strongest and most versatile set of wings he has had since becoming head coach in Atlanta.
Kevin Huerter, SG, 22 years old, 2 years, $7.02 million remaining — Restricted free agent in 2022
Huerter’s first two seasons were equally promising and frustrating at times. His shooting gravity is very real and, when he gets going, it makes the rest of Atlanta’s offense that much more impossible to stop. If Huerter is rolling, the Hawks can typically outscore any team in the league if Trae Young and John Collins are also having their typical game.
The frustration related to Huerter has been mostly injury related. As a rookie, he only missed seven games, but probably would have started a lot more than 59 games if he weren’t battling a hand injury causing him to miss Summer League and a wide majority of his pre-rookie summer.
This season, a knee injury he played through down the stretch capped his ability to penetrate, and he wasn’t as effective overall. Huerter also struggled to improve his finishing and free throw creation near the rim, which is a point of potential focus in the future. If Huerter could put everything together and stay healthy in year three, he and Young could emerge as one of the premier backcourts in the Eastern Conference.
De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, 23 years old, 3 years, $25.01 million remaining — Restricted free agent in 2023
Hunter experienced an odd rookie season in which he was actually pretty good on offense by rookie standards, but did not live up to his reputation defensively. At the college level, Hunter was an excellent defender and that was a centerpiece of his appeal. As a rookie, he somewhat struggled and definitely was not an overall positive.
There is, however, plenty of reason to be optimistic about a No. 4 overall pick from just one season ago, who was making the transition from Virginia’s ‘packline’ defense to the variety of modern defensive schemes deployed in the NBA. He still possesses great size and strength that can provide versatility, and the learning curve is steep for many rookies.
Offensively, Hunter has the potential to be close to or at a 40 percent three-point shooter, and he possesses an interesting mid-range game with the ability to exploit mismatches. So if he even delivers on a little of the defensive stuff he was supposed to have, he’s going to be a valuable NBA player.
Cam Reddish, SF, 21 years old, 3 years, $15.08 million remaining — Restricted free agent in 2023
By now, it’s been literally ran into the ground that Reddish’s rookie year was a tale of two seasons. He was one of, if not the worst offensive player in the NBA for the first few weeks of his NBA career. Reddish, like Huerter, missed Summer League the year he got drafted due to injury.
The struggles from those first handful of games could have been prevented if he were able to play in the 2019 Summer League and use that summer to develop. Alas, Reddish was a serviceable NBA player by the time January rolled around, and one of the tougher young wing defenders in basketball. His three-point shot began to fall and the rest of his offensive game was seemingly unlocked.
Going into the 2020-21 season, it’s unclear which wings will start alongside Young, Collins and Capela. Huerter has a natural offensive fit and, at this stage, he probably projects as the starting shooting guard with the current roster. From there, Hunter could have the edge at the 3 based on having a more steady and solid rookie season, especially given that he was the starter for the vast majority of the 2019-20 campaign. Still, it’s a long way off and, for what it’s worth, anything could happen in free agency or on the trade market to influence the pecking order.
Treveon Graham and DeAndre’ Bembry will be free agents, though one of them could conceivably be brought back on a minimum contract as depth. Pierce has been on-record about loving Bembry’s energy throughout their time together, but the club may elect to go another direction.
Contract info from Early Bird Rights; Listed ages reflect players’ age for 2020-21 season.