The Hawks made news at the NBA Draft before anyone was even selected. Atlanta traded away the No. 8, No. 17 and No. 35 picks to the Pelicans in exchange for the No. 4 pick just hours before the festivities started in Barclays Center.
With the jump up the board, the Hawks decided to take Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter (the Lakers announced, but the rights are with Atlanta). The 6-foot-8 forward put together averages of 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists while shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc for the national champions Cavaliers.
Heading into Thursday night, Hunter was considered by ESPN as the second-best power forward on their Big Board behind No. 1 pick Zion Williamson. Among his various skills on offense, he was called “one of the most versatile defenders in the college game” in his scouting report.
How does Hunter fit on Atlanta’s roster and can he break into the starting five from the get-go?
Atlanta Hawks Roster & Starting Lineup Post-NBA Draft
*Notates expected starter
C: Dewayne Dedmon*, Alex Len, Miles Plumlee, Deyonta Davis
PF: John Collins*, Omari Spellman, Alex Pothyress
SF: De’Andre Hunter*, Vince Carter, Justin Anderson
SG: Kent Bazemore*, Allen Crabbe, Kevin Huerter
PG: Trae Young*, Jaylen Adams
Tony Bennett, Hunter’s coach at Virginia, stressed that his forward was capable of defending from any position from one through four.
“De’Andre’s had a heck of a year,” Bennett told The Washington Post. “Defensively at times we’ve used him to guard ones, twos, threes and fours, and that can be helpful. Offensively we’ve used De’Andre some on the perimeter and some as kind of a stretch four, and he’s been able at times to manufacture some shots. Those things I think are really important when you have to account for him on the offensive end. At 6-7 or 6-8 with the long wingspan, just his dimensions are good, so just a high-quality player obviously.”
With Carter turning 43 next January, he doesn’t possess the same quick-twitch that made him a star in the mid-2000s. He’s still a decent shooter at 38.9 percent from behind the arc, but Hunter’s shooting ability combined with his defensive prowess should push the rookie into the starting lineup.
Head coach Lloyd Pierce’s first team ranked third-to-last in the league in defensive rating. Hunter at least provides a lockdown defender going forward.
Atlanta Hawks Future Roster Moves
With Hunter in the fold, the remaining upgrades should be a quality big man to add depth alongside Dedmon and Collins, as well as another guard to work alongside Young.
Clippers center Ivica Zubac is a potential option in free agency. Atlanta cleared Solomon Hill’s $12.7 million contract off its payroll, meaning that there will be around $36 million of operating space. Zubac earned just over $1 million last season in Los Angeles.
He saw his production go up to 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds last season. As far as the backcourt goes, keep an eye out for D’Angelo Russell as the Kyrie Irving-to-Brooklyn rumors continue to heat up.
Whereas Young is a shoot-first guard at the point, Russell is a better distributor and an improving shooter. He earned just $9.1 million with the Nets last year, so Atlanta has more than enough room for him, as well.
Put a deep frontcourt, a lockdown defender and two high-scoring guards together, and Atlanta starts to look like a fringe playoff team.