The text exchange between the two Virginia teammates went something like this:
Kyle Guy: Yeah!
De’Andre Hunter: What are you talking about?
Guy: The Hawks traded up to four.
It was then that Hunter was fairly certain that he would – eventually – be an Atlanta Hawk.
Hunter related the story of the exchange of messages in a post-draft news conference in New York on Thursday night after he was officially drafted by the Lakers. However, the rights to that pick belonged to the Hawks by way of the Pelicans in two offseason moves that are not yet official. The Pelicans acquired the No. 4 pick from the Lakers in the deal for Anthony Davis. They sent it to the Hawks, about an hour before the draft, for the return highlight of two first-round picks, Nos. 8 and 17, and a second-round pick, No. 35.
The deal won’t be official until at least July 6 when the NBA moratorium ends.
Hunter had one pre-draft workout and that was for the Hawks. Even though the athletic wing with elite defensive skills would certainly be gone by the first of the Hawks’ three first-round picks, he was aware they had the assets to make a bold move. The Hawks had six picks in the draft, three each in the first and second rounds. They traded the two lesser second-rounders before the draft, but still had their most valuable assets to deal. So Travis Schlenk traded three of those four picks and still had the No. 10 pick, which he used on Duke’s Cam Reddish. He later traded two future second-rounders and the No. 57 pick obtained in the Hunter deal and selected Maryland’s Bruno Fernando with the No. 34 pick.
Limited in what he could say about the players obtained by league rules, other than Reddish, Hawks general manager summed up the night this way: “We feel good about the way the draft played out. Since I’ve gotten here, we spent a lot of time accumulating assets. Tonight we decided to cash some of those in for guys we feel like are going to help us in the future.”
For the second consecutive year, the Hawks added three players through the draft who could be around for a long time. Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman were first-round picks last year. Young and Huerter became starters. Another starter in John Collins was a first-round pick two years ago in Schlenk’s first draft with the Hawks. Veterans Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Bembry and Alex Len also are part of the current young core.
While the Hawks have salary-cap space this year should they desire to use it, they could have room for two max contracts the following season with $67.7 million coming off the books in expiring contracts of Bazemore ($19.3 million), Alan Crabbe ($18.5 million), Solomon Hill ($13.3 million), Miles Plumlee ($12.4 million) and Len ($4.2 million). Hill was obtained in the deal with the Pelicans and Crabbe was obtained in the deal with the Nets that returned the No. 17 pick in exchange for, in part, Taurean Prince.
Hunter is a candidate to help take the place of Prince.
“It shows that they believe in me, that they have trust in me,” Hunter said of the Hawks move up to select him. “They have a plan for me as well. They think I'm a great player. I'm just hoping to help the franchise any way I can.”
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