By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Last week, the New Orleans Pelicans traded away their superstar in Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, doing so with the comfort of knowing their franchise’s next savior was in hand with their No. 1 overall pick in the coming draft, one Zion Williamson.
Beyond the walking highlight reel from Duke being the next best thing since LeBron James in potentially fulfilling prophecy, other players within the top tier of this overall disrespected draft have a chance to make an impact.
Helping some of those guys is an ability to pair with other fresh talent off the college assembly lines due to the wheeling and dealing franchises they’re going to, such as the Atlanta Hawks. Other talents seem to just be going to the exact perfect place for them to go to, such as Coby White with the Chicago Bulls.
Fortune shined on both the Hawks and Bulls on Thursday night, arguably as much as any team who didn’t take Zion or Ja Morant. But whereas the holders of the top two spots in the draft will be considerably lucky to sniff the playoffs this coming season in the ever-competitive Western Conference, the Bulls and Hawks made big splashes that could really accelerate each team’s return to contention in the East.
The Hawks garnered a spot in the post-draft news cycle in 2018 by switching picks with the Dallas Mavericks last year to bring in Oklahoma sensation Trey Young instead of going with Luka Doncic. This go around the Hawks rolled the dice once again and made a huge trade mere hours before the draft to get the fourth overall pick and pair it with their No. 10 overall pick. With those draft picks (a previously held No. 8 pick (Jaxson Hayes) was shipped to New Orleans) Atlanta drafted Virginia National Champion standout De’Andre Hunter and Duke star Cameron Reddish — two players that should serve distinct roles in the Hawks’ now sped-up rebuilding process.
Reddish is a 6’9 forward with the ability to shoot the ball and has a great on-ball defensive presence, similar to a Joe Johnson/Paul George. He was recently criticized with his lack of consistency throughout his one year at Duke, Reddish, which can be justified due to coming from the top guy to a No. 3 option on a stacked All-Star team featuring two of the top-3 picks in this year’s draft.
But with his ability to shoot the ball and play defense along the perimeter, Reddish fills the wing as an ideal shooting guard in the back-court with Young, especially in the pick and roll game where lots of opportunities will be present due to Young constantly drawing tons of attention from opposing defenses.
Hunter is a reliable consistent player on both ends of the floor and is proven to perform in big moments like he did during the NCAA tournament this past season. He has the ability to score the ball offensively and demand a defensive presence with their length on the perimeter. Having Hunter and Reddish on the perimeter/paint would be a strong presence defensively and an additional boost offensively.
For the Bulls, they got a guy who fills the necessary void of the point guard position and can help accelerate the rebuilding process, and positioned themselves for long-term success. Coby White has a Kyrie Irving/Jamal Murray skillset that can be the ideal future for this young rebuild. The North Carolina product has the ability to create his own shot and score the ball at will. When he puts his mind to it, he can also be a good on-ball defender as well.
White is most dangerous in transition, utilizing his quickness and speed to score, which can be a nightmare for opponents’ transition defense. Pairing him with Zach LaVine and Otto Porter in the back-court behind the offensive mindset of lead assistant Chris Fleming and offensive/defensive experience of new assistant coach Roy White, brings promise offensively, and an opportunity for growth and development among Chicago’s young core.
The Bulls also secured a new big man from Arkansas in Daniel Gafford to replace once-promising Arkansas big Bobby Portis. A very good offensive rebounder and strong defender, Gafford can serve in a specific role that brings additional help to an already capable pair of offensive big men in Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markennan.
There is a lot more work that needs to be done, especially with free agency coming up and both teams having significant cap space available, but if all pieces fall into place, both franchises have secured themselves high chances of future and long-term success.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media