2019 NBA Draft

In action-packed Draft, Hawks and Grizzlies add to promising cores

BROOKLYN –The action at the 2019 NBA Draft was so fast and furious, hat swaps could hardly keep pace. Players were teammates, then opponents, or vice versa in the span of several picks.

De’Andre Hunter, wearing a Lakers cap even as he was reportedly headed to Atlanta via New Orleans, was asked a question about Jaxson Hayes, drafted by the Hawks but headed to the Pelicans. It took Virginia teammate Kyle Guy texting Hunter to reveal news of the possible move, by the only team for whom Hunter had worked out.

“I didn’t know they were going to trade up to the fourth pick,” Hunter said. “I know there were trying to do something to get earlier in the draft. It shows that they believe in me. They have a plan for me as well. They think I’m a great player. I’m just trying to help the franchise any way I can.”

The reported deal sending Hunter to Atlanta represents a flip-flop in concept for Hawks GM Travis Schlenk, who last year sent No. 3 Luka Doncic to Dallas for No. 5 Trae Young and a future first-round pick, which converted into this year’s No. 10 selection. This time, it was a move four picks up, with the expected package including the No. 8 pick (Hayes), the Nets’ No. 17 pick (Nickeil Alexander-Walker) — along with the Brooklyn Nets’ Allen Crabbe — and the No. 35 (Marcos Louzada Silva).

Young broke out over the second half of his rookie campaign with pinpoint passing and long-range shooting, pushing Luka Doncic in what’s expected to be a razor-thin Kia Rookie of the Year race. Second-year forward John Collins boosted his averages to 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds by season’s end, his high-wire inside act complemented by the outside shooting of All-Rookie Second Team forward Kevin Huerter (9.7 ppg, 38.5 percent on 385 3-point attempts).

And they’ll be joined by Duke swingman Cam Reddish, who dropped into their laps at No. 10 after being projected as high as fifth leading into the Draft.

“I think we won today,” Schlenk said. “We just feel really good about getting Cam. He’s a guy that we went into the Draft hoping we could get and to have him be there still at 10 is really exciting.”

The Hawks’ players were amped about the additions, with Young welcoming Reddish to the “fam” on Twitter, ready to put in work for the upcoming campaign. Huerter, in a Draft live show for Stadium, said he loved the Hunter pick, citing the defensive standout’s versatility and winning profile at NCAA champion Virginia.

Reddish praised his new teammates as a “young, talented group” and believes playing alongside Young will make for a clean fit.

“I think he can do it all on the court,” Reddish said. “Obviously, he’s a tremendous passer, will be able to find me throughout the game. I’m looking forward to learning from him, being around him, soaking it all in.”

And while the Hawks were building on an established core, the Memphis Grizzlies – holders of the No. 2 pick – stacked further chips on a retooling now in full force following Wednesday’s reported trade of Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz.

Ja Morant had long been projected at No. 2 due to his elite athleticism and uncanny vision; he was the first NCAA player to average 20 points and 10 assists since colleges began tracking assists in 1982-83. And Conley’s expected exit clears the lane for Morant to establish a long-running partnership with 2018 No. 4 selection Jaren Jackson Jr., who earned All-Rookie First Team honors despite being limited to 58 games.

“I have some big shoes to fill in Mike Conley,” Morant acknowledged. “He’s a great player. I wish him the best. It just means the Grizzlies see a lot in me. It’s been crazy. Obviously a wild moment.”

They followed the expected Morant selection by reportedly flipping Utah’s No. 23 pick (from the reported Conley exchange) to Oklahoma City to select Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke at No. 21.

Clarke, an unexpected presence outside the lottery, could provide yet another high-flying, high-motor addition to the Grizzlies’ budding core. The potential for a swarming defense and destructive transition force is in place.

“Ja is a really, really good passer,” Clarke said. “And Jaren is just a really good talent, too, a really strong dude who can shoot it and also drive it. It’s always fun playing with dudes like that. I’m sure we’re going to have some very fun highlights to watch.”

And yet, Clarke is officially with the Thunder until further notice, a not-quite Memphis blue flat brim above his brow in interviews. An already-dated souvenir, for someone.

Hunter, the future Hawk, has begun to consider his options.

“I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to do with it,” Hunter said of his cap. “Probably give it to a Lakers fan.”