PHOTO CREDIT: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
Leading into the 2019 NBA Draft, University of Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter was regarded as the best defensive prospect in the entire class.
Following Hunter’s 27-point performance in Virginia’s National Championship victory over Texas Tech, the 6-foot-8 forward justified himself as a potential top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
During the draft process Hunter only worked out for one NBA team, the Atlanta Hawks, who soon took him with the 4th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft as the Lakers’ draft rights to Hunter were traded to Atlanta.
Hunter’s production in college quickly transferred to the NBA as he put up a solid rookie season averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, according to ESPN.
Hunter also made his presence known on the defensive side of the ball alongside fellow rookie Cam Reddish as both showed potential in being lockdown perimeter defenders.
Although Hunter’s rookie season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Hawks not advancing to the NBA Bubble, his development hasn’t halted based on his production in the 18 games he’s played this season.
Hunter’s averages have been trending upward this year while being the most versatile defender for the Hawks with a stat line of 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, according to ESPN. Hunter has also been highly efficient shooting the ball as he’s shooting over 50 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.
Early in the season, Hunter gained All-Star traction as the forward is notably making his “sophomore leap,” next to guys like Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, and RJ Barrett.
Unfortunately, Hunter’s sophomore season has been put on pause as the 23-year-old is battling a knee injury that has sat him out of 16 games thus far. Since Hunter’s absence, Atlanta’s offense and defense have only gotten worse as the season continues and other key players have been sidelined with injuries.
While Hunter may not have a flashy game, he’s proven that he will have a long and successful NBA career as long as he avoids any major injuries in the future. Hunter plays a key role in being a centerpiece for the Hawks alongside Trae Young, as John Collins’ future with the team remains a question mark.
Hunter could solidify himself as the second scoring option on a young Hawks team and grow into a great two-way player like a Kawhi Leonard or Paul George if his development continues.
For now, the Hawks sit at 11th in the Eastern Conference standings and hope to get Hunter back on the floor after the All-Star Break to make a playoff push in the second half of the season.