RJ Hunter is one of the most intriguing players in this year’s NBA draft. The star left after playing three years at Georgia State. For a while, Hunter was a very under the radar prospect, but his performance in last years NCAA Tournament changed that significantly. Hunter now looks like a lock to go on in the first round, and the Hawks could have serious interest in taking the shooting guard 15th overall.
RJ is out of Pike High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, the same high school Jeff Teague attended. He averaged 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists last year at Georgia State. The numbers look great, but his shooting numbers were well down compared to prior years. He only shot 40 percent from the field and a little over 30 percent from behind the arc. However, a lot of this is due in part to the amount of shots he was asked to take and the difficulty of those shots. Even though his shooting numbers were not as spectacular, Hunter did make huge strides in his game this past season. Hunter became a much more effective passer. He never averaged more than 2 assists a game prior to his junior season. When watching Hunter’s tape, it is easy to fall in love with him. He has an unbelievable shot. It is smooth and extremely quick. He has the ability to shoot the ball from anywhere in the gym. Give Hunter an inch of space, and he will make you pay from anywhere on the court. He also is a pretty underrated finisher around the rim. Unlike some deadly jump shooters, Hunter has the ability to get in the lane or out in transition and get easy baskets. He can make contested layups and finish with contact. A huge question mark is how Hunter will fare on the defensive side. He was never exposed on defense by any means at Georgia State, but they only played zone and the competition in the Sun Belt Conference is certainly not the best. It will be interesting to see how his defense can transition in the NBA, but I expect Hunter to hold his own on that side of the ball.
The biggest issue surrounding Hunter is his size. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, Hunter only weighs 190 pounds and is very wiry. He can get bullied at times and is not a prolific dribbler by any means. Hunter will have to improve his dribbling and get stronger if he really wants to be successful in this league. However, in the Hawks offense, Hunter could be a perfect fit. While he is not great at creating his own shots, he is great at coming of screens and shooting rhythm jumpers. Kyle Korver will be 34 next year and will not be in this league forever. It also looks like John Jenkins is well on his way out of Atlanta. The Hawks have a void to fill at the backup shooting guard position, while also looking for a guy who could take over the position when Korver decides to hang it up. Hunter is definitely a seasoned enough shooter to make an immediate impact as a member of the Hawks, but he also has loads of potential to improve. He is an extremely hard worker and could turn out to be a really good player in this league.
I think Hunter will end up at the very least being a serviceable shooter in this league. If he is able to play consistent defense, he can find a spot in an NBA rotation immediately. However, I do think picking Hunter at 15 would be a little bit of a stretch. There are many players like Sam Dekker, Kelly Oubre, Bobby Portis and Devin Booker that I would take instead of Hunter, but if the Hawks decide to take a shot on a guy like Hunter, I would not be opposed to it. The Hawks love players who will work hard day in and day out to improve. The improvements by the young guys in the organization has been duly noted. The Hawks are a team that strive on player development, and Hunter could be a phenomenal fit for our offense. Hunter played under his father, Ron Hunter at Georgia State. We saw Adreian Payne never really find a way to crack the rotation last season as he wasn’t able to comprehend the offense. The Hawks have one of the most complex offenses in the league, and being the son of a coach can put your basketball IQ off the charts. If Hunter can buy into the system and develop, he has the ability to be well worth the number 15 pick in the draft.