Sophomore slump? Try second-year leap for De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish this season.
The Hawks’ two 2019 first-round draft picks have been critical to Atlanta’s push for a playoff spot in 2021, currently sitting at 8th in the East. Let’s look at the progression of both forwards individually this season.
Coming out of college, everyone knew Hunter’s capabilities on the defensive side of the ball. The 2019 All-ACC and All-Defensive player out of the University of Virginia didn’t put up high block or steal numbers as a rookie, but he showed a lot of potential on that side of the ball with his 7-foot-2 wingspan. Offensively, Hunter put up respectable numbers averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game.
Those numbers are up dramatically this season, averaging 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game while playing 32 minutes per game before his recent injury. Hunter’s efficiency has also taken a substantial leap in year two. He’s shooting 10.4% better from the floor and 11.3% better from the charity stripe, leading to a 12% increase in his true-shooting. Hunter’s averaging nearly five points per game more than last season on just one more shit per contest.
Defensively, Hunter’s also taken it to the next level, increasing his total number of steals, blocks, and defensive rebounds per game, leading to a jump in defensive box plus/minus from -1.8 to .3.
Hunter fits in perfectly as a small/power forward flex in this Hawks lineup. Look for him to continue to improve once he returns from injury, as the Hawks aim to develop one of the league’s deepest frontcourts with Clint Capela and John Collins.
After being such a highly-touted prospect in high school and college, Reddish struggled out of the gates as a rookie in 2019. Turning it around in the second half of last season has set up the improvements for Reddish on both sides of the ball in his sophomore campaign.
Offensively, the numbers do not pop out at you, only averaging one more point and rebound per game. His progression and potential have shown in his 20-point scoring outbursts. Reddish had three 20-point games in the Hawks’ last seven January contests. He only had four such games in the entire 58 game 2019-20 season. Reddish has also delivered clutch baskets this season, including a tough layup over Kevin Durant to force overtime against the Nets last week.
The most significant improvements for the second-year small forward out of Duke have come on the defensive side of the ball. His defensive development was on full display in the Hawks’ win over the Wizards last week. In the win, Bradley Beal, current NBA scoring leader, had his lowest scoring output all year. He went 0-8 from the field when matched up against Reddish on the night.
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