De’Andre Hunter has had a strong start to his sophomore campaign, as he has quite literally been the most valuable Hawk this season, offensively and defensively. Even though Atlanta lost their fourth straight Saturday night, Hunter had another impressive performance with 20 points — shooting 50% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. He took it upon himself to improve both offensively and defensively this offseason and its showing.
His season averages are now up to 16.4 points a game on 51% from the field, 42.2% from three, and 85.2% from the line. He is also averaging two more rebounds a game (6.8) than he was last year.
Hunter’s offensive improvement isn’t due to the volume of shots, either. He is taking a very similar number of shots, less than one attempt more per game, but is averaging 4.1 points per game more than last season. His improved efficiency is palpable; a 17.3 player efficiency rating is almost twice what it was a year ago with the same minutes per game.
That's a toughhh bucket pic.twitter.com/Zi2cs5yDtz
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 5, 2021
Hunter didn’t just focus on one part of his game this offseason, as shown in his scoring chart. He attacks the basket and gets to the line, stopping in the midrange, and shooting the ball well from deep.
His quotes earlier in the year about his confidence is showing true in all facets of the game. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Sarah Spencer mid-December piece on De’Andre Hunter.
“My confidence is really high,” said Hunter, who can play power forward, but will likely spend much of his time at the 3 this season, “I put a lot of work in this offseason, whatever you call it, but I’m really confident in my game…”
But Hunter’s improvements weren’t just on the offensive end; his defense has been the cherry on top. It seems that he is taking it upon himself to guard the opponent’s biggest offensive threat, night in and night out. The only offensive performance that Hunter didn’t hold his own in was Gordon Heyward’s 44 point outburst. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant both struggled against him, though. His defensive rating has gone from 113.6 last season to 104.6 this season, some of which can be attributed to Clint Capela’s presence.
Considering Trae Young’s recent offensive struggles, it’s fair to say Hunter has been the team’s most valuable player through the first nine games of the season, and if the Hawks are to make a run in the East, they’ll need him to continue to play like an All-Star caliber player.