De’Andre Hunter had a solid rookie season for the Atlanta Hawks after being selected with the 4th overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. He started 62 games and provided a serviceable 12.3 ppg on 41% from the field and 35.5% from behind the arc.
The Virginia product wasn’t the flashiest top-5 pick. Some liked to call him a mini Kawhi Leonard coming out of college, but there’s only one Kawhi Leonard, and most players with his playing style are viewed as boring. He is not the most skilled offensive player, and despite being the Defensive Player of the Year in his final season at Virginia, he struggled on that side of the floor and still needs to fill out to reach his full potential. For now, Hunter is cemented in the starting lineup for the Hawks, but that could change as early as next season.
Fellow 2019 first-round pick, Cam Reddish, started to come on strong late before the season came to a halt and is oozing with star potential. He’s much younger than Hunter, more explosive, can score at all three levels, but perhaps the most surprising development of his rookie season was how terrific he was on defense. Reddish was miles better defensively than Hunter, despite Hunter being the one coming out of college with all of the defensive accolades. Reddish even became the Hawks go-to defender down the stretch when they needed a critical stop, and several times he came through. Even though he was overshadowed at Duke by Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, it’s overwhelmingly evident that he can be one of the best two-way players in the league, which he stated is his long-term goal.
The Hawks have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, and one of the critical ones will be establishing the roles of Reddish and Hunter. Based on Reddish’s production at the end of the year, it almost seems inevitable that he eventually finds his way into the starting lineup. Now, Hunter could be as well, but the Hawks have a projected top-five pick in the upcoming draft and a bunch of cap space to fill out their roster.
De’Andre Hunter’s role is up in the air. First off, what position is he best fit to play? He was drafted as a small forward but really struggled to defend out on the perimeter and has the size to be a stretch power forward. Would the Hawks benefit by giving him a sixth-man type role? His shooting, defense, and versatility would undoubtedly be welcomed additions to the bench. Adding Clint Capela also presents some wrinkles. Now, these are terrific issues to have, and decisions don’t have to be made overnight, but next year will be critical for Hunter — as far as how the Hawks plan to use him going forward.