Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter better than his stats in preseason debut

The Atlanta Hawks played in their second preseason game on Wednesday, a 99-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Much of the story heading into the game was the health of superstar point guard Trae Young. Many fans probably had flashbacks to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals after he knocked knees with Miami’s Gabe Vincent.

After the game, the biggest stories were Cam Reddish’s night and John Collins’ latest poster.

Through it all, one player made his return to the court for the first time since Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs. More importantly, he made it out of this contest in one piece.

Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter showed diverse skill set without great stats

Forward De’Andre Hunter had 15 points on 54.5 percent shooting in that closeout game against the New York Knicks. It was his third double-digit scoring performance of the postseason, his fourth since returning just before the playoffs began, and his best shooting night as he went 6-for-11 from the floor.

The 6-foot-8 forward finished Wednesday’s matchup with just eight points and shot a miserable 2-for-11 from the floor.

However, he also had a pair of rebounds, a couple of assists, and a block showcasing his diverse skillset and how he can impact a game even when his shot isn’t falling. Yet and still, even that wasn’t the most impressive part about Hunter’s night.

He finished fourth on the team at just a hair under 26 minutes.

After having two meniscus surgeries in less than a year, it’s an understatement to say seeing him on the floor is a welcome sight. But to have him play so many minutes and not appear to be any worse for wear is a blessing for the season ahead. A healthy Hunter could be the difference between homecourt advantage in the playoffs or doing it the hard way once more.

On top of Young, the Hawks are already without center Clint Capela until the regular season and his backup, Onyeka Okongwu, until January or February.

Kevin Huerter is dealing with an ankle injury but he too has shown few ill effects.

Still, all of that just adds to how important it is for Hunter to not only bounce back but, hopefully, take the next step to become that player that averaged 22.4 points on 54.9 percent shooting over a five-game stretch just before initially going down last season.

Hunter had been picked as the Hawks ‘x-factor’ and he certainly has the skillset to be a difference-maker. He just needs his body to hold up. So far, at least, so good.