Insiders sound off on Atlanta Hawks F De’Andre Hunter’s potential extension

The Atlanta Hawks might want to think long and hard before handing over new money to fourth-year forward, De’Andre Hunter. Decision time is fast approaching and we did not get very many answers during the regular season. But we did get a tantalizing Game 5 in the playoffs versus the Miami Heat.

Unfortunately, that has led to some misperceptions about what type of season Hunter had, write The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Chris Kirschner (subscription required). Together, they went through the Hawks’ roster and offseason plans.

Hunter and the uncertainty around what to do with him as he becomes rookie extension eligible this offseason were among the prevailing themes.

De’Andre Hunter’s Atlanta Hawks future should be open for discussion

This is a topic we discussed at the start of April. At the time, Hunter had just bookended the month of March with lackluster performances. He had just nine total points on 11.1% shooting and 1-of-8 from three-point range in the first and last games of the month. To his credit, Hunter averaged 13.8 points with 4.6 rebounds over the Hawks’ final five regular-season games.

But he still shot just 40.4% from the floor in those contests.

The postseason saw a similar story with Hunter averaging 15.7 points and shooting 38.5% from deep over the first three games. He exploded over the last two to average 29.5 points on 58.5% shooting while knocking down 7-of-13 triples.

His 35-point, 11-rebound showing in the decisive Game 5 reminded some, including Hollinger and Kirschner, or for Hawks wing Cam Reddish.

Reddish had 21 points in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals having returned for the series after missing most of the regular season. He was traded to the New York Knicks at his request 194 days later.

Hollinger and Kirschner both agree that an extension should be contingent upon a clean bill of health if Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk still has as much faith in Hunter.

They add that the more prudent approach would be to let him reach unrestricted free agency.

It is a similar approach to the one they took with John Collins who signed a five-year, $125 million deal in the offseason. He has also been mired in trade rumors ever since as complaints about his role returned.

The Hawks did the opposite with Kevin Huerter and extended him for $65 million. His season was also marred by inconsistency.

As Kirschner pointed out, Hunter ( who said he was dealing with a back issue) acknowledged in his exit interview that he has yet to be great at anything. That includes his defense which was supposed to be a calling card but has seemed to be sacrificed for the benefit of his offense.

Perhaps another summer to hone his skills will allow Hunter — who wore slides that read “call my agent” in his final media availability of the season — to function as the two-way threat he was billed to be.

Otherwise, keeping him on a cheap (see: easier to trade) deal is important with any number of trade packages potentially on the table.

But the most damning part of the entire read is the list of players taken behind Hunter after the Hawks moved up to take him. Names like playoff standouts Tyler Herro and Grant Williams. In Hunter’s defense (literally), none of the others listed are counted on for production on both ends of the court as he is.

That deserves headline recognition, though, not an expensive new deal that could lock the team into regret.