The Atlanta Hawks will look different next season, that much is sure. Just how much or, put a better way, how drastic of change is coming is what is unknown. But reports have largely revolved around trades. Those have come in the form of Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, and even Kyrie Irving.
Free agency has treated them well in the previous two offseasons. But this time, with the time of leap forward they are hoping for, a trade might be their most viable avenue.
But, there are more pressing matters at hand for general manager Travis Schlenk and Co.
As Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz writes, the Hawks might want to address forward De’Andre Hunter’s contract situation sooner rather than later. Hunter is eligible for a rookie extension worth up to $184 million this summer.
De’Andre Hunter’s contract situation needs to be at the forefront of the Atlanta Hawks’ offseason plans
This is not a new discussion by any means. We wondered if the Hawks should extend the fourth-year wing in the closing stretch of the regular season. Then, we were privy to the discussion between The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Chris Kirschner in which they suggested a new deal for Hunter should be contingent upon his clean bill of health.
Swartz comes from a similar position, suggesting the Hawks could use Hunter’s injury history to their benefit given his added importance.
Hunter is extension-eligible for the first time this offseason, and he is an important part to the Hawks moving forward after the team sent Cam Reddish to the New York Knicks. It also seems like a good time to buy low on the 24-year-old. Hunter has struggled with injuries in his three seasons yet has the ceiling of a quality two-way wing.
At his best, Hunter is a 20-plus-point-per-game scorer who can give the other team’s best player fits when he checks them.
Unfortunately for him and the Hawks is that he is spread too thin.
They lack sufficient complementary wing defenders to take some of the pressure off of him. Especially if they are going to rely on him for offense going forward. He did end their postseason with a 35-point, 10-rebound performance against the Miami Heat.
Swartz continues with some examples of other deals the Hawks could look at to set their target range for a Hunter deal.
Atlanta should look at…players like OG Anunoby (four years, $72 million) and Mikal Bridges (four years, $90.9 million). Hunter’s best basketball is still ahead of him, and locking him down to a contract in the $20 million per year range would be wise before he hits free agency next summer.
That would put him over the $63 million extension that swingman Kevin Huerter got last offseason as a former non-lottery pick. But, seeing as Hunter is a former fourth-overall pick, it would represent quite the bargain for a player of Hunter’s potential.
It also reflects the uncertainty that remains around him as well as keeps his contract tradeable next season if things do go that way.