The Atlanta Hawks are in the process of potentially working out a contract extension for De’Andre Hunter. Heading into his third season, Hunter was the fourth-overall pick and was added to the “off-limits” list in trade discussion to some degree. He was offered up for Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant.
But the Hawks’ focus has been that extension.
Last we heard, the two sides were $20 million apart with Hunter reportedly seeking up to $100 million over four years.
Whether or not the Hawks should extend Hunter – and for how much – has been a topic even before news of their stalemate broke. But one thing is clear, even before he is handed that extension, Hunter has the “most to prove”.
De’Andre Hunter has ‘most to prove’ among Atlanta Hawks
Hunter averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 52 appearances – all starts – last season. If nothing else, he proved to be more durable in his third season after playing just 23 games in his second season due to an injury. He came back in time for the 2021 NBA Playoffs but was lost again after the first round.
This past season saw him again miss a large chunk in the middle and he ended it battling through a back injury during the Hawks’ five-game first-round elimination.
He did average 29.5 points and shoot 53.8% on his triples over the last two games.
But his defense regressed as did his handle, the latter being the result of a wrist injury suffered during the season.
Still, The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz (subscription required) picked Hunter as the Hawks’ player with the most to prove. And, even with the positives, it is hard to question that given his injury history and inconsistent play which may be linked to the first issue.
But the last two times the Hawks have extended one of the players they drafted they at least tried to trade that player. They were successful with Kevin Huerter. Forward John Collins not so much, though his name is still prevalent in trade rumors. Hunter has to prove worthy of the contract before anything else.
For the Hawks, though, how big of a concern is that? They have already taken steps to avoid the luxury tax.
Is the Hunter the player they are okay with going over it for?
They could say yes publicly. But as Collins’ situation has shown, even signing the deal won’t keep a player from being mentioned in hypothetical trade scenarios. Hunter’s situation could be different given his conditional “off-limits” designation.
But, to Swartz’s point, he is going to have to prove it.