Each new report about the Atlanta Hawks’ activity this offseason seems to build upon the last and reinforce the idea that anyone
“League sources say the Hawks have explored the idea of trading De’Andre Hunter with AJ Griffin needing more playing time,” wrote Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report in an apparently updated excerpt from his two-round mock draft from June 2.
Hunter, 24, is the highest-drafted player on the Hawks’ roster, selected No. 4 overall in 2019.
He has gone from being viewed as solely a 3-and-D guy, capable of knocking down open shots while also being tasked with defending the opponent’s best wing player on any given night. But Hunter’s offensive game has developed with the former National Champion Virginia Cavalier showcasing a greater ability to put the ball on the floor than initially thought.
Hunter averaged a career-high 15.4 points on 56.3% true shooting this past season, connecting on 35.0% of his triples.
He even made a career-high 67 appearances this past season.
The Hawks inked Hunter to a four-year, $90 million contract extension that kicks in this coming season and, given their current $13.6 million tax bill – which they have never paid under team governor Tony Ressler – could lead to some tough decisions being made. Per Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer, anyone on the roster but Trae Young can be had for the right offer.
Hunter could soon follow the same path as former Hawks draftee, Kevin Huerter.
Atlanta signed Huerter, the No. 19 overall pick in 2018, to a four-year, $65 million extension last offseason but traded him to the Sacramento Kings in large part to remain under the tax after trading for Dejounte Murray.
Murray, per Ficher, would take a lot to pry loose from the Hawks.
AJ Griffin pushing the issue on Atlanta Hawks
Griffin, 19, certainly flashed enough potential to apply pressure on Hunter and the Hawks’ front office to find more minutes for him next season.
He averaged 8.9 points and 2.1 rebounds while shooting 39.0% from beyond the arc.
His efficiency from deep could be the key with the Hawks expected to attempt more threes under new head coach Quin Snyder. Interestingly, Griffin – who made 72 appearances including 12 starts as a rookie – found himself on the outside of Snyder’s rotation at times down the stretch of the campaign.
Griffin averaged more than 20 minutes per game before the All-Star break under former head coach Nate McMillan but saw his time dip to fewer than 17 minutes per game while only appearing in 15 of the Hawks’ final 21 contests.
He did close on an uptick in playing time to close the season, averaging over 25 minutes per over his final three appearances.
But the rookie was a fixture on the bench in the postseason, seeing zero minutes.
Analytically, the Hawks posted a better net rating with Griffin on the floor and Hunter off (plus-3.8) than when it was the other way around (plus-0.2), albeit in roughly 1600 fewer possessions, per Cleaning The Glass. And, despite what conventional wisdom might suggest, they are worst with both of them on the floor, posting a minus-3.6 net rating in those instances.
Their net rating without either on the floor was minus-3.1 so it would appear that one or the other needs to be on the floor at all times and, be it because of Griffin’s play, the Hawks’ finances, or both, Hunter could be the odd man out.