Hawks’ former top pick lands on analyst’s ‘weakest link’ list

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Larry Robinson-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Larry Robinson-USA TODAY Sports /

This has been an active summer for the Atlanta Hawks.

Perhaps it has not gone as some had planned or even hoped with most of their moves aimed at clearing space – potentially for future contract extensions for current players. But it has been active nonetheless.

As has been the case for several years now, they have been mentioned in their fair share of rumors, though this offseason has seen a change in the main character.

Gone is John Collins, often floated in trade rumors over the last three seasons only to be finally dealt to the Utah Jazz this summer for a conditional second-round pick and Rudy Gay who has since been released. Instead, former No. 4 overall pick De’Andre Hunter has been both a prime trade candidate and, now, the target for the Hawks’ needed improvement.

“Dunks and Threes…has pegged Hunter as a below-average player in three of his four seasons,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on July 27. “He’s a slightly below-average three-point shooter for his career, and there just aren’t many contributions…beyond that.”

Hunter is again working with famed trainer Chris Brinkley this offseason.

Hunter, 25, is heading into the first year of a four-year, $90 million contract extension.

He averaged 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists this past season while shooting 35% from beyond the arc. While he did average slightly more points compared to the 2021-22 season, he did so only narrowly – by 0.4 points – and none of his other counting stats established new personal bests save for a career-low 1.2 turnovers.

“If he was playing at or near All-Defense level on the other end of the floor, lack of rebounding, passing and scoring efficiency wouldn’t be as big a deal, but he’s not doing that either,” Bailey continued. “Without some steps forward in any of the above categories in 2023-24, he’ll likely be the weak link in this starting five

De’Andre Hunter has become the new John Collins for Hawks

Hunter has been linked to the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, and Toronto Raptors at various points this summer.

The latter seemed to have some legs given the Hawks’ now-long-standing pursuit of Raptors star forward Pascal Siakam who would have filled in capably, albeit differently than what they got from Collins.

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There is still time with two months to go before training camp.

But with so little happening right now on any front as the league has hit a quiet period, it seems far more likely than not that Hunter is still with the Hawks by the time the season begins. That is a double-edged sword for the Hawks who posted a minus-0.5 net rating with him on the floor last season, per Cleaning The Glass (subscription required).

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Hunter is still an ascending player. And, “weakest link” or not, the Hawks need to be sure he cannot be what they at least once thought before they do him as they did Collins or Kevin Huerter before him.