This offseason has been littered with trade rumors for the Atlanta Hawks.
One of the players most often mentioned, at least pre-draft, was forward De’Andre Hunter. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hunter is set to begin a four-year, $90 million contract extension next season.
He has been linked to several teams but nothing has come to fruition despite him being a solid contributor on both ends of the floor.
“As recently as last summer, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he and Trae Young were the only untouchables on the Hawks roster. He’s even been compared to Kawhi Leonard,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on August 2. “But the reality of Hunter hasn’t quite lived up to any of that.”
Hunter, 25, averaged 15.4 points this past season while shooting 35% from beyond the arc and guarding the opponent’s top wing scorer – such as Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum among others – on a nightly basis.
But Bailey’s gripe is in the other facets of Hunter’s game.
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged just 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists this past season while also falling short of 1.0 steals and/or 1.0 blocks.
“Among the 394 players with 2,000-plus minutes during his career, he’s tied for 341st in assist percentage,” Bailey wrote. “Since bringing up that rank may not be fair (given the fact that he plays with Young), it’s also worth noting that he’s 255th in that group in rebounding percentage, 341st in steal percentage and 268th in block percentage.”
That paints a fairly grim picture of the highest draft pick on the Hawks’ roster.
It could also explain why, among the rumors involving Hunter, the Dallas Mavericks were said to have had an interest in him but were hung up on his contract.
“I don’t know exactly what the discussions were with De’Andre Hunter,” said ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” on June 23. “I do know that some people within the Mavs looked at it and said, ‘Like the player, not at that price.’”
De’Andre Hunter still ascending for Hawks
The current front office did not draft Hunter, nor did they hand him his extension. That could explain why there have been so many trade rumors around him while his draft pedigree will forever lead to increased scrutiny over what he does and does not do even if he already does a lot for the Hawks.
Hunter averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 boards, and 1.2 assists while shooting 36.8% from deep in the Hawks’ first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. He averaged 21.2 points and knocked down 46.2% of his threes in the 2021-22 postseason against the Miami Heat.
He is also coming off of a career-high 67 appearances which is quite a positive turn considering injuries put a serious damper on his second and third seasons.
His $20 million salary in 2023-24 ranks 74th in the NBA, per Spotrac.
He will account for less than 15% of the $136 million salary cap and should stay in that range if the cap raises by the maximum amount of 10% each year – a reasonable price for a capable player at such a valuable position.