Start, Bench, Cut: Sorting through the Hawks’ power forward options

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Hawks, De'Andre Hunter
Atlanta Hawks, De’Andre Hunter. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

There are very few question marks about the Atlanta Hawks going into the 2023-24 season.

The ones that do exist, however, are significant. And none are more so than who will start at power forward. While Atlanta has many options, they have tipped their hand regarding their preferred direction.

Which direction should they go in, though?

Start: De’Andre Hunter

Hunter may be the Hawks’ best in-house option at power forward despite also being their best option at small forward. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, Hunter has the size to play up a position, though his injury history is cause for pause – he missed 78 of a possible 154 games during the 2021 and 2022 seasons combined.

However, Hunter made a career-high 67 appearances last season, and even logged 1,175 possessions at power forward, per Cleaning The Glass.

Atlanta boasted a plus-1.4 net rating with Hunter in that spot.

That ranked in the 61st percentile. More importantly, it is a substantial enough sample size to suggest that the look is sustainable and one that the Hawks have already explored, notable following word that they are prepared to enter the season with the roster as-is.

Hunter, 25, averaged 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists last season, He shot 46.1% from the floor and 35% from beyond the arc. He averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 boards, and 1.2 assists in the postseason, shooting 36.8% from deep. But that has not kept him out of trade rumors this summer.

What the Hawks would lose in rebounding by having Hunter at power forward, they gain in perimeter defense and a budding offensive game.

Hunter is beginning a four-year, $90 million contract this season which has played a part in the trade rumors surrounding him. The Dallas Mavericks were said to be interested but not on his current contract.

That could wind up being a blessing in disguise.