For all of the talk around Atlanta Hawks star Dejounte Murray ahead of the trade deadline, teammate De’Andre Hunter has been the subject of rumors for much longer, dating back to the offseason.
And it appears there could be a new team in the mix for the former No. 4 overall pick.
“Atlanta's De'Andre Hunter is said to be another name to watch in Cleveland's ongoing search for a 3-and-D upgrade,” wrote Marc Stein of The Stein Line on January 16.
“Absorbing Hunter's contract (which has three seasons and $70 million left on it after this season) makes him a challenging payroll fit (and, frankly, difficult for the Hawks to trade anywhere).”
Hunter, 26, is averaging 14.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists this season.
He has been sidelined for the last 12 games following surgery for knee inflammation and was re-evaluated after two weeks.
“De’Andre Hunter, who underwent a non-surgical procedure on Dec. 26 to address right knee inflammation, began participating in half-court workouts late last week,” read the update from the Hawks on January 9. “He is expected to increase his basketball activities in the coming days, and his status will be updated as appropriate.”
In the first year of a four-year, $90 million contract, Hunter has been linked to several teams in trade rumors including Cavaliers rivals, the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, though those rumors have since gone cold.
There is also a rumored interest from the Toronto Raptors.
That is notable amid the Hawks’ long-running pursuit of a trade for Raptors star forward Pascal Siakam.
Atlanta is 11-13 with Hunter this season, a modest record to be sure. But they are 5-10 without him, including going 4-8 during his current absence. Their record with Hunter is 106-125 all-time, while they are 55-56 without him, though that includes a lot of different teams.
Hunter has a history of knee issues that, when combined with his contract, could indeed make it difficult for the Hawks to move on.
There are even reports they could package him with Murray to rid themselves of the contract.
Hawks' Bogdan Bogdanovic, Clint Capela on trade watch
It’s not just Hunter, either, with Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela also named as potential casualties of a Murray trade – or rather vice versa – with the Hawks looking to retool around Trae Young with a younger and less expensive roster.
So far, the only players believed to be untouchable in trade talks are Young, breakout third-year forward Jalen Johnson, and rookie 15th overall pick Kobe Bufkin.
Fourth-year big man Onyeka Okongwu could also be in that mix.