De'Andre Hunter's latest surgery could be double-loss for Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks announced that De'Andre Hunter is set to undergo a procedure on his right knee, leaving more questions than answers about his future.
Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter
Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks (12-17) have missed fifth-year forward De’Andre Hunter for the last two games, and for five of their last eight outings, as he has dealt first with soreness in his right quad, which was later termed right knee soreness.

They have to make do without him for a little bit longer after announcing he will undergo a procedure to address the issue.

“De’Andre Hunter, who has missed the last two games, underwent an MRI on Saturday at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex,” read the official update from the team. “Hunter will undergo a non-surgical procedure tomorrow to address right knee inflammation. He will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks and his status will be updated as appropriate.”

It is a similar process to what the Hawks took with rookie Kobe Bufkin following his thumb injury earlier this season. Bufkin missed more than a month after the update, albeit with a wholly different injury and without surgery to address the issue.

The concerning part of this is that Hunter has a history of right knee issues.

Hunter missed the final 48 of the final 53 games in 2020-21 both with a torn meniscus that required surgery and the swelling in the aftermath. He returned for the Hawks’ postseason run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but only lasted the opening-round series against the New York Knicks, tearing the cartilage again and having surgery in June of 2021.

He started the following season active but would require surgery again by November, his third in nine months. Hunter missed just one contest between the regular season and playoffs after returning in January 2022. 

The former No. 4 overall pick (2018) missed 15 games last season with various injuries.

De’Andre Hunter’s injury could impact Hawks’ trade plans

Hunter is in the first year of a four-year, $90 million contract extension. That is significant amid a re-emergence of offseason trade rumors involving him and teammate Clint Capela. 

“The Hawks have left rival teams with the impression they are still open to moving one of, if not both, Capela and De’Andre Hunter, whom Atlanta discussed with Indiana, Detroit and Toronto this offseason, sources said,” wrote Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports on December 22.

Related. Hawks talked Hunter trade with Pistons. Hawks held ‘significant’ talks with Pistons about trading starter. dark

Hunter received his extension from a previous iteration of the Hawks’ front office. 

The current one, meanwhile, has seemingly not been shy about its intentionality with some of the leaks that have come out since the transition.

General Manager Landry Fields moved John Collins, essentially for pennies on the dollar. He has yet to fully utilize the trade exception – which expires in July – generated by that trade, though.

We have also heard plenty about the Hawks’ interest in Pascal Siakam as well as the discussions around Capela and Hunter.

The Hawks have posted a minus-1.3 net efficiency differential with Hunter on the floor this season, per Cleaning The Glas, and are plus-2.6 without him. They could face more difficulty moving him with his newfound salary and lengthy injury history.