De’Andre Hunter’s NBA season preview with the Atlanta Hawks
The 2021-2022 NBA season has officially started and it’s time to take an in-depth look at the former UVA basketball players in the league this season.
Today we take a look at Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who was picked for a contract extension by the Hawks this week.
Click here for an overview on Trey Murphy.
Click here for an overview on Joe Harris.
Click here for the Ty Jerome preview.
Click here for the Malcolm Brogdon preview.
Aside from a few lingering injury issues, De’Andre Hunter was exactly what the Atlanta Hawks wanted him to be when they selected him with the 4th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft First Round. L The former Cavalier came out of college as perhaps the most ready-to-play prospect selected in the draft that year, given his measurements and ability to play in defense. Hunter has proven that the defensive skills that made him the National Defensive Player of the Year in his final season at Virginia translate very well into the pro ranks. For most of Hunter’s first two seasons in the NBA, the Hawks tasked him with keeping the opposing team’s best player, regardless of position. At 6’8 “, 221 pounds, Hunter has the unique combination of size and strength that allows him to defend big opponents at the bottom, while having the lateral quickness and agility to follow guards around the perimeter. His game Offensive has also developed well and Hunter has proven to be the perfect prototype for the coveted “three and D” player in the NBA.
During his rookie season, Hunter played 63 games, starting in 62 of them and averaging 12.3 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. He shot 41.0% from the field and 34.8% from three in 32.0 minutes per game. Last year, Hunter Hunter missed 49 games with a knee injury sustained midway through the season. He only played 23 games and made 19 starts, but averaged 15.0 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and shot 48.4% from the field. He increased his statistical averages in these categories despite playing under minutes to 29.5 minutes per game.
Hunter came back from his injury in an attempt to contribute to the Hawks’ playoff race. Hunter started five games in Atlanta’s first round series against the Knicks, averaging 10 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes per game. Ultimately, however, it was determined that Hunter needed knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and he missed the rest of the playoffs.
Hunter has spent the entire offseason rehabilitating his knee and it looks like he’ll be ready to go at the start of the season, but it’s still unclear how long it will take him to settle down. On a list of stacked Hawks, Hunter can find himself competing for his starting position, especially early in the season.
Atlanta this season
After missing the playoffs three straight seasons, the Hawks looked on their way to making it four in a row as they started last season with a 14-20 record. The organization has split with head coach Lloyd Pierce and interim head coach Nate McMillan has taken over. Under McMillan’s leadership, the Hawks won 27 of the remaining 38 regular season games and finished 41-31, good for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta beat the fourth-seeded New York Knicks in five games in the first round and beat the seeded Philadelphia 76ers in seven games in the conference semifinals. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks lost in six games to eventual NBA champion the Milwaukee Bucks.
This year, Nate McMillan is entering his first full season as a head coach and he does so with an extremely rich and talented Hawks roster.
Trae Young is entering his fourth season as one of the league’s top superstars and arguably one of the NBA’s top five point guard. He’s surrounded by an abundance of contributing pieces and many of them come from last year’s squad that made it to the Eastern Conference final. The Hawks have known for several seasons that they have a solid core of young talent to build a team around, but now that young core has playoff experience and has grown into a dangerous team with championship aspirations.
The five starting figures will be Trae Young (point guard), Bogdan Bogdanovic (shooting guard), De’Andre Hunter (small forward), John Collins (powerful winger) and Clint Capela (center). The Hawks have several players on their bench who could easily start too. Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish both showed a lot of potential in their first seasons in the NBA. Huerter and Reddish seem most ready to take advantage if Hunter is a little slow to come back to his old self at the start of the season. The Hawks also have reliable save options at playmaker Lou Williams and Delon Wright, as well as depth in the front court with Danilo Gallinari, Jahlil Okafor and Gorgui Dieng.
Atlanta sorely missed Hunter’s presence, especially on the defensive end, as the Hawks fell to the Bucks last year. As the Hawks look to make another deep run in the playoffs this year, they will look to Hunter to continue his progression as one of the best two-way players in the NBA this season.
The Hawks start their season at home against the Dallas Mavericks Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
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