Accolades and a strong rookie season only the start for De’Andre Hunter

De'Andre Hunter discusses gameplay during the Atlanta Hawks pregame routine. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Coming into the NBA, Virginia Cavaliers forward De’Andre Hunter’s resume looked as good as any for an individual.

Hunter made ACC All-Defense, ACC All-Freshman and 2018-19 ACC Defensive Player of the Year: the oozing potential spelled future NBA success. 

Additionally, Hunter presented NBA scouts with an exceptional skillset on the big stage in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. His talents brought him a national championship as the best player on his college team in his last year at Virginia. 

Months later, the Atlanta Hawks selected Hunter fourth overall in the ensuing NBA draft last summer, which seems like a whole college experience itself.

Hunter displayed a variety of skills, averaging 12.2 points and 4.5 rebounds as a rookie last season. Hunter proved to be a reliable defender throughout his rookie campaign with flashes of brilliance on the offensive end. 

Of course, COVID-19 ended Hunter’s campaign in March after 63 games, and Atlanta’s record did not qualify them for the NBA bubble in Orlando. 

Instead, the Hawks joined eight others who did not travel to Walt Disney World and shifted to the offseason. In his first offseason, Hunter continues to enjoy the time off. 

“I feel the break may have helped me more than playing out the season,” Hunter said. 

In a shortened rookie season, it is essential to reflect on things that went well and use it as a time to hit the gym and work on your game crafting some of those strengths and improving those weaknesses. 

The growth of Hunter and Cam Reddish will be vital for the Atlanta Hawks as they are their best wing defenders. Having two potentially elite defenders, will work wonders for the Hawks on the defensive end and help get some easy opportunities in transition. 

All of the elite teams have one elite defender having two adds to your ability to contend for a championship. Hunter and Reddish certainly fit the bill on this team and the potential is high. 

“I think we need to be more aggressive as a duo,” Hunter said. 

Hunter also showed he could score when given the opportunity. He recorded a career-high 28 points in December against the Miami Heat in a variety of ways, hitting three-point shots and finishing at the rim with ease. Hunter is more than capable of doing this on a nightly basis but consistency will be key. It is important for Hunter to not be passive and remain aggressive every night because his scoring may be counted on to lead the team. 

Hunter’s growth offensively and defensively can make this Hawks team a tough bunch going forward and keep this team in many games. It is still early for Hunter and the Hawks have to remain patient with their young player’s growth as he develops but Hunter has the right mindset and talent to be great in this league. 

Trae Young is the unquestioned leader for this Hawks team, but for Atlanta to make noise, they will need Hunter to develop into a well-rounded two-way star to decrease Young’s offensive burden. Hunter has to take a significant step forward next season if Atlanta wants to become a playoff team and contend with the other elite teams in the Eastern Conference.