Next in GBB’s NBA Draft Prospect Profile Series is Virginia forward, De’Andre Hunter. Hunter is a 6’7”, 3-and-D wing who has a lot of promise in this year’s draft. He is coming off of his sophomore season at Virginia averaging 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, ending the season with the highest honor of being crowned National Champions.
Hunter comes into the draft projected to go around the top-5 to top-10 range. He is a part of that group in the back half of the top-10 prospects that no one knows what to expect. Personally, I believe he is the best prospect outside of the top-3 and should be seriously considered by the Los Angeles Lakers at #4. If the Memphis Grizzlies were to trade Mike Conley for, say, Chicago’s #7 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and Hunter was there, he’d be a home run in that spot.
De’Andre Hunter is your experienced sophomore that comes into the draft with a bit of a track record. He could have declared after his freshman year, but chose to stay in school and improve on his skills. It was a great decision by him as he increased his numbers in almost every single offensive category. It was a near-perfect season that concluded in a championship which showed everyone his potential on the highest level.
The best part about this game was that the spotlight was shining brightest and Hunter still had a dominant game. Also, he was paired up against Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech, who is also looking to be drafted in the top-5. This National Championship Game was a fantastic battle between two top prospects that showed off the superior skills in both players’ games.
De’Andre Hunter’s biggest strength is his defense. He is the coveted wing defender who can switch on all five positions that fits perfect in today’s NBA. His defense translates either around the perimeter or all the way into the paint against similar sized players. It is his 7’2” wingspan and 6’7” frame that keeps him able to swallow opposing players with size and pure athleticism. Defense is the one attribute that always translates well to the league and is the main reason Hunter should be valued early in this draft.
Another area that Hunter has improved to now being a strength is his three-point shot and, in turn, shot selection. In his freshman season, he found himself settling for lots of mid-range shots that were not translatable into the NBA. This season, Hunter recognized the benefits of stepping back and extending his range which paid dividends in his production. He shot only 1.7 threes a game his freshman year and then increased to 2.8 threes per game this season. In connection, his three point percentage this season was an impressive 43.8% which shows he has the shooting stroke to be applied to any distance.
The last area which he improved into a strength this year is his scoring off the dribble. Hunter has the basketball athleticism to score from any level on the court. He can beat many players off the bounce and can attack the rim. It will be a much more daunting task against NBA defenders and around NBA-level rim protectors, but Hunter has the step to get to the rim first.
These three strengths have kept him dominating at the college level. The defense and shooting are two places where it can translate for him, but it will take an incredible amount of work on his end to keep that intensity up he had at Virginia. If he can do that, Hunter will be a force to be reckoned with in the league.
Areas of Improvement
The biggest concerns for De’Andre Hunter to overcome is his low ceiling in regards to most of his strengths on the court. It is a very generic thing to say about a sophomore player coming in to the draft, but the fact remains that Hunter is not dominant in any one category raising him to the top pick of this draft.
Yes, his defense is great. Yes, he is shot 43.8% from three last season. And, yes, he can attack the rim with his athleticism and size. The only problem about all of that is that he does not have the tools to make his ceiling as high as others in the draft. His offensive resume does not have enough moments where he took over the games and played the isolation ball to win Virginia the game. As everyone knows to this point, that is what teams want in the early stages of the draft. The hopeful home run pick with the highest ceiling always goes before the player with the highest floor.
Personally, I still appreciate the high floor guys, which is why Hunter is one of my favorites this year. However, the weakness and challenge he must overcome and improve upon is showing his potential to everyone else. Does a Darius Garland, who played only a few college games, or a Jarrett Culver, who has raw, impressive athleticism, seem like better picks than Hunter? Most front offices would say yes because of the potential they have. It is where Hunter has his biggest weakness whether he can control it or not.
All in all, De’Andre Hunter sets up incredibly well to succeed in the NBA. As mentioned, the skills that are his biggest strengths translate well from college to the pros. Every team can always use more versatile 3-and-D wings that have an above 40% three-point shot. Even though he is not a freshman, Hunter still has plenty of room to grow and develop and raise his ceiling even more. De’Andre Hunter has the highest floor of all the prospects outside the top-3. He will hopefully go to a situation that suits his game best. Then, at that moment, he can use his raw talent to flourish into the NBA star he is meant to be.
Stats provided by sports-reference.com