Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with R.J. Hunter. For a look at the other profiles, click here.
BOSTON – For most of R.J. Hunter’s basketball career, he has been on a mission to prove himself.
Too this, too that.
There’s always been some kind of knock on his game.
So, the idea that he enters his second NBA season in a fight to not just play, but actually hold down a roster spot with the Celtics, isn’t the least bit overwhelming to the 22-year-old.
And while the uncertainty of his status might result in some anxious moments, Hunter heads into training camp knowing his future with the Celtics is very much in his control.
The ceiling for Hunter: Regular playing rotation
When the Celtics drafted Hunter with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, he came to town with a well-earned reputation as a shooter.
Hunter hit more than his share of big shots at Georgia State, but none bigger than the deep, Steph Curry-like 3-pointer in the 2015 NCAA Tournament with just 2.6 seconds to play that lifted the 14th-seeded Panthers to a 57-56 upset win over third-seed Baylor.
Hunter didn’t shoot the 3-ball nearly as well in his rookie season, but his confidence in shooting – and making – 3s looked a lot better in summer league play.
He missed some action this summer with a sore wrist injury, but certainly had more positive moments than negative ones when it came to shooting the ball.
Hunter averaged 10.2 points this summer, along with 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Even more significant was that he shot 47.2 percent on 3s.
Now that’s unlikely to hold up in the regular season, but it’s a good sign for a guy who knows he has to make shots in order to maximize his value to this team.
No matter how well he performs when it comes to intangibles such as screening, making the extra pass on offense or deflections, Hunter has to make shots or at least shoot better than the 30.2 percent he connected on 3s last season.
You should never put too much stock in summer league play good or bad, but to see so many of his 3s go down this summer can only help Hunter in terms of confidence and just as important, solidify his role heading into this season.
The floor for Hunter: On roster of another NBA team
Hunter is among the players that Boston could potentially be unloading prior to the start of the season whether it be via trade or simply waiving him.
It’s not about potential or how he has performed.
It’s a numbers game, pure and simple.
Boston currently has 16 players with guaranteed contracts, Hunter being among them. By the time the season starts, that number has to be down to the league-maximum of 15.
No calculator needed for this problem.
At least one player with a guaranteed contract has to go, and we’re not even factoring in second round pick Ben Bentil who has a partially guaranteed deal who is also in the fight for one of the last remaining roster spots.
At this point it seems unlikely that Hunter will be one of the guys to be moved, but a poor training camp might shift the winds of change in his direction.
Because of his age and experience, Hunter won’t have a problem latching on with another NBA team if the Celtics waive him. He is still a young player, has shown promise, has a great contract and doesn’t bring any kind of knucklehead, baggage-type issues with him.
But ultimately he has to be a shot-maker in this league. He’ll get a better chance at doing that in camp. And if he succeeds, they will keep him. But if he struggles and others surge ahead of him, Hunter will be donning a new uniform next season in another NBA city.