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Roundball Stew

De'Andre Hunter's Breakout

by Matt Stroup
Updated On: January 29, 2021, 3:52 pm ET

If you’d asked me which second-year Atlanta Hawk I’d be prioritizing coming into this season, my answer 11 times out of 10 would have been Cam Reddish over De’Andre Hunter

My reasoning: Reddish down the stretch last year showed signs of being downright explosive — 14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.5 bpg and 2.1 3s on 47.0 percent shooting over his final 21 games, as a 20-year-old — while Hunter finished 225th overall on BasketballMonster.com’s 9-category leaderboard.

But a whole lot can happen — especially for young, ascending players — when a team doesn’t take the floor for more than nine months. And in the case of Hunter, the second-year forward from Virginia used his layoff to level up. 

After a not-that-thrilling start to the season (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 43.9 percent shooting over his first four games), Hunter in the month of January has posted 19.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.6 3s — shooting an elite 53.7 percent from the field and 89.7 from the line in 13 games. 

And he’s been even better than that lately. Hunter’s last five games include 22.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.8 3s, on 54.9 percent from the field and 89.3 from the line. 

Billed by some as a 3-and-D guy coming out of Virginia, Hunter is already proving to be much more than that, scoring in the post, off the dribble, on mid-range jumpers and yes — hitting plenty of 3s. A quarter of the way into Atlanta’s season, the 23-year-old sits 40th overall in 9-category leagues. And if his defensive stats continue to gradually improve (he’s currently up 0.2 steals and 0.2 blocks from his rookie year), watch out.

Here are a few other random things on my radar:

The aforementioned Cam Reddish has been getting dropped in some fantasy leagues. This is a mistake. Yes, Reddish has had some annoying nagging injuries (and he’s currently questionable for Friday with a quad contusion), but when healthy of late, the 21-year-old has been a net positive. Over his last six games, Reddish has posted 15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.8 spg and 2.0 3s, shooting 41.1 percent from the field and 85.2 from the line. The field goal percentage is less than ideal, but there aren’t many players on your waiver wire or potentially getting dropped who can even come close to reaching 2.0 spg and 2.0 3s per game. No matter how crowded the Hawks rotation gets with the eventual return of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Reddish — who hasn’t played less than 24 minutes in a single game all year, and is averaging 29 minutes overall — is going to be a priority. And some big stat lines should follow.

What has gotten into the Cleveland edition of Taurean Prince? Just to review, since moving to the Cavs as part of the James Harden trade, Prince in five games has averaged 12.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg and 2.2 3s (shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 87.5 from the line). Aside from the defensive numbers, the part of that stat line that jumps out at me is the assists, as Prince has never averaged better than 2.6 in a game during his four-plus years in the NBA. 

So should we buy in? No. But also yes. The no part encompasses the fact that we shouldn’t put too much stock into a five-game sample when it doesn’t add up with his previous numbers. At the same time, when a former lottery pick (No. 12 overall in 2016) changes destinations and starts producing, I start to pay attention. The bottom line is that I’ve added Prince everywhere he’s been available, fully aware that I might be dropping him in a week or two. But five-game sample or no, I can’t just completely ignore this recent production.

It’s time to forget the ceiling with Mitchell Robinson. For now, let’s just accept the floor. Coming into the season, it was easy to see the potential obstacles for Mitch Rob this year. Most notably, it was the combo of Tom Thibodeau and veteran center Nerlens Noel that seemed to present the biggest concerns, as it was really easy to envision Thibs deciding that Noel would be his center of choice — leaving Mitch as the maddening boom-or-bust option that probably had his best games on your bench.

So far, this scenario has not come to pass. Robinson is somehow averaging a career-high in minutes (30 per game) and a career-low in fouls (2.7). He has recorded at least one block in 17 out of 19 games and seven or more rebounds in 14 out of 19. Overall, his numbers include 9.1 ppg, a career-best 8.4 rpg, 1.2 spg (also a career-high) and 1.7 bpg. Add it all up, and you’re looking at a mostly headache-free No. 54 player in 9-category leagues. Given that he’s only 22 years old, there’s still plenty of ceiling to find in the future. In the meantime, consistency seems like an excellent place to start. 

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s slow start already seems like a lifetime ago. Through his first six games of the season, SGA was putting up decent counting stats (18.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.8 3s), but was all the way down at 146th in 9-category leagues due to slightly dicey percentages (43.0 / 75.0), and high turnovers (3.2). 

That officially seems like a long time ago.

Over the last three weeks (spanning 11 games), SGA has upped his production to 23.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.8 3s while shooting 54.5 percent from the field (and 76.6 from the line) with 2.5 turnovers. During that stretch (which makes up 65 percent of his season so far), Gilgeous-Alexander has been the No. 23-ranked player in 9-category leagues. For the season, he’s 41st. Great example of why we should not panic during the first couple weeks of the season (even though it’s impossible not to).

For more on some of these trends, and some observations on James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, check out the latest podcast where I’m joined by Ryan Knaus — right here or in the embedded player below: