De'Andre Hunter
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Don’t look now, but the New York Knicks could easily be in play for Virginia wing De’Andre Hunter.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Knicks could draft De’Andre Hunter in next month’s NBA Draft.

Laugh all you want. Knock on my door just to throw a tomato in my face. Trash me on Twitter for knowing nothing about basketball, a sport I’ve been enjoying for almost 30 years.

This still doesn’t take away from the Knicks’ draft history being, well, disappointing at times. This is the same team who picked Iman Shumpert over Tobias Harris; Frederic Weis over Ron Artest/Metta World Peace; or just traded all their draft picks for washed up veterans.


Which means on June 20, the Knicks could easily use the third pick on De’Andre Hunter. It doesn’t matter if Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are the two best men behind Zion Williamson. History warns the fans one truth: the Knicks are full of surprises.

De’Andre Hunter is not the prospect Knicks fans want. He might get Kristaps Porzingis-like boos if New York picks him.

Just the same, could he prove full of surprises and help take the Knicks forward?

Pros

A former four-star recruit from Philadelphia, Hunter is entering the NBA Draft at the perfect time. He just wrapped his redshirt sophomore season at Virginia and was a key player in leading the Cavaliers to a national championship.

In the NCAA tournament, Hunter averaged 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He shot 48% from the field and nearly 39% from long range. Those are about in line with his overall season marks of 15.2 points and 5.1 rebounds, plus shooting 52% from the floor and 43.8% from three.

De’Andre Hunter also has decent size at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. He isn’t exactly an elite scorer, especially compared to Barrett, but can turn that on when needed. Hunter’s build also allows him to slide over to small forward, which improves the team’s overall depth.

He is also a strong defender, having posted 2.6 defensive win shares (DWS) last season. Hunter also posted a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 3.6. There’s always room for improvement, but that Hunter has already established himself on defense is a good thing.

The point is in a draft class where everyone after Williamson, Morant, and Barrett is viewed as a crapshoot, the Knicks could certainly do worse.

Cons

However, New York Knicks fans have suffered for a long time and demand immediate results. No disrespect to De’Andre Hunter, but nothing clearly suggests he is ready to be a top contributor on an NBA team.

Take a look at the footage of him above. From a scoring standpoint, he basically has two moves: hook shots in traffic and three-pointers. Hunter can also drive the lane for a dunk or a layup, but his lack of a mid-range game is a concern.

Nor is Hunter much of a playmaker. He only averaged a pair of assists per game at Virginia and that won’t fly in the NBA. Players are expected to talk to each other and move the ball more on the court. Hunter will have to improve in that area regardless of who drafts him.

Moreover, the NBA is far different from the ACC. This isn’t a league or conference where every team plays at breakneck speed and is primarily focused on offense. It isn’t one where every game runs so fast, you’d think Sonic the Hedgehog was coaching both teams. No, every team is different and Hunter will need to learn how to slow down a bit.

He is very much a project player. Given how the Knicks hope to take a big step forward after winning just 17 games last season, drafting Hunter would certainly be a puzzling move.

Final thoughts

Keep in mind, none of this is to say De’Andre Hunter will be an automatic draft bust. If he only minimally developed, odds are he could be a poor man’s Andre Iguodala. There’s nothing wrong with that outcome whatsoever.

But NBADraft.net currently has Hunter projected to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 4. Barring future developments, he will be a lottery pick next month, which means the Knicks are at least considering him in a worst case scenario. Hunter surely isn’t the top name on GM Scott Perry’s wish list but is probably on it just the same.

This is because the NBA Draft is full of surprises. Just when we all thought Kevin Durant would be the first pick in 2007, the Portland Trail Blazers shocked everyone with Greg Oden.

Knowing the New York Knicks, fans need to expect the unexpected. Be it trading the pick for Anthony Davis or drafting De’Andre Hunter at No. 3, don’t rule out anything for New York.

 

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