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De'Andre Hunter, Hawks Agree to 4-Year, $95M Contract Extension

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 18, 2022

Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter (12) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Atlanta Hawks and forward De'Andre Hunter have agreed to a four-year, $95 million extension, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 24-year-old was eligible for restricted free agency in 2023.

The Hawks discovered the potential dangers of arriving as a contender earlier than expected.

Their run to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals not only raised expectations but probably also played a role in Atlanta re-signing John Collins and Kevin Huerter. The former got $125 million over five years, while the latter signed for four years and $65 million.

At the time, keeping a young core of emerging stars together made sense.

The franchise fell back to earth in 2021-22, finishing 43-39 and losing in five games to the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. As a result, Atlanta's front office went about a course correction.

Huerter has already been traded to the Sacramento Kings in what was partly a salary dump. Dejounte Murray arrived at the cost of three first-round picks, a 2026 pick swap and Danilo Gallinari. And Collins continues to be the source of trade rumors.

With Hunter, his value to the Hawks quickly became apparent. HoopsHype's Michael Scotto and NBA insider Marc Stein both reported he was considered a long-term piece of the foundation alongside Trae Young and Onyeka Okongwu.

It's not hard to see why Atlanta coveted Hunter so much. Through three seasons, he's averaging 13.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.7 steals while shooting 35.9 percent from beyond the arc.

When healthy, the 2019 first-round pick is a nice secondary scorer behind Young who can be a stifling defender on the perimeter.

ESPN @espn

De'Andre Hunter's defense on Brandon Ingram's game-winner attempt 🔒 <a href="https://t.co/KPFrdOlCGb">pic.twitter.com/KPFrdOlCGb</a>

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

Per <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNStatsInfo</a>, Mavs shot 1-of-13 when Hawks wing De’Andre Hunter was the primary defender, including 1-of-9 by Luka Doncic. “He played great defense,” Doncic said.

Consistency and availability have been two problems for Hunter, though, which raised questions over whether he and the Hawks would strike a bargain or wait until next summer.

Since entering the league, Hunter has missed the equivalent of a full season (82 games). Most recently, he suffered a significant wrist injury that shelved him for nearly two months.

In terms of what he has done on the court, The Athletic's Chris Kirschner laid out how the 6'8" wing was often the jack of all trades and a master of none this past year:

"Hunter admitted in exit interviews that he feels like he’s not yet great in any one area, and that’s something I’ve been saying all season long. He certainly had his moments where he was a lockdown defender, but he was mostly OK on that end. He doesn’t pass well. He doesn’t rebound well. He doesn’t score at the rim well. Really, the one area where he excelled this season was shooting 3s. Maybe a healthy offseason can be the difference for him, because I thought he was exceptional to start last season before he got hurt."

Allowing the rookie extension deadline to pass without a deal can have a deleterious effect on a player's relationship with a team. Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns are a perfect example of that.

But Hunter and the Hawks each had compelling reasons to avoid making any final agreements prior to this October's deadline. Because of his injury history, there's a lot of risk in signing him to a multiyear contract, and he might have earned more by allowing the 2022-23 campaign to play out.

Instead, the two sides were comfortable enough to conclude negotiations now.