A stroke of luck on lottery night landed the Lakers the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, opening them up to a new pool of talent beyond what they were expecting when they entered the night with the 11th-best odds. One of those players is De’Andre Hunter, who was the best player on the national-champion Virginia Cavaliers.
At 6’7”, 225lbs with a 7’2” wingspan, Hunter has excellent size for an NBA wing. He uses those tools judiciously on the defensive end, applying them to fundamentally-sound positional defense rather than in the pursuit of blocks and steals. His on-ball defense is the most substantial component of his game, where he plays like someone five years his senior.
Let’s take a closer look:
Hunter’s offensive game is highly efficient (61.8 TS%), due to his scorching three-ball (43.8 3PT%) and ability to finish at the rim. The question is volume. The slow release on his jump shot limits his attempts from behind the arc (2.8 3PAs per game), and questionable ball-handling prevents him from getting to the rim on a regular basis. In short, it’s likely that he’ll need his teammates to create most of his shots for him on the next level.
Luckily, the Lakers have several players who can do exactly that, most notably Lebron James, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram. Hunter is an unusual prospect in that he should be able to immediately play important minutes on a winning team, provided that he’s in the correct role. He’ll be 22 years old in December, which makes him only a couple of months younger than Ingram and Ball. More importantly, his reliability as a defender -- which is what keeps many rookies attached to the bench in critical moments -- will allow Frank Vogel to play him down the stretch of close games.
De’Andre Hunter has a very high floor and is likely to have a long career in the NBA. The question is: how high do you draft a player who is neither a shot creator, a big, nor a high-volume three-point shooter, even if he’s an excellent player overall? My preference is to pursue a shot creator with the fourth pick, but I wouldn’t be at all upset if Hunter is the pick.
Finally, on a personal note, I’d like to thank the Silver Screen & Roll community for your support throughout my recent hospitalization. It was humbling and motivating, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work for you guys. Go Lakers!