The Hawks are expected to be one of the most active teams in trade talks and free agency this offseason. After failing to make it past the first round of the playoffs following a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta will make significant changes to build a contender around Trae youngwhich would be the only irremovable part of the list… or is it him? Jake Fischer from the Bleacher Report says another piece of the young core has also been branded as untouchable.

“In ongoing trade talks around the league, it was believed that Atlanta had released all players in addition to Trae Young, but sources told B/R that the team should now retain De’Andre Hunter and accept the terms of a long-term contract extension,” fisher said.

In his third season with the Hawks, Hunter hasn’t quite taken the next step we’ve all been hoping for with an impressive end to the 2020-21 season. Outside of its heroic performance in Game 5, the Virginia product didn’t make much of an impact. The former No. 4 overall pick lost 36 in the team’s closing game against Miami and was the only reason Atlanta had a chance to push him to Game 6. He is eligible for an extension this offseason after three surgeries – one on his wrist and two on his meniscus.

Still, the Game 5’s performance was an anomaly; that’s not what Hunter has been for most of his career. He is an above average defender and a poor ball player. His shooting from beyond the arc was okay this year, but the rest of his game was mediocre. He’s not good at anything.

Hunter averaged 13.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from outside the arc. His performance against Miami in the playoffs was atypical — averaging 21.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on 55.7% shooting from the field and 46.2% from three-pointers. That being said, he’s the player the front office thought they were getting when they drafted him fourth overall.

Hunter’s three seasons in the NBA have been a rollercoaster ride. His rookie season ended due to the pandemic, his sophomore year was hampered by knee surgeries, and the most recent season was riddled with inconsistent plays. Considering all of these factors, it’s possible the front office still thinks he can become an All-Star caliber player.

Reports say he commands $12-15 million a year on the open market. If Hunter’s reps agree to a four-year, $48 million extension, I think that’s a no-brainer for Travis Schlenk. Atlanta’s front office should be thrilled to have a player of Hunter’s caliber at $12 million AAV; it’s pennies in today’s NBA.

He’s a restricted free agent next offseason, so even if the two sides don’t agree on an extension, the Hawks should be able to keep Hunter if he proves worthy this coming season. However, these reports seem to indicate that a new deal is looming. Schlenk hasn’t handed over a bad contract yet, so I doubt he’s overpaying for Hunter.

Photographer: Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire

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