When De’Andre Hunter plays well, the Atlanta Hawks usually come out on top. That’s what happened in the game against the Charlotte Hornets in their play-off. However, if Hunter is going to get the recognition he deserves, the play-in isn’t a big enough stage.
To put it simply, names and reuptations are made or broken in the playoffs. Watch last season in the Hawks’ first round game against the New York Knicks. Trae Young was branded a villain and Julius Randle was the darling of Maddison Square Gardens for what he managed to achieve with the Knicks that season.
Well, Young left that show with the changing narrative about him because of the way he was acting. He then reinforced that with the way he played for the rest of the playoffs. Randle, after the Knicks were consolidated in five games, then had an offseason in the one that just ended. If the Knicks can find a suitor, Randle will be gone this offseason.
The Atlanta Hawks need De’Andre Hunter to make a difference in big games.
During the play-in tournament, because the games were nationally televised, the commentators were those of the national audience. During that broadcast, a commentator remarked that they weren’t sure if the Hawks had an elite defenseman. Now, for those watching this team closely, that’s a hurtful statement, but it shines a light on the league’s perception of Hunter.
This is further evidenced by the fact that Hunter didn’t get a single Defensive Player of the Year vote. Although he’s not at that level yet, the Hawks went from being an easy team to beat when he was out in the unit we saw take the Hawks all the way up to the eighth seed.
However, as mentioned earlier, it’s one thing to do it in the regular season, it’s another thing to do it in basketball’s biggest stage, the NBA playoffs. So far against the Miami Heat, the Hawks allowed Duncan Robinson to a franchise-best eight 3-pointers in Game 1, then Jimmy Butler went for his playoff high, scoring 45 points.
These two players are a natural match for Hunter. Given they are without their defensive anchor Clint Capela, this is an opportunity for Hunter to really shine and so far he hasn’t delivered. He has the chance to write his legacy if he can help the Hawks win this series, especially if he can do it without Capela.