Leading up to each NBA draft, players and analysts alike put a huge focus on when a player is drafted. Will he go #1? Will he be in the lottery? 1st round? 2nd round? The position in which a player is drafted has a lot to do with his first paycheck, but little to do with his career.
What often gets overlooked is which team that player is drafted to, and how he fits that system. The 2015 No. 28 overall pick may not have been in the lottery, but he still might have hit the jackpot.
When RJ Hunter was selected, Boston fans rejoiced in hopes he could be the pure shooter this team has lacked since Ray Allen left in 2012. Or Gigi Datome, depending on who you ask. (kidding…or am I?)
Hunter has been turning heads this summer and throughout preseason with his pure shooting ability and better than projected defense so far. In a Brad Steven’s offense focused on spreading the floor, playing aggressive defense, and shooting the 3 ball, Danny Ainge may have struck lighting in terms of a "value" pick.
Here’s a look at Hunter’s complete summer league highlights:
To nobody’s surprise, Brad Stevens has taken notice of the rookie’s abilities. Via Taylor Snow:
“I think he’s figuring out his spots on offense,” said Stevens. “Defensively he has some really good moments. He’s way ahead of where I thought he would be, but I think that he could still go a long way.”
But this isn’t Steven’s first look at Hunter. Boston's head coach has known RJ and father Ron Hunter since their coaching days in Indiana where Hunter coached at IUPUI prior to Georgia State. Stevens reportedly tried recruiting the younger Hunter to the Butler Bulldogs. From the Associated Press:
"We would joke about it every time we would see each other," Ron Hunter said. "And when I thought Brad was getting real serious I thought I better start recruiting my son a little bit better. So we'd sit at the dinner table and I'd start telling these horror stories about Butler."
A good relationship with a head coach usually helps a player’s progression, but most have to work to build that relationship throughout the season. Hunter has a clear head start.
Another thing Hunter has going for him with this group is he has little expectations heading into his rookie campaign. He is not being asked to shoulder a lot of scoring or minutes and nobody, or at least nobody should, be expecting him to breakout and win Rookie of the Year.
As you can probably tell from the beginning of this post, I generally think “when” a player is drafted is overrated, but in this case, we could see the late first round selection work in the Celtics favor. Professional athletes tend to play with a bit more of an edge when feeling they were snubbed. (See: Brady, Tom or Thomas, Isaiah)
Overall, RJ is a good basketball player with a great shooting stroke and above average court awareness for his age. Strength and defense were the major concerns, but after some a serious commitment to weight gain and strength training, along with a growing confidence:
R.J. Hunter on his rising confidence: "If you tell yourself that you can play in this league, I think things start slowing down for you."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 17, 2015
It appears Celtics fans have a lot to look forward to in their 1st round pick.
Photo Credit: Stephan Savoia/Associated Press
Video Credit: Free Dawkins
Follow Nolan Connor on Twitter @NolanChuck Nolan Connor 10/20/2015 10:27:00 AM Tweet Edit