Celtics Draft Profile: R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter may come from a small school in the Sun Belt conference but he brings strong scoring and passing ability. Hunter projects to go in the late first round, and he could be a strong candidate to be wearing Celtics green next season.

The Celtics have had the same problem for two seasons, and this past season it cost them so bad early on that it made them a lower seed than they should have been. The problem- Boston has LONG stretches where they simply can't score. The addition of Isaiah Thomas was a HUGE help and he ignited the offense, but the Celtics need a few more guys that can fill the stat sheet in the scoring department. R.J. Hunter, a 6'6, 185 pound junior out of Georgia State University might be the type of players who fits the Celtics scoring needs. With Hunter being a swing man (shooting guard, small forward) he'll also fill a hole in a position that desperately needs help, especially offensively.

Hunter was born in Oxford, Ohio, but his family ended up moving to Indiana. He attended Pike High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, leading his team to the runner-up spot in the Indiana State Championship. Hunter wasn't recruited as heavily as some Indianapolis prospects, but he was known and he did have opportunities to go to big schools. Hunter had other ideas as he signed to play for his father at Georgia State University. He didn't redshirt, playing right away as a freshman and showing that he should have been more heavily recruited.

Hunter's freshman year was impressive- 33.5 minutes per game, 17 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals, and just 1.7 turnovers per game. Hunter was named a Freshman All-American and was also named the CAA Freshman of the Year, All-CAA First Team and CAA All-Rookie Team. His best game came against Old Dominion when he scored 38 points, 10-15 from three point land, and at one point of the game scored 19 points in a row for the Panthers. Hunter plays a smooth and under control game, skills that helped him not get to high or too low as a freshman. These same skills will help him in his transition to the NBA.

As a sophomore Hunter improved all across the board. He remained at 33.5 minutes per game, but he averaged 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.9 blocks, and only 1.2 turnovers per game, an improvement from his freshman year. Hunter also saw a jump in his overall shooting percentage, finishing the season at 44% overall and 40% from three. He improved his free throw shooting by 11%, jumping from 77% to 88%. The thing that makes the percentage improvements so impressive is that Hunter played two more games and took significantly more shots as a sophomore, and instead of wilting under pressure, he stepped up and got better.

Hunter's junior year, which would turn out to be his last, was alos his best from a scoring perspective, even with defenses geared towards stopping him. His minutes per game jumped up to 37, and he average 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals, 1 block, and 2.2 turnovers per game. Although his turnover percentage went up, everything else did too, specifically points and assists. Hunter improved steadily as a passer over the course of his three years at Georgia State, and that is a trait that will help him greatly in the NBA. Hunter is 21 years old and turns 22 in October, so it makes sense for him to leave early. He has nothing left to prove at the college level.

Hunter is 6'6, but he has a 6'10 1/2 wingspan, so he'll be able to defend multiple positions in the NBA and he'll also clog passing lanes with his great length. His weight could be an issue; 185 is light, but many players built like Hunter come into the NBA on the lighter side and they end up filling out. One area that scouts are watching with Hunter is his three point improvement; his free throw percentage was very high in college, he has a great shot, and scouts want to see if that translates to an improved three point percentage. He also was a better shooter off the catch than off the dribble, and in NBA offenses, he'll be catching and shooting more often than not. Hunter won't be picked until the late first round, but he won't slip past the first round, and he may just be the Celtics selection with the 28th pick.


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