The Return Of R.J. Hunter

Wednesday afternoon the Celtics made a move as they had an open 2-Way contract slot after waiving Walter Lemon Jr. about a month or so ago. The move brought back a familiar face in R.J. Hunter as he was drafted by the Celtics 28th overall in the 2015 Draft. He spent one season in green and appeared in 36 games for the Celtics in the 2015-16 season. He then was the final cut in the off-season before the 2016-17 season as James Young edged him out for the last spot. We all know how the James Young experiment ended and it’s safe to say that roster spot may have been better used elsewhere.

Alas, R.J. is back in the fold and I was pleasantly surprised to see the Celtics take another flier on him. This move shows that even though they ultimately cut R.J., they were high on him and it should be interesting to see if he can turn this 2-way deal into guaranteed contract.

The main draw to Hunter is his shooting touch from the outside. He was always touted as a knockdown shooter in college during his days playing under his dad (Ron Hunter) at Georgia State. He was a career 35.4% shooter in college and was a dominant force taking home back to back Sun Belt Player of The Year honors.

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His finest hour came in the 2015 NCAA Tournament as his 14th seeded Georgia State Panthers took down the 3rd seeded Baylor Bears after Hunter hit this dagger from way downtown and sent his dad off of his rocker, literally.

It was probably the most memorable moment of the tournament and put Hunter on the radar as a possible first round pick for NBA teams.

The Celtics were the team who decided to pull the trigger on Hunter. but during his first 3 seasons. and stints with the Celtics, Bulls, and Rockets, Hunter hasn’t been able to translate his game to the next level. He’s played 104 G-League games the passed 4 seasons and showed his ability to hit the 3 at a 35% clip and has shot 36.5% from deep in his last 2 seasons.

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There is promise there and it’s worth a shot for the Celtics, especially on a 2-Way deal. If he can dial that jumper in and carve out a role here, this could be a home-run move and the vision is for R.J. to eventually be another shooter off of the bench.

He has potential and definitely had some impressive moments with the Celtics in his rookie season. His quick release was always something that stood out to me and if he can knock it down, he’ll have no problem getting it off in games.

When asked about the signing, Brad Stevens raved about Hunter and lauded him for his evolution as a player since being waived by the Celtics.

It’s clear Brad sees something in him and it should be fun to see what kind of a role he can carve out for himself with this opportunity. Brad cited his defensive improvement while he was in Boston the first time and his 6′ 5″ frame and 6′ 10.5″ wingspan make him a prime candidate for Brad’s switching defenses.

Spending his life as a coach’s son naturally gives R.J. some different intangibles and he has a high IQ for the game. In the end, if he defends, hits the three ball, and works hard, I could see him becoming a nice depth piece and maybe even a solid rotation player for the Celtics down the line.

-Chuck

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