De’Andre Hunter: Defense
Our scouting grades represent the composite opinion of at least three different scouts. Each category is graded based on how we view a player’s current ability level relative to NBA players at the same position (guard, wing, forward or big). A grade of 1 indicates replacement level, a grade of 5 indicates NBA average, and a grade of 10 indicates historically elite. Our composite scouting notes help provide context for our grades.
Hunter is a solid on-ball defender with good intelligence and mental anticipation to defend players both up and down a position. He has active hands, good feet and uses his frame well to contain penetration, however he is suspect when guarding more explosive players who can blow by him with change-of-direction moves. His hip switches aren't as quick as they should be for a player whose selling point is defense, but he uses his length to contest without fouling very well (an underrated team defensive skill). He can get pushed towards the rim when defending bigger post players but will likely be played as a forward instead of a big at the NBA level. Defensive flexibility is one of the selling points for Hunter, but currently his ability to handle explosive NBA-level wings is somewhat limited.
Hunter is a high quality team defender with impressive instincts and intuitive positioning on defense. He rarely gets caught ball watching, instead spending most defensive possessions scanning back and forth between his man and the ball, and will move and challenge shots without fouling. He does have a tendency to get stuck on screens, but is willing to chase opposing players around and will stay attached through anything short of solid contact. He doesn't create a lot of events, however the UVA defense as a whole doesn't emphasize steals and blocks, rather challenging without fouling and defensive rebounding. Hunter typically plays at the top of the packline so his rebounding numbers are somewhat depressed.
Hunter is a good help-side defender who doubles down and rotates on time, but could be more vocal as a communicator. He doesn't create a ton of turnovers, but has shown some instinct for jumping passing lanes. Though he will likely never be a true shot blocking threat, his ability to rotate and challenge without fouling is valuable nonetheless. He has good recovery speed, but doesn’t always close out with his hands up, an oddity for a Tony Bennett-coached team so steeped in fundamentals. He has had some problems angling quicker players and can often play behind on rotations as a result. He is very willing to help and usually presents a difficult challenge for offensive players.
This is an extrapolated score because UVA does not switch very often. He is a smart off-ball defender who pays attention and has the physical tools to guard above and below his size. These are all projectable skills to switching in the NBA. He can probably switch four positions but more importantly can switch those positions at any spot on the floor, with his length and strength allowing him to effectively switch on bigs for occasional possessions. He has shown significant ability to contain wings on drives or forwards in the mid/high post but will not be able to guard dynamic ball handlers on a consistent basis because of how he struggles with change of direction handling.
High impact plays
An area where Hunter’s skills have been heavily scrutinized, he does not create a lot of steals and blocks. UVA’s defensive system is built around rotating intelligently and challenging without gambling or fouling, depressing his numbers and possibly concealing more potential in this area. With his defensive tools, IQ, and length, he should be able to translate into much more high impact plays in the fast-paced, open floor NBA game.