Rookie X-Factor: R.J. Hunter

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18: R.J. Hunter #28 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the game on July 18, 2015 at Thomas And Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)

In a new series here at Basketball-society.com, I will be highlighting which rookies from the 2015 NBA Draft class will be immediate x-factor’s on their current NBA teams. I could talk about the obvious, Karl Anthony-Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Jahlil Okafor, but I am going to talk about players who were taken later in the draft. To start the series, I will talk about Boston Celtics shooting guard, R.J. Hunter. 

The Celtics drafted R.J. Hunter out of Georgia State with the 28th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He is known for one thing, three-point shooting. 

In three seasons at Georgia State, Hunter shot 37%, 40%, and 31% respectively from the three-point line. Even though the numbers dropped in his junior season, he made 123 three pointers which was his career high. Also in his junior season, Hunter averaged a career high 19.7 points per game which ranked 20th in the NCAA per FoxSports.com

With the Sun Belt conference being one of the weaker conferences in Division I, many questioned if his game would transition to the NBA. But, when it mattered most, R.J. Hunter delivered.

R.J. Hunter brings two things to the Celtics that they didn’t have on the roster last season: height at shooting guard, and efficient three-point shooting. The Boston Celtics finished 27th in the NBA in three-point shooting efficiency last season per ESPN.comThe Celtics needed to draft a three-point shooter, and Brad Stevens wasn’t passing on R.J. Hunter. 

When R.J Hunter’s name was announced near the end of the first round, Ron Hunter, R.J’s father and head coach of Georgia State basketball, received a text message from Brad Stevens. In an interview with Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, Ron said:

“It didn’t say congrats or welcome to Boston,”…..“It said, ‘I told you I was gonna get your son one way or another.”

Brad Stevens has known of R.J. Hunter for years. He knows he is a sharp shooter, and has a high basketball IQ with his father being a basketball coach. Stevens wanted him at Butler, but Hunter went down south with his father to Georgia State. Now Stevens finally has him, but in Boston. 

To start the 2015 NBA Summer League, Hunter struggled with his shot resulting in two consecutive scoreless games. Even with the cold start, Hunter left Las Vegas averaging 15.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and shot 31% from the three-point line per NBA.com. One thing we learned, R.J. Hunter has an unlimited range. Click on the link, you want to see this shot. 

Even though R.J Hunter is known for being one-dimensional, he proved this summer league he is more than a sharpshooter. He can block shots,

He has good vision

And he can drive the lane

The reason I believe Hunter will find success early in Boston is because he will get his three-point shots. The Celtics are in desperate need of a floor spacer and they will use his sharpshooting ability to their advantage. R.J. already has faith from head coach Brad Stevens which will give him confidence early and often. When R.J. is confident, his shots fall.

He will need to clean up his defensive game at the NBA level, but his defense isn’t bad. His high IQ and awareness on the court helps him defensively. With players like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson, who are defensive specialists, Hunter will be able to grow as a defender. He will be able to makeup for his mistakes on the offensive end.

In his rookie season, I project Hunter will average 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game with a 34% three-point shooting percentage. He will be a spark plug off the bench and vastly improve the Celtics three-point shooting. Whenever Brad Stevens needs a three-point shot, he knows where he can find it.

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