R.J. Hunter, future Phoenix Suns backup shooting guard?


With the Phoenix Suns nearing training camp, they are still in need of depth at the shooting guard position. Is former Celtic guard R.J. Hunter the man to help fill in that void behind Devin Booker?

Coming into free agency, the Phoenix Suns appeared set at shooting guard. With potential star in the making Devin Booker, veteran Brandon Knight, and rookie second round pick Davon Reed, the team was comfortable in releasing veteran Leandro Barbosa. The move signaled the Suns commitment toward a full-on youth movement.

Times sure have changed since then.

Knight tore his left ACL in July, and Reed tore his left meniscus in August. Brandon is expected to miss the entire season while Reed’s recovery timetable is four to six months. That leaves the Suns with Booker, D-League call up Elijah Millsap, and un-drafted shooting guard Peter Jok as the only true two’s available for training camp. Millsap has only played a total of 69 career NBA games while Jok is entering his first season. The inexperience at the position makes it a glaring hole on the roster as the Suns cannot afford anymore injuries at that position.

On September 6th, Phoenix Major Greg Stanton paid a visit to the Phoenix Sun’s practice court, taking a picture with the team and staff. In the picture, next to Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones and forward Derrick Jones Jr., appears to be former NBA player R.J. Hunter.

While the team has yet to announce to the media a contract signing or training camp invitation to Hunter, it sure appears that he is the man in question. Basketball wise, the former first round pick has had a tough go since he entered the league in 2015. Playing on a veteran team in Boston, Hunter appeared in only 36 games, averaging 8.8 minutes per outing. As a result, the Celtics cut Hunter after only one season. R.J. did not fair much better last season as he played only three games for the Chicago Bulls before being released at the end of December.

Despite the inconsistencies to begin his career, Hunter has one quality that the Suns are in need of: shooting. He has 3-point range, with more than half of his made field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. With Millsap being a below average outside shooter and Jok having no professional experience, Hunter has the definite advantage in that department.

Another area of strength for Hunter is his high basketball IQ.

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R.J. is able to move without the basketball, displaying the ability to get open on offense. He is able to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket when defenders close out on him. Like Booker, Hunter is a good passer for a two-guard. His vision allows him to find his teammates, especially when he comes off of switches. While he is an average athlete, Hunter’s size too helps him on the defensive end.

Until Reed returns from injury, R.J. Hunter is more than capable of the handling the role of backup shooting guard. With Booker averaging 35 minutes per game, Hunter will only be needed 10-12 minutes a night. Hunter has never been given constant minutes, something that the Suns can afford to do as a rebuilding franchise. Most importantly, Hunter fits the vision the front office has for the team. Ryan McDonough stated the following when asked about adding another guard to the team:

"“I think we will lean toward younger guys, with the mid-to-late 20s being the upper limit of what we’ll look at,” McDonough said. “Is there one guy out there who could be an exception to that? Maybe. But I think that will be the target of the initial process, somebody who fits with the timeline of our young core.”"

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With training camp beginning in late September, look for R.J. Hunter to get an invitation to join the team in Flagstaff. Hunter will have every opportunity to shoot for a spot on the team as well as a spot in the rotation. Lets hope that between Hunter, Jok, and Millsap, the Suns have found their men to hold down the backup shooting guard spot heading into the season.