A year ago, the Virginia Cavaliers tallied a 31-3 record, 20 wins in the ACC, a conference tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As most of the world knows, that run ended with an opening round loss to the 16th-seed Maryland Baltimore-County.
This year is turning out similarly. Tony Bennett’s team has beaten everyone on the schedule (other than Duke), sit atop the ACC and are the best team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy.
How will the Cavaliers attempt to avoid another letdown? De’Andre Hunter.
The sophomore forward leads on offense that is the 4th-most efficient nationally (compared to No. 30 last season).
The 6-foot-7, 225-pounder averages 15.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game. He is lighting teams up from the floor, connecting on 57 percent on twos and 46 percent on triples. He enters Monday’s road trip to Syracuse (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) with the tough task of manufacturing buckets on the country’s No. 19 efficiency defense.
The top scorer on one of the nation’s best teams has led to a slew of first-round NBA Draft projections. Let’s take a look at these prognostications:
De’Andre Hunter NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
The most recent mock draft from Rob Dauster of NBC Sports pegs Howard in the NBA Lottery at the No. 5 pick. He heaps praise on his defensive acumen (a natural byproduct of playing for Bennett).
He’s quick enough to be able to move his feet and stay in front of first round picks like Alexander-Walker and White…He’s able to flip his hips and run alongside a driver while keeping his torso square and staying on-balance if the dribbler stops. He can get over ball screens. He can chase shooters around off-ball screens and pin-downs — in the example I use in the video, he trails Johnson around five screens and still gets a contest on a jumper — and he is strong enough to hold his ground in the post while maintaining verticality.
Our own Jon Adams has Hunter just a spot below and going to the Memphis Grizzlies. Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype lists him as the No. 11 overall prospect on his aggregate mock draft. The rankings vary between as high as No. 6 by The Athletic and No. 16 by NBADraft.
De’Andre Hunter NBA Draft Big Board Rankings
On Aran Smith’s NBA Draft Net’s list of 100 players, Hunter appears in the first round as the No. 15 pick.
ESPN’s Draft Board has him as the second-best power forward available behind Duke’s Zion Williamson, as well as sixth out of all prospects. The pre-draft analysis compares him to the likes of Rudy Gay and Danny Granger.
– Has prototypical physical tools for a modern-day NBA forward. Very similar measurements to the likes of OG Anunoby, Danny Granger and Rudy Gay.
– One of the most versatile defenders in the college game. Length, strength and terrific feet helped him switch seamlessly onto big men such as Marvin Bagley II or wings such as Josh Okogie as a key cog for Virginia, the best defensive team in the country last season.
– Was an efficient and prolific scorer coming off the bench last season. Hit 38 percent of his 3s and 76 percent of his free throws. Aggressive pushing the ball off the defensive glass and getting to the free throw line.
There’s concern about his “unnatural” shooting stroke and its sustainability at the professional level. However, as he enters the Carrier Dome to play Jim Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone tonight, expect him to fire away from behind the arc.