Early indications are that Atlanta and Hunter have not found much progress in extension talks, where both sides stand roughly $20 million apart on salary terms over a four-year deal, sources said.
A $20 million gap is large – but not insurmountable. It can be bridged through incentives, options, partial guarantees, trade bonuses and good old fashioned compromise. The extension deadline is months away. Neither side should necessarily cave much this soon.
The Spurs just signed Keldon Johnson to a four-year contract extension that’ll be worth $74 million-$80 million. That’ll draw comparisons. However, Hunter has not been as good as Johnson. Hunter should argue that just because Johnson signed a team-friendly deal doesn’t mean Hunter should. But the comparison will get made.
Maybe the 24-year-old will stay healthy, show his value as a 6-foot-8 long, mobile and physical defender and continue to hit 3-pointers. Hunter could be an ideal-fitting forward between Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and whichever of Clint Capela/Onyeka Okongwu is Atlanta’s center.
The Hawks might make Hunter prove he can handle all that before paying him top dollar. Even if they don’t extend him this offseason, they’d hold matching rights on him in 2023 restricted free agency. That’s significant leverage.
If he wants to secure a life-changing payday now, Hunter has more reason than the Hawks to bend in negotiations. Atlanta can more easily wait until restricted free agency.