The Hunter To Become Hunted?

A Daily Babble Production

With less than a week remaining until the NBA’s 2008-09 season officially tips off, we aren’t exactly in prime time for the league’s free agent market.  But there remains at least one veteran of import on the list of those available. 

Granted, some of the numbers don’t provide a great endorsement.  He hasn’t played more than 52 games since 2005.  He hasn’t posted a true shooting of 50 percent or better since 2001.  He presents almost no scoring threat.  He reportedly just missed a shot to catch on with the Clippers.

All the same, it would be a shock not to see Lindsey Hunter turn up on a playoff-bound team at some point this season.

After 15 seasons in the league, the first seven and last five of which were spent in Detroit, Hunter finally goes into a hoops year without a team.  He is 37 years old, and the signs of slowing down have been apparent for a while.  He has been limited to 106 games over the last three years, and as mentioned above, his shooting has become more abysmal than ever.

But Lindsey Hunter hasn’t kept getting roster spots over the years under the theory that he is going to be some sort of dynamic offensive playmaking point guard or a minutes-eating horse.  Hunter has kept a spot in this league and is likely to do so again because he is the rare player who can provide an energy boost for his team virtually solely with his defense.

Hunter is a true ball hawk in every sense.  This is a guy who has no problem putting the pressure on full from the second he gets on the court until he leaves it.  He rags opposing ball-handlers from coast to coast, occasionally teaching opponents the hard way that they should avoid lackadaisical inbounds passes and attempts to walk the ball up floor.  Hunter is reputed to have great strength for a 6-2, 170-pound point guard, and he uses his body effectively to make up for the quickness that he has lost over the years. 

Hunter forces the ball out of opposing point guards’ hands, and he is particularly useful against reserve combo guards running the point who have less-than-superb ball-handling skills.  He can make life in the backcourt a nightmare for those players, forcing either rushed offense, turnovers or a shorter rest than anticipated for the opposing starters.  All of these are benefits for Hunter’s team.  Though his sample size was small with Detroit last season, it’s worth remembering that the Pistons were 2.1 points better per 100 possessions defensively with Hunter on the floor than without him.  He also held opposing point guards to just 46.8 percent effective field goal shooting in that span.

Lindsey Hunter may be 37 years old, but he is the consummate professional and the provider of a rare mix of experience and skill set in today’s NBA.  He has played in 141 playoff games and won two NBA titles.  While he might not have loomed large in the box scores for many of those games, this is a man who made his presence felt when he got on the floor.  At the veteran’s minimum, it’s hard to believe he won’t be getting a shot to get on the floor again somewhere this season.

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