On a Monday night in an empty State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers were able to pull off a close 131-129 victory over the Salt Lake City Stars. This win helps push the Vipers to holding a 27-20 record for the season. Also, they’re just one game closer to clinching a spot in the G League playoffs as they’re currently holding the 4th seed alongside the Texas Legends.
Their victory over the Stars was due to a balanced attack as seven members of the Vipers contributed with 11+ points. The leader of that core was Rockets two-way player R.J. Hunter who just absolutely shined. In 40 minutes, he put up 36 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks on 13-19 from the field, 7-11 from 3 and 3-4 from the FT line.
As apparent from that impressive efficiency, Hunter was just an unstoppable force on Monday night as he was just hitting on a cylinders. Whether he was working in catch-and-shoot, driving to the rim or crossing up a defender before hitting a jumper, Hunter’s presence made it seem like there was a magnetic connection between the ball and inside the rim whenever it left his hands. Although that’s obviously hyperbole, he was automatic from the field which is evident from him hitting a step-back 3 on Deonte Burton.
Monday night’s performance is just an example of the kind of stretch that Hunter has recently been. Over the last 15 games, Hunter has averaged 23.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists on 48% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on nearly 10 perimeter attempts per game. That combination of volume and stellar efficiency has allowed him to maintain a fantastic 63% True Shooting Percentage, which stands as the 5th most efficient TS% among G League guards over that period of time.
Hunter’s fantastic scoring has paid huge dividends for the Vipers offensive “huge” might be an understatement as the Vipers are 17 points per game better when Hunter is on the court (125 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the bench (108.7 points per 100). That 17 point differential is the difference between the Vipers being the best offensive team, a status they currently maintain, and sitting at the 13th position.
Obviously, Hunter being a strong offensive weapon shouldn’t surprise anybody considering the success that he had back when he was with Georgia State. However, inefficiency has been the biggest issue for Hunter since turning pro. The last time that he maintained a True Shooting Percentage better than 55% was when he was a sophomore with Georgia State back in 2013-14.
However that status has changed this season with how excellently Hunter has played with the RGV Vipers. For the first time in his pro career, Hunter has been truly able to combine volume (23.5 points on 16.5 shots per game) with incredible efficiency (63% True Shooting Percentage), which has been enough to place him as the offensive leader of the RGV Vipers.
The fact that Hunter’s great production has helped push the Vipers to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference might turn him into a legit contender for G League MVP.