Going into training camp, there were quite a few questions on who the Sacramento Kings’ starting lineup would feature. It was a given that De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis would start at the point guard and center spots, but what about the other three positions?
Earlier this week, it was announced that Harrison Barnes will be Sacramento’s starting small forward to begin the season. However, that still left shooting guard and power forward a mystery. That is, until today, when Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reported that head coach Mike Brown says he is likely choosing Huerter as his starting shooting guard.
Kings coach Mike Brown says he’s leaning toward Kevin Huerter at the starting shooting guard spot. The power forward position is still wide open.— Jason Anderson (@JandersonSacBee) October 7, 2022
Though Huerter was certainly many people’s favorite to earn the starting role — he was definitely mine — there were questions about whether or not Malik Monk’s relationship with Fox would play a part in his Monk’s role with the Kings.
Thankfully, it did not.
Before diving into why Huerter is the right choice, it seems necessary to mention that by no means would Monk have been a bad option. He is great guard with crazy athleticism and terrific shot-creating abilities. When he’s on the court there’s always a chance you’re going to see a play worthy of being played on Scott Van Pelt’s Sportscenter later that night.
Malik Monk appreciation post pic.twitter.com/LlUq8SKZGy— Reaves Fanatic (@GoatJamesss) October 1, 2022
But just because he’s more fun to watch doesn’t mean he needs to start. Yes there are going to be moments where he’s lighting up the opposing team’s defense ,and he has a good chance of become a fan favorite for the Cowbell Kingdom, especially if him and Fox maintained the on-court chemistry they have displayed in the past. But there are some crucial aspects of Huerter’s game that make him the right choice here.
One of the main reasons Brown is going with Huerter is probably his ability on the defensive side of the ball. By no means is he in the same conversation as Davion Mitchell or KZ Okpala, but Huerter is a very solid defender. Though he has been criticized for his lackluster wingspan, Huerter is still 6-foot-7 and has more length than most of the guys he’ll be guarding.
If Monk were starting, the primary backcourt would be a bit of a liability on defense — unless Fox decides to take on Brown’s challenge to become a better defender — while the backup duo of Mitchell and Huerter would honestly be a nightmare matchup for any guards in the opponent’s rotation.
I've been impressed with Kevin Huerter's defense as I continue to watch more.— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) July 2, 2022
He obviously has good size at 6'7", but his execution on rotations and hands are better than expected.
Not a lockdown defender by any means, but he holds his own. These clips are from '20-21 playoffs. pic.twitter.com/5YoQUzOMY1
The other big reason Huerter is the right call here is how he fits alongside Fox and Sabonis. Both the Fox and the Ox operate primarily in the paint and will be looking to drive and kick often if the opportunity isn’t there at the rim.
Coincidentally, both Kevin Huerter & Malik Monk shot 41.9% on catch-and-shoot threes last season.— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) July 1, 2022
So yes, as the tweet above states, both players are very effective on catch-and-shoot threes. However, Monk is a better shot-creator than Huerter in my opinion. This will be very valuable for the Kings off the bench as Monk will have ample opportunity to torch opposing bench defenders. In the meantime, Huerter will be right there on the wing, awaiting a dime from one of his teammates.
Since he’s so tall, it will be much harder for defenders to effectively close out when he’s lining up a three. It is also worth noting that his aforementioned short wingspan — though it may hinder him on defense — is actually beneficial as a shooter. Since his arms aren’t crazy long he has pretty quick release, again making it even more difficult for a defender to close out.
Kevin Huerter shot 41.9 percent on 4.1 catch-and-shoot threes per game last season.— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) July 1, 2022
Sacramento is significantly improving their spacing around Fox and Sabonis with Monk and how Huerter. pic.twitter.com/WHV4VXdmST
This season with Sacramento will be Huerter’s fifth in the NBA. Now that he’s transitioned over to the savage battle royal that is the Western Conference, Huerter is in a position to show the league that he’s more than just another catch-and-shoot guy. Yes he’s still going to be doing a lot of that — and quite well might I add — but if he shows his full potential and stellar fit alongside the other starters, he could be one of the key players that brings Sacramento out of a historically dreadful drought.