Watching players perform after getting traded is always an interesting thought exercise. Will that player get an increase in role and usage and be able to spread their wings? Or will that player adapt to a similar role they had previously and fall in order?
Back in July, when the Sacramento Kings acquired Kevin Huerter from the Atlanta Hawks for Justin Holiday, Maurice Harkless and the Kings’ 2024 top 14 protected first-round pick, Sacramento made the bet that Huerter could be more than he was in Atlanta when given a bigger role.
So far, through seven games, the trade has been a resounding success.
It’s a small sample, but Huerter is averaging a career-high 18.9 points along with a career-high 51.8 percent from three and 3.9 assists. That three-point percentage is second in the league among qualified leaders.
Huerter has always been a good player since he entered the league. But scoring and role-wise, he kind of stagnated around the same level of minutes, points and three-point efficiency.
In Atlanta, Huerter was a solid contributor, but so much of the Hawks’ offense has revolved around Trae Young running a high screen pick-and-roll and making decisions after that, leaving Huerter as a guy who isn’t being asked to do as much.
It’s clear that, at least through six games, Huerter is being given more opportunities to cook. After trading away Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton last season, Sacramento lacked knockdown shooters that could play off the team’s two pillars, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.
Against the Hornets on Monday, with Fox sidelined with a knee injury and Sabonis in foul trouble, Huerter was magnificent. He hit just about every single type of three there was and helped spearhead the team’s comeback victory alongside Davion Mitchell.
As of Thursday, Huerter was in second place in the league in three-point shooting percentage at a blistering 51.8 percent.
This shooting display has been impressive because it’s as if Huerter is taking only wide-open looks. He is taking a wide range of three-point attempts — pull up, off one dribble, off multiple dribbles, off the catch, curling off of screens, and he has been efficient at each and every shot type.
Shooting in the NBA can sometimes be oversimplified to percentages, not factoring in the difficulty and diversity of attempts. At 6’7”, Huerter has the legit length, which allows him to shoot over most guards trying to contest his shot.
Aside from Huerter’s clearest strength — shooting — he’s proven to be a pretty well-rounded player.
A tertiary aspect of Huerter’s game that has jumped off the page on this Kings team has been his ability to be a secondary ball handler. He won’t be mistaken for a point guard, but Huerter has enough dribble moves, passing ability and off-the-dribble juice to bend the defense when the ball is in his hands.
In the NBA in 2022, it’s helpful to have as many guys you trust to handle the ball on the court at one time, and so far, Huerter fits the bill.
The pick Sacramento traded for Huerter is protected in a way that limits their ability to make a major move involving picks until that pick conveys, meaning Kings General Manager Monte McNair believed in Huerter’s ability to help the team. So far, so good on that front.
Huerter probably won’t shoot at this rate for the rest of the season, but I expect him to continue to get this level of opportunity and continue to be one of Sacramento’s best and most consistent players.
Hopefully, Huerter can continue to excel in his new digs on the other side of the country.