Label the Hawks’ Kevin Huerter as Just a “Shooter” at Your Own Risk

    Kevin Huerter is aware of the uninformed analysis that basketball pundits spew when breaking down his game. How could he not? The 20-year-old shooting

    January 25, 2019

    Kevin Huerter is aware of the uninformed analysis that basketball pundits spew when breaking down his game.

    How could he not?

    The 20-year-old shooting guard was hearing it long before being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft.

    “When people would talk about me or there’d be articles about, ‘He’s just a shooter,’ it really didn’t bother me at that point when I was in college because these guys had literally never seen me play,” Huerter revealed during a sit-down interview with Stadium.

    “(But) he’s not just a shooter,” Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce declared at a shootaround before Wednesday’s showdown with the Chicago Bulls. “He’s got the size to matchup against 1s, 2s and 3s. He’s got the skill to play with the basketball and play without the basketball. It’s rare that you have a combination like that in the NBA.”

    Huerter developed his game in Clifton Park, becoming New York’s Mr. Basketball as a senior at Shenendehowa High School, where he also won a state championship during his storied career with the Plainsmen.

    Wanting to play for Mark Turgeon, Huerter took his talents to Maryland upon graduation.

    “When I was coming out of high school, Coach Turgeon recruited me. He said, ‘I was a point guard in college, I recruit point guards. I want to recruit people if they can play like a point guard,'” Huerter remembered. “Right away going into college, Turgeon saw me for more than that (a three-point shooter).”

    Huerter immediately paid dividends for the Terrapins in a rivalry game against Georgetown in 2016.

    The freshman helped force a turnover to give Maryland the ball down a point. After the Terrapins took the lead, Huerter blocked the final shot to seal a 76-75 win and cap off a one-minute, seven-point comeback.

    “After that it was mayhem,” Huerter recalled. “I have so many videos and pictures from that night. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

    [RELATED: Bulls Acquire Carmelo Anthony, Intend to Waive Him]

    Huerter definitely showcased his shooting prowess during his time at College Park.

    He shot 39.4 percent on 350 career attempts and his 6-7 frame had scouts looking at him as a perimeter threat at the next level. Ultimately, his 7-for-9 3-point performance at Syracuse during his sophomore season was a game that demonstrated how talented he truly was — and one his family was able to witness in person.

    “I can’t lie, that was definitely a game I circled on my calendar,” Huerter said. “A lot of people forgot that Maryland moved to the Big Ten, so everyone was saying, ‘When are you going to play Syracuse?'”

    “Right away — the texts, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be there, oh, I’m gonna be there,'” said Huerter. “That game, obviously I got hot, I made shots. We didn’t win it…But that was a lot of fun getting to see a lot of people I knew.”

    But that outing proved that Huerter was capable of playing against elite competition, and after two seasons at Maryland, Huerter decided to test the NBA waters.

    Initially, Huerter didn’t hire an agent because he expected to return for his junior season.

    “I didn’t expect to leave,” Huerter said. “Guys were like, ‘Am I gonna see you next year?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, you’ll see me, I’ll be back.'” It wasn’t until Huerter had conversations with an adviser, who is now his agent, and his father that he decided to declare for the draft to get a chance to measure himself at the NBA Draft Combine.

    “The combine, for me, was a big eye opener for a lot of people,” Huerter remembered.

    “All of a sudden, after the first practice, my agent’s calling me after the first scrimmage saying, ‘You killed it! People just really wanted to see more of the different things you can do,'” Huerter recounted.

    After displaying more of his all-around game, Huerter remained in the draft.

    He was selected 19th overall by Atlanta, who had made a trade for Trae Young earlier that night. The Hawks were hoping both players would evolve into big-time playmakers during the franchise’s rebuilding effort.

    The talented guards have already made an immediate impact, with Young dubbing the duo “Fire and Ice.”

    “The nicknames fly around for both of us,” Huerter said. “I just want us to be players that can play alongside each other for a long time. There’s a lot of really good 1-2 punches in the NBA and so hopefully a couple years from now we can be among one of those.”

    His coach likes the duo’s chances.

    “I got two guys that I trust with the basketball in their hands,” Pierce mentioned when discussing Young and Huerter. “Shooting, attacking and facilitating for others.”

    By the way, Huerter hasn’t lost his shooting touch in the NBA.

    He’s hitting 39.2 percent of his 3s, good for second among qualified rookie shooting guards, and he’s ranked ninth at the position as a whole.

    “Obviously, shooting is the biggest strength in my game, but there’s a lot that I continue to try to show,” Huerter remarked.

    Over the last 15 games, he’s also averaging 3.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per contest.

    “He’s arguably our best player,” Pierce said.

    Pierce might be right.

    That’s because the Hawks are 13.2 points better per 100 possessions with Huerter on the floor. This is the highest positive differential of any Atlanta player save for Jaylen Adams, who has played 43 minutes the entire season.

    Atlanta kicked off its rebuild last season and has already netted three significant contributors in Huerter, Young and John Collins. The group is the team’s heaviest used three-man lineup and has a +0.5 point differential per 100 possessions. That’s not something you typically see with two rookies and a second-year player, which is why the Hawks feel confident in the culture they’re creating.

    “The whole message for us all year is we’re trying to get better, we’re trying to build for the future,” Huerter said. “We’re trying to create something here that down the line, every single year, we’re competing for playoffs and competing for championships.”

    Fueled by a quality start to his rookie season, Huerter is slowly shedding his ‘He’s just a shooter!’ label — but don’t forget that there’s a reason why Young calls Huerter “Fire”…

    He’ll still burn his opponents from deep.

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