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Kevin Huerter named one of the rookies ‘most likely to exceed expectations’ by ESPN

A bit of love for one of the Hawks’ first-round rookies.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s the top five picks that make or break most teams’ drafts, picks further down the line can have a massive impact on the long-term future of the club. Stars consistently blossom from the later part of the draft, but predicting which ones will pop is almost impossible (and part of why general managers get paid the big bucks). Last year, we saw Donovan Mitchell, selected 13th by the Jazz, become a star overnight in a big role with Utah in his rookie season. With that in mind, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz took a look at a few names who may follow in Mitchell’s footsteps and exceed expectations based on their draft position in their rookie seasons, with Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter making an appearance.

The Hawks are not the typical team drafting at No. 19, where they took Huerter a few months ago. For the most part, the 19th pick is held by a low-end playoff team who is looking to build their depth for another run toward the postseason, but the Hawks are anything but that. For Huerter, this means he’ll have a much larger role with the team than he would have on a playoff team, as Atlanta is heavily focused on long-term player development and will give the young man his chances throughout his rookie year.

Schmitz writes that Huerter will see significant time on the floor for the Hawks in 2018-19:

Although Atlanta has a number of veterans that might start the season ahead of Huerter on the depth chart, the Hawks are in full rebuild mode. They have the luxury of allowing their young prospects to grow by playing through mistakes, and Huerter should see considerable time as the season goes on.

Beyond that, Huerter brings a specific skill set to the table that will be useful for a young Hawks team. He’s a great shooter from distance, whether off spot-ups or on the move and will remind fans of Kyle Korver with his ability to curl around a screen, take a dribble, and rise up for an elbow jumper while his defender sails by him around the top of the screen. However, it’s Huerter’s other offensive skills that elevate him from just being another shooter to being an all-around force on that end of the floor:

He’s a savvy ball-screen facilitator, instinctual passer and plays the type of read-and-react basketball that is perfectly suited for today’s NBA. He’s also a smart cutter who doesn’t need much volume to have an impact.

There are significant issues on the defensive end for Huerter, as there are for this Hawks squad in general, but the rookie out of Maryland will get his opportunities to shine for the rebuilding club. Having a full-blown Donovan Mitchell-style impact on his team is exceedingly unlikely, given that most of the ball-handling responsibilities go elsewhere and that he has overriding defensive concerns, but there are plenty of smart analysts out there who believe Huerter was a steal with the No. 19 pick in June’s draft.