After trading down for Trae Young in the top five, the Atlanta Hawks completed their version of the Golden State’s Warriors’ Splash Brothers with Kevin Huerter as the No. pick in Thursday’s draft. It’s clear that general manager Travis Schlenk is focused on the team’s offense after the Hawks finished 26th on that end of the floor last season and Young and Huerter will certainly boost the team there with their fantastic outside shooting and plus playmaking at both spots.
Huerter is a wonderful shooter, able to move into his shot in either direction with fantastic footwork. Whether it’s coming off screens or as a stationary spot-up threat, he’ll be an immediate threat to shoot at a high level for Atlanta with solid, repeatable mechanics.
The rest of Huerter’s offensive game is a bit of a work-in-progress. He brings plus handle, vision, and passing to the table as a shooting guard, but it remains to be seen how those skills will translate to the NBA level.
He created a lot of his own offense in pick-and-roll and isolations at Maryland, but his role with the Hawks will move him off the ball a considerable amount. In my scouting report of his game in late May, I was down on Huerter’s ability to create offense for himself and others, but upon further review, his playmaking may be an underrated part of his game.
Defensively, he’ll struggle a bit more, and certainly the pairing between he and Young will cause consternation among those of us who highly value that end of the floor. He’s quick laterally, as he showed at the combine, but doesn’t have the instincts or quick-twitch athleticism to get to spots before his opponents.
He has to rely on his basketball IQ to recognize plays and get into help position early or he won’t be effective as a help defender at the NBA level. Additionally, the effort level sometimes waxes and wanes depending on the situation, which exacerbates the issue since he doesn’t have the athleticism to make up for those mistakes. Standing 6’6 with just a plus-2 wingspan, Huerter doesn’t have the length you like to see out of a high-level perimeter defender.
Young and Huerter are certainly the picks to make to go all-in on the offensive side of the court, which is apparently what Schlenk has chosen to do. Newly-hired head coach Lloyd Pierce cut his teeth on defense throughout his career and he’ll have a lot of work to do with these two to get the Hawks to defend at an above-average level. The offense should be electric, but how many points are they going to give up on the other end?