The Atlanta Hawks invested in Maryland wing Kevin Huerter with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and, according to reports, the team was prepared to potentially trade up in an effort to secure his services if necessary. That, of course, appears to reveal a high level of intrigue from Atlanta’s front office in what Huerter can accomplish and there is no question that he projects as an impressive offensive prospect, especially in the area of shooting.
However, word broke in mid-June that Huerter needed surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right (shooting) hand and, after the draft was complete, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk addressed the ailment.
“His injury is not a big deal at all,” Schlenk said. “He just had a tendon on the outside of his hand, so he’ll be out for three months but he’ll be ready to go at the start of camp and we’re excited to have him.”
Of course, it is less than ideal to have a first round pick virtually unavailable for basketball activities during the summer before his rookie season and this injury will keep him off the floor for Summer League, both in Utah and Las Vegas. Still, the prognosis that he is on schedule to return for training camp is a positive one and Huerter was asked about the injury recovery during the team’s introductory press conference on Monday.
He revealed that the original injury was suffered in February during a game against Northwestern and, after the season, an MRI revealed a torn ligament. From there, he went through the pre-draft process but a re-aggravation occurred during a workout in June and Huerter quickly had surgery to fix the ailment. Originally, he was given a six-week timetable without basketball activity but looks to return as soon as possible, with training camp as the focus.
Huerter, who stands at 6’7 with a neutral wingspan at 194 pounds (and 8.6 percent body fat), will need to add bulk and improve his defensive acumen at the next level. There is certainly a path to Huerter being a solid team defender, however, and the appeal of his game was clearly on the offensive end, where he presents ability that goes beyond the obvious trait of his long-distance shooting.
“He’s got a really high basketball IQ,” Schlenk said following the draft. “He can really shoot the ball, I believe he was 41, 42 percent last year at Maryland. He can put the ball on the floor. He moves well without the ball coming off screens. Passing ability, he brings that to the table as well.”
While Trae Young, Omari Spellman and even Jaylen Adams will have the opportunity to impress in Summer League, Kevin Huerter won’t be able to do that. Still, the impact of that absence should be mitigated from a player who seems to think the game at a high level on tape and, provided there are no hiccups with a timeline that allows Huerter to be on the floor in September, the waiting game won’t hamper either Huerter or the Hawks.