In the doldrums of summer, the Peachtree Hoops staff came together for a 10-part roundtable series, answering a series of prompts with an eye toward the upcoming season for the Atlanta Hawks.
Part four aims to set reasonable expectations for the second season of Kevin Huerter’s career.
Jeff Siegel: As encouraging as it would be to see his numbers tick up across the board, the most important number to me for Huerter this season is his usage. He has a real chance to be an all-around offensive force for the Hawks moving forward, but he’s going to have to get those ball handling reps early in his career to develop into that player. I’d like to see the Hawks put the ball in his hands more often and let him run the show when Trae Young is off the floor, if only to get him the experience he’ll need for the future.
Graham Chapple: I’m expecting Huerter to continue on the trajectory he showed last season and, if that happens, he’s in for a good season. I’m expecting him to average closer to 15 points per game than 10 and I believe he’s going to shoot over 40% from three. Huerter showed some playmaking ability in the NBA last season and I’m sure he’ll do some more of this in the season to come. The key to unlocking the next level of his game -- on both ends -- is increasing his strength, and this is something Huerter and Pierce have mentioned in the past.
Rashad Milligan: I expect Huerter to take the largest leap on the team this season. The rookies, Turner, Parsons and Parker have seized a lot of the summer’s headlines, but Huerter was perhaps Atlanta’s best two-way rookie last season and, as the starter that no one’s talking about, I expect to see him provide whatever Pierce needs from him.
Zach Hood: As I wrote in the 2018-19 player review for Huerter, I think a Collins-like jump is entirely possible, if not likely. Collins exploded in his second season, making leaps across the board, particularly with his scoring. Part of Collins’ leap should be attributed to having one of the best passers in the league in Young as his pick-and-roll partner, but Lloyd Pierce’s staff deserves a ton of credit for all the work they did to develop that tandem into a seemingly unstoppable force at times. Huerter should be stronger, healthier, and more prepared heading into his second season. Confidence seemed to play a big role with Huerter last season, as he had a few breakout games mixed in with several games where he seemingly disappeared from a scoring standpoint. I expect Huerter to mature and begin to find the consistency young NBA players often search for, becoming a quality starting two guard in the process.
Toby Adeyemi: I want to see Kevin Huerter be that significant piece of their young core the Hawks claim for him to be. I thought the Hawks should have considered taking a shooting guard in the draft, but they didn’t and I’m assuming that is because of him. Huerter was a competent player last year, making the All-Rookie Second Team, and his game fits perfectly next to Young’s, spacing the floor and being a good defender on the other end. I need to see Huerter become a more significant scoring threat for the Hawks and take the offensive pressure off Young at times.
Sam Meredith: I believe Huerter will have the most notable statistical improvement from his rookie season to sophomore year. His advanced numbers from last season suggest he was primed to breakout with more usage. So, if the Hawks are willing to put the ball in his hands more often I think he might have an outside shot at most improved player.
Matt Harris: With his first full NBA offseason under him, I think Huerter could take a decent leap as a shooter. If he can find the confidence he lacked last season, he could be a B+ to Young’s A+ on this Atlanta roster, for lack of better terms. He’s got the most room for growth with potentially increased opportunity.
Glen Willis: Basically, I expect Huerter to pick up from where left off last season. Huerter has been open about how much he struggled with confidence at the beginning of last season. So the most important thing is for him to play with confidence from the beginning to the end of the season. He should be the team’s third leading scorer and best perimeter shooter. Areas for growth that I am tracking are being a more effective scorer at the rim, which will require a higher finish rate and his seeking out contact from defenders as to turn some of those opportunities into free throws, and being a stronger defender in 1:1 situations.
Andrew Kelly: I’m looking to see Huerter improve in three areas: ball handling, getting to the line, and finishing at the rim. More generally, I want to see Huerter stay aggressive. There were times last season when he was content to be a passenger. Notably, Huerter made large improvements across the board in his second season at Maryland, and I think the increased confidence from a productive rookie season, as well as a healthy summer of strength training, will lead to marked improvements in his second season in Atlanta. I’m with Graham: I think he’ll average around 15 points per game and around 40% from deep. More importantly, I want to see his free throw attempt rate improve. After a paltry 56 free throw attempts as a rookie, Huerter will need to do a much better job of attacking the basket and getting rewarded with free throws; if he does, the Hawks will truly have a dynamic young wing on their hands.
Dylan Hughes: I wouldn’t be shocked if Huerter doubled his point average from last season (9.7), or getting close, at least. The more reps he gets handling the ball and shooting, the more of an impact he’ll have on the Atlanta offense.
Greg Willis: I’m expecting Huerter to make the biggest leap of any player on this roster. He is a gifted player with a very clever offensive game. Opponents will game plan around getting the ball out of Trae Young’s hands. As a result, Huerter should have increased usage with space to go to work and make things happen. Add the fact that the Hawks are still not under any win now pressure and you get a low leverage environment where the second-year guard can relax in his role and thrive.
Brad Rowland: Of Atlanta’s returning trio of core pieces, Huerter is perhaps the most likely to make a tangible jump. Some of that comes from Young and Collins already reaching impressive heights last season, but Huerter got a late start to his rookie campaign and noticeably improved over the course of the season. Now, with a full off-season under his belt (something he didn’t have before his rookie year), there is every reason to think he’ll be able to build on his finishing at the rim and foul-drawing, if only because he should be physically stronger. His shooting strengths are obvious but everything else is where the jump happens.