Having depth is one of the biggest keys to having a successful team. Having one or two (or three) stars is great, but what happens when they’re on the bench? What if they’re injured?
For the Atlanta Hawks, depth will once again be a key component for the team going forward. De’Andre Hunter will miss the next two months of the season after suffering a wrist injury.
Hunter’s absence from the team is all too familiar, since he missed most of last season due to a knee injury. He returned at the end of the season and played into the first round of the playoffs, but was ruled out for the rest of the postseason with a torn right meniscus.
Luckily for the Hawks, they have options behind Hunter that can fill in for him while he’s out.
Kevin Huerter stepped in for Hunter while he was injured last year and had a solid season. For a guy that has had injury issues in the past as well, Huerter played all 75 games last season, and started in 59 of those games. Huerter showed improvement in his game through the year, becoming a better playmaker, while also guarding the opposing team’s best player. With Hunter returning this season, Huerter moved back to the second unit, and struggled shooting the ball to start the year.
Kevin Huerter as a starter (five games):— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) November 18, 2021
15.2 ppg, 60.0% FG, 60.8% 3pt FG
In the last few games, Huerter has found his shooting stroke. Whether that’s because he’s more comfortable in the starting lineup or hadn’t found a groove yet coming off the bench, Huerter producing on both sides of the floor is a plus for the team. Huerter is not the defensive player that Hunter is, but there are some things that he does on offense that improves the Hawks’ flow.
His ability to create for himself has opened up the Hawks offense, especially with the starting unit. Getting shots in the paint is something that Nate McMillan emphasizes, and Huerter has developed a consistent push shot that calls for an easy two points. The Bucks are in a zone on this play, and once Huerter notices an opening, he drives in. Giannis Antetokounmpo is tagged on Clint Capela and Jordan Nwora is focused on John Collins, which gives Huerter the chance for the easy shot.
On this play, the Celtics are playing drop coverage with Al Horford. Huerter takes the screen from Capela, and dribbles to the middle of the paint. Dennis Schroder is able to recover to contest the shot, but Huerter uses his length to drop the shot in over him.
Huerter isn’t just able to create for himself, but for others on the court as well. We know that Trae Young controls the pace of the offense, but having more than one playmaker on the court at the same time allows for more ball movement and better shots.
This is an easy read for Huerter. Capela sets a screen and quickly slips out to the paint. There seemed to be some type of miscommunication between Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges, and both stay home on Huerter. Huerter gets both defenders in the air, and passes it to Capela for the dunk.
Getting everybody involved within the offense has been key for the Hawks getting back on track recently, and Huerter’s play has helped in that department.
Cam Reddish is another wing player that will have to step up in Hunter’s absence. As of lately, Reddish has improved his play and is fitting in with the Hawks second unit while Huerter moved into the starting lineup.
Reddish has shown since the start of the season that he can score points, but putting him in a situation where you can get the most out of him while being efficient has helped him. Coach McMillan has elected to put Delon Wright and Lou Williams (two ball handlers) on the court with Reddish so he won’t have to worry about creating as much, but just focus on being positioned for a catch-and-shoot.
On this play, the Hawks run “Horns Flare” for Bogdan Bogdanovic. Franz Wagner isn’t able to get over Capela’s screen, and Mo Bamba doesn’t come up to contest the shot. That forces Terrence Ross to leave his assignment, which leaves Reddish wide open in the corner. Easy three points.
Like I noted earlier, McMillan emphasizes getting points in the paint. One thing Reddish has improved on this season is having better control while driving. It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step from where he was in his rookie season. Reddish attacks Enes Kanter on the play, absorbs the contact, stays patient and gets the bucket plus the foul.
An area where Reddish is improving in the past few games is his court vision. We all know Reddish can score, but finding teammates for better shots elevates his game, and gives the Hawks multiple options on offense.
On this play, Williams sets an off-ball screen for Reddish. Capela hands off the ball to him, and Reddish dribbles to the free throw line. Reddish notices that Rodney Hood is chasing him off the screen, and Jrue Holiday is tagged on Capela, which leaves Williams open. He whips the pass to Williams, and he knocks down the three.
If Reddish can continue to build on plays such as that, good things will happen for him and the Hawks offense.
Losing Hunter will be a big loss for the Hawks, but if Huerter and Reddish can continue their strong play, they’ll be able to manage while he’s sidelined the next few months.