Fortunately, the Atlanta Hawks are off to a hot start with a 4-1 record. They do have a road date against the undefeated Milwaukee Bucks on tap. But this has been a solid start to the season for the Hawks who made several moves this offseason to get back to a level at which they are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference.
Had they not gotten off to such a hot start, it is not hard to imagine those moves being put back under the microscope.
One of those moves was trading Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings.
Huerter was taken with the 19th overall selection in 2018 – the same year the Hawks drafted Trae Young. He worked both as a bench player and a starter for the Hawks but now finds himself as a critical piece for the Kings.
Kevin Huerter opens up about Trae Young and being traded from Atlanta Hawks
“They’re a lot different. But in a lot of ways, they are similar,” Huerter told James Ham of The Kings Beat comparing Young to Kings teammate De’Aaron Fox, “both prolific scorers, both guys are the No. 1 options on other team’s scouting reports…My job is to figure out how I can be effective playing off of them and finding my spots. Figuring out ways to make their life easier.”
Huerter says that he did it “for four years” with the Hawks and Young. He and Young had the second-highest offensive rating of any Hawks duo with at least 1000 minutes last season.
That distinction goes to Huerter and Hawks center Clint Capela who beat out the Huerter-Young pairing in both offensive and defensive rating. It also goes to show just how ingrained he was into what the Hawks wanted to do and explains why his trade was at least mildly surprising.
Huerter said that he was “mentally preparing” himself for a move as the Hawks surprisingly went 11-6 in March winning nine of their final 11 regular-season contests.
They fell 4-1 in the playoffs to the division-rival and top-seeded Miami Heat.
“I wouldn’t say it was necessarily something I was expecting,” Huerter told Ham. “But just the way the last season had ended in Atlanta, the team was kinda looking to do something and the different personnel that I had heard they were bringing in and had already brought in, I knew there could be something on the horizon.”
He is just one offseason removed from agreeing with the Hawks on a four-year, $65 million rookie extension.
Huerter noted that the contract beings some level of security despite being traded.
“It was a brand new contract. Something I signed with a different team that now I’m here and it’s fighting to achieve that stability. If we can win here and win at a high level, I think this is a place I should be for a while.”
Sacramento is off to an 0-4 start but Huerter has been just as advertised averaging career-highs with 14.3 points and hitting 44.3% of his 7.9 threes per game. Huerter is also averaging 3.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds – good for fourth and fifth on the team, respectively – as the Kings’ second-leading scorer.
Huerter leads the team with a plus-52.8 efficiency differential – ranking in the 100th percentile – and plus-69 expected wins, per Cleaning The Glass.
He said that he is relishing the opportunity to expand his game and is enjoying himself.
The Hawks moved Huerter to avoid a logjam after trading for Dejounte Murray this offseason and to provide some salary cap (see: luxury tax) relief. But this has all the makings of a trade that benefitted everyone involved.