Just like that, and the Kings are looking like a completely different team.
On Friday, Sacramento sent a future first rounder, Justin Holiday, and Maurice Harkless to Atlanta in exchange for sharpshooting guard Kevin Huerter. The future first rounder included, James Ham writes, is “lottery-protected in 2024, top-12 in 2025, top-10 in 2026 and converts into two seconds if it isn’t conveyed in 2026.”
Huerter is coming into his fifth year in the NBA after averaging 12.1 points on 38.9% from three, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 0.7 steals per game last season for the Hawks. The crimson-haired guard will provide an excellent deep shooting threat, a variety of ways to score, solid defense, and great awareness to this Sacramento roster.
It’s primarily the shooting that’s of noteworthy importance here. As a three-point shooter, Huerter’s ability to consistently nail catch and shoot looks, whether he’s already set or flying off of a screen, stretches the floor like a taffy-puller.
At the end of last season, GM Monte McNair articulated his intention to target and add players that can supplement the team’s length, athleticism, and, more than anything, shooting.
“I think shooting, we can clearly acknowledge, will be a huge priority,” McNair said in front of reporters back in April. “It’s a priority for every team, but certainly around those two guys (De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis), shooting will be a big one.”
In 2021-22, the Kings finished 25th in the league in three-pointers made at just 11.4 per game, and they finished 24th in percentage from that range at 34.4%.
While the team made a major overall improvement following the acquisitions made at the deadline that was headlined by Domantas Sabonis, it was clear their three-point shooting still needed plenty of work, if not more. Between the trade and the end of the year, Sac was hitting three’s at about the same measly success rate, but in that timeframe they were actually hitting less than their finalized average conversions at less than 11 per game.
Maybe the slumping Holiday and the streaky Donte DiVincenzo coming off injury obfuscated the fact that they actually had some good shooters, but now, they’re more than simply kind of good or merely equipped with potential to be good.
Now, they’re undeniably dangerous.
In fact, in just about a week’s time, the specific area the Kings improved the most was three-point shooting. First, they drafted Keegan Murray, who shot 39.8% from deep at Iowa last year. Second, they signed Malik Monk on Thursday, who posted a 39.1% clip from beyond the arc. And now, they’ve acquired Huerter and his efficient percentage.
Add that on top of a roster that has the career 37.9% three-point shooting Harrison Barnes (39.4% last season), an improving Davion Mitchell, and a solid shooter like Terence Davis, and it’s clear the Kings will collectively have a much better three-point shooting season than last year.
Huerter may not be super athletic or long, but he nevertheless provides a net positive on the defensive end. As with any player that plays well on that end, it comes down to effort, and the former Maryland Terrapin exerts plenty of it with open willingness. That energy he expends combined with the fact he’s also smart and instinctual allows him to play longer and quicker than one would initially guess based on his unimpressive 6’7″ wingspan and lateral quickness that scored him an average 10.89 second lane agility test at the combine in 2018.
Effort alone should make him well liked by new head coach and the defensive guru Mike Brown, who arrives preaching communication, effort, and trust on that end of the floor, but Huerter should be a contributor to what could be solid team defense.
In regards to other aspects of his game, Huerter is also a decent playmaker and a surprisingly solid rebounder. Both arise not from any physical skill, but from his awareness of the most optimal ways the game can be played. He’ll always make the open pass if it means achieving the best look for the team, and he’ll always use his motor to be active on the glass.
And now, overall, the Kings have what looks to be their best rotations in recent memory, with 10 legitimate players on their roster that features some excellent shooting.
Acquiring Kevin Huerter simply looks like a masterful decision.
Without getting too far out ahead at this point, it is evident McNair had a plan and that nothing was going to stop him from orchestrating it this time around as his moves since February have really made the prospect of success next season believable.
After years of underwhelming offseasons where the biggest acquisitions were in no way big, this one is packing a different flavor altogether.