The Sacramento Kings have no qualms about their desire to break an infamous streak. Without a postseason berth since the 2005-2006 season, General Manager Monte McNair has taken bold steps in pursuit of the playoffs.
The most notable move came at the last season’s trade deadline when stalwart point guard Tyrese Haliburton was shipped out to the Indiana Pacers in a trade that landed Domantas Sabonis; a move that would start to align the roster with De’Aaron Fox’s timeline. This offseason has been another step toward the path of a postseason run.
Kevin Huerter was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks for Mo Harkless, Justin Holiday, and a heavily protected first-round pick. Huerter cures many of the ills the Sacramento Kings tried to remedy in the offseason. His two strengths: shooting and perimeter defense are exactly what the Kings have been missing, and precisely what may elevate them in 2022.
The Kings Struggles
Amid the turmoil of the 2021 season for the Sacramento Kings, they really had two clear weaknesses that plagued their chances of sustained success. They could not defend at an acceptable rate and they struggled to shoot the basketball once they traded their two best shooters for Sabonis.
Per BBall Index, the Kings were comfortably a bottom-3 defense in D-LEBRON. You can read more about LEBRON and the history of this metric at BBall Index.
Defensively the Kings were 26th in defensive rating (115.3), allowed the 4th most eFg% (0.551), and surrendered the second-most points to opponents (9,493). per Basketball Reference. Stepping back, it’s fairly easy to see what Monte McNair was thinking when he wrestled Mike Brown away from the Golden State Warriors following the reassigning of Alvin Gentry.
The Sacramento Kings’ shooting wasn’t as woeful as their defense, but they need a significant boost following the exit of volume shooter Buddy Hield and the missing the majestic efficiency of Tyrese Haliburton. The Fox-Sabonis two-man game is lethal, but for the Kings to really thrive there has to be a legitimate threat of shot-making on the perimeter.
Enter Kevin Huerter
Kevin Huerter The Shooter
Plainly speaking, Kevin Huerter can score the rock.
He has been a consistent three-point shooter from the day he entered the NBA. Averaging 38% on 5.4 attempts per game for the Atlanta Hawks, Huerter goes a long way towards replacing the sharpshooting Buddy Hield. It’s no cakewalk to do so. Buddy Hield for his career shoots 40% from distance on 7.6 attempts per game.
While the three-point numbers may seem like a slight downgrade, Huerter has a better overall Effective Field Goal percentage and shot 45.4% from the field to Hield’s 40.6% in 2021.
The advanced metrics provide perspective on his perimeter shooting
The ability to catch and shoot, make a high rate of shots, and find his spots all stand out. He is the perfect compliment to the Kings’ heliocentric stars. He plays with great control and performed in big moments during the Atlanta Hawks’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals one year ago.
Kevin Huerter in Game 7— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 21, 2021
Plus 3 clutch free throws. pic.twitter.com/LUvRUMsrmO
It’s hard to imagine Domantas Sabonis isn’t thrilled with the idea of Kevin Huerter roaming the court ready to work off a pindown for an easy pass for three. Or De’Aaron Fox having space to get to the paint one-on-one and feasting with his quick step.
Kevin Huerter The Defender
Kevin Huerter will pay dividends on defense for the Sacramento Kings. For the Atlanta Hawks, he regularly defended 1 through 3; proving to be a very versatile perimeter defender. Nobody will claim Red Velvet to be a lockdown defender but Mike Brown will be expected to use his tools to trot out a capable defense.
His greatest strength is chasing defenders off the ball. Per BBall Index he was in the 98th percentile in this defensive role. He will be expected to harass moving guards while De’Aaron Fox plays up to the lead ballhandler and applies pressure. This will help clean up Sacramento’s issues with the basketball on the perimeter. Versatile defenders discourage matchup hunting and limit the free-roaming ball movement that leads to easy buckets.
Kings Film Room on YouTube just released a fantastic cutup of Kevin Huerter’s two-way abilities that is a must-watch for all Kings fans.
His off-ball prowess will make life easier for Kings defenders.
Of all Sacramento lineups that played at least 40 minutes in 2021, the best lineup the Kings could muster featured on-ball defense in the 51st percentile. Remove Davion Mitchell from the equation? 25th percentile of all NBA lineups is the best of those arrangements.
Diehard Kings fans can get excited with Huerter hounding scoring threats off-ball while Davion Mitchell sticks the lead guard in alternate lineup situations
Lack of defensive versatility and the inability to defend the perimeter are two glaring issues that Kevin Huerter can help solve. Monte McNair has added a defensive coach in Mike Brown, a post-scoring star in Sabonis, the hyper-efficient rookie prospect Keegan Murray, and now Kevin Huerter. The Kings are hoping that with these efforts, the cowbells come roaring back at Golden One Center this postseason