ATLANTA — After a Second Team All-Rookie season a year ago, expectations for Kevin Huerter to take the next step in his NBA career were at an all time high to start the season.
However, a nagging knee injury during training camp and preseason, as well as a shoulder injury in early November that kept him out for around three weeks, derailed the start of Huerter’s second campaign at the NBA level. Now back at full strength and shaking off the rust of multiple injuries, Huerter seems to have finally found his groove for a young Atlanta Hawks team.
Huerter, a consistent starter on the struggling Hawks, has averaged 21 points and 6.8 rebounds per game over his last four contests and has shot 48 percent from three-point range during that stretch.
And it doesn’t just appear to be a string of a few good games. Over his last 10 showings, he's averaged 16.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his rookie season.
The former Terp now dubbed as “Red Velvet” has looked much more confident on the floor since coming back from his shoulder injury and has been letting it fly from deep.
“Just trying to be more aggressive,” Huerter told Testudo Times. “We have had a lot of guys out the last couple of games, so I have just been trying to stay aggressive on the offensive end.”
You can’t leave Kevin Huerter this wide open and not expect this to be the result pic.twitter.com/W8VvPOMVYU— Jordan Gold (@Jordan_Gold0) January 7, 2020
That aggressiveness from Huerter has not gone unnoticed by head coach Lloyd Pierce, who seemed elated to have his 2018 first round pick playing at such a high level.
“We’ve been able to get the ball in his [Huerter’s] hands,” Pierce said before the Hawks took on the Nuggets Monday. “I think when you look to the Orlando game, we’re able to just put him in pick and roll and he was able to make plays for himself. I feel like he’s always capable and willing and looking to make plays for others. It’s just that mindset that he has and he’s carried it the last couple games. It helps when the shots fall as well.”
With Huerter back on the court and thriving, the key for him will be staying on the floor. Spirits seem to be high for the former Terp, who said, “Everything’s just kind of coming together,” after putting up 22 points, eight rebounds and tying a career-high in three pointers made (6) in a loss to the Nuggets Monday.
Kevin Huerter tied a career high with 6 threes tonight. pic.twitter.com/lOLYGhIp3e— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) January 7, 2020
Huerter’s recent success has also been spotted by his teammates. John Collins, another exciting young player for the Hawks, is thrilled to see his teammate looking healthy and playing well.
“We are starting to see Kevin get his feet back settled and starting to see his confidence come out of him,” Collins said after Monday’s game. “We definitely like to see that.”
Having never battled major injuries before this season, the process of rehabbing and coming back from injury has been an adjustment for Huerter and something that has made this season unfamiliar compared to his rookie year.
“It’s been different. A lot more treatment, a lot more parts of your life that you didn’t want to be doing,” Huerter said. “Getting there a lot earlier than other guys and just taking your body and being more conscious of the things that you are eating. It’s more day to day stuff, but it’s the type of thing you need to do to be the best professional.”
While Huerter is known for his shooting ability, one aspect of his game that is often overlooked is his means as a facilitator. During the third quarter of the loss against Denver, Huerter was tasked with bringing the ball up and running the offense on numerous occasions and seemed quite comfortable in doing so.
Huerter’s longtime trainer Steve Dagostino has been very pleased with what he has seen from him recently, which included a season-high 26 points, along with six rebounds, five assists and two steals against the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 4.
“Kev has been playing extremely well over the past couple games for the Hawks,” Dagostino told Testudo Times. “He’s the type of player that is going to make the right pass and right play. He’s been doing that all season, now that he is fully healthy he is becoming more aggressive offensively in looking for his own shot and has been really shooting the ball well.”
The Hawks trail by 5 as the fourth quarter begins and Huerter’s sharp shooting is huge reason why they are in this game. pic.twitter.com/wAtwsTeufM— Jordan Gold (@Jordan_Gold0) January 7, 2020
While Huerter has been playing very well lately, the Hawks still sit in last place in the Eastern Conference at an 8-29 record. Much has been made over the fact that the Hawks three young cornerstones, Huerter, Trae Young and Collins, have not played very many minutes together due to injuries and Collins’ suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Pierce estimated after the Nuggets game that the trio has only played about 85 minutes together, which is a staggeringly low figure at this juncture in the season.
“The more all three of us can play together you know, we’ll get better every game,” Huerter said. “We know what we’re doing here, we’re still building, this isn’t a finished product in any way. In every game we just gotta try to get better and keep everybody on the court.”
Huerter’s optimism on the team’s outlook was echoed by Pierce, who seemed very proud of the way Huerter played against the Nuggets and over the past few games.
“Kevin’s been great last couple games. But I think it’s easier for Trae when Kevin gets going, and it’s easier for Kevin when Trae gets going,” Pierce said in his postgame press conference. “And these guys are the two guys that we were counting on coming into the season. It’s nice to see them play well together.”