This is the seventh installment in our series breaking down the top trades of the 2022 offseason. Instead of giving ratings, this series will explore Why the teams were motivated to take action. Let’s dive into an agreement between the falcons and kings…
The day after free agency began, the Hawks agreed to send Kevin Huerter to kings in exchange for Justin’s Vacation, Maurice Harkless, and the Kings’ 2024 first-round pick (top 14 protected). If the pick doesn’t pass immediately, he would be top 12 protected in 2025 and top 10 protected in 2026. If he still hasn’t changed hands by then, the Hawks would instead receive two second rounds.
The view of kings:
After processing Tyrese Haliburton at Indiana at trade deadline for double All-Star Domantas Sabonisthe Kings reported that they were building around a few dynamic playmakers (the other being De’Aaron Fox), each of which has a clear void in its offensive repertoire: the three-point shot. Both southpaws have nearly identical career percentages behind the arc, with Fox at 32.0 percent and Sabonis at 31.9 percent.
Modern NBA offenses thrive on proper spacing, so surrounding the shooting duo was paramount. Sacramento was only 25e in the three-point league, 21st in three-point attempts, and 24e in three-point percentage last season (34.4%).
Enter Huerter, who averaged 12.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 2.7 APG in 74 games in 2021/22 (60 starts, 29.6 MPG). A look at his shooting numbers reveals that Huerter was an above-average all-court marksman, with a true shooting percentage of 57% (58e percentile), 62% at the rim (57e percentile), 48% of the middle of the range (88%), 38.9% of the three-point range (82n/a percentile), and 80.8% of the line (64e percentile), by DunksAndThrees.com.
Huerter’s 21/22 tally stats are quite similar to his career ratings of 11.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 3.2 APG in 274 games (216 starts, 29.6 MPG), so consistent production of year over year has been a strong selling point for the shooting guard. He’s shot between 38.0% and 38.9% from deep in three of his four seasons, with a career rating of 37.9%. He is particularly deadly from corners, with a career rating of 43.1%, including 44.9% last season.
The 6’7″ Huerter fits perfectly into the timelines of Fox (24) and Sabonis (26), as he turns 24 next month (David Mitchell turns 24 in September Monk Malik is also 24 years old and first round Keegan Murray 21 years old). He is also under contract for four more years, so he could become a fixture at the club for several more seasons.
Although best known for his shooting prowess, Huerter is also a strong secondary playmaker, with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.38 to 1. He is a very capable passer who displays above-average vision for a two-guard. That should come in handy for the Kings, who were only 22n/a in the league for assists last season.
Huerter has proven himself to be a capable low-end starter in the NBA, and I say that as a compliment. To be among the top 150 players in the best league in the world is no easy task, and Huerter is part of that group. Even if he eventually leaves the bench for the Kings, he still showed that he should be considered at that level and would be one of the best reserves in the league.
Huerter has two main weaknesses. On the one hand, he is sometimes too passive in attack and avoids contact, which is why he has attempted less than one free throw per game in his career in almost 30 minutes per game, a very poor rate. That’s why his true shooting percentage has only been above the league average once in his career (last season), despite being a good shooter.
The second weakness is that he is a slightly below average defender. He’s just a good rebounder, and he’s lean and can be pushed around even though he’s tall for his position. Huerter is by no means a liability, unlike other shooting specialists, but he is not a positive either.
It’s the less glamorous end of the field where I don’t like the deal for the Kings, who only finished in 27th place.e in the league in defensive rating last season. To be fair to them, they needed help in just about every way, and Huerter is certainly a better player than Holiday or Harkless, but not defensively.
New head coach mike brown built his career on being a solid defensive tactician, but he can’t do much with the roster staff. That will continue to be a problem next season for Sacramento, as Fox and Sabonis aren’t exactly defensive stoppers, nor is Monk, who the team acquired in free agency to bolster its shot.
Holiday struggled during his brief stint with the Kings, connecting on just 34.8% of his field goal attempts in 25 games (he was also part of the Sabonis trade), and Harkless was completely out of the rotation at the end of the season. Both players are significantly older than Huerter (Holiday is 33 and Harkless is 29), and neither was in Sacramento’s long-term plans, so moving them wasn’t a big loss even though both have had long careers for good reasons.
The hawks point of view:
Let’s get that out of the way first: Atlanta doesn’t necessarily have want to to exchange Huerter. Hawks fans will fondly remember his performance in Game 7 of the team’s second-round playoff victory over the Sixers in 2021, when Huerter had 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 10 of 18 shooting, helping Atlanta reach the Conference Finals Is for only the second time in the past 50 years.
Moving Huerter was both a short-term and a long-term financial decision. The four-year, $65 million rookie ladder extension he signed just before 21/22 began kicking off next season and trading for Delete Murray pushed the team into luxury tax territory.
The Hawks already have long-term salaries committed to Trae young, John Collins and Clint Capela; Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic are on the books for two more seasons; and De’Andre Hunter is eligible for a rookie ladder extension this summer. The roster got expensive, and after acquiring an All-Star guard from Murray, one from Huerter or Bogdanovic became expendable, through no fault of their own.
Bogdanovic is a better overall player than Huerter and more used to coming off the bench, both positives for Atlanta. However, he’s coming off knee surgery, is older (turning 30 next month) and makes more money the next two seasons than Huerter, so the Hawks may not have gotten the type of trade package they would like for him.
Holiday and Harkless, who both have expiring contracts, will earn $10.86 million in 22/23, which will save the Hawks $3.64 million after moving the salary by $14.5 million of Hurter. Keep in mind that by acquiring two players for one, the Hawks also don’t have to fill a second spot on the roster — even a minimum wage deal carries a cap of $1,836,090, so the actual savings in the deal are closer to $5.48 million when factoring that in.
Of the two newly acquired veterans, I expect Holiday to provide more value on the field and receive more playing time – he’s a much better outside shooter than Harkless (36.5% career on three on a volume much higher against 32.0%), and I’m sure the Hawks would like to give the first round of 2021 Jalen Johnson more NBA playing time as a backup forward next season.
Both Holiday and Harkless are veterans who have traveled extensively and have a reputation for priority defense. Holiday, in particular, provided solid value during his run with the Pacers from 2019-21. His defense wasn’t as strong last season and his shooting can be inconsistent, but he’s definitely a rebounding candidate with all the open looks he will get on his second stint in Atlanta.
Still, while the duo shouldn’t be ignored, the Hawks’ main draw in their trade to Sacramento was to take away Huerter’s long-term salary and acquire the 2024 first-round pick.
There’s no guarantee the pick will pass in two years, of course — the Kings missed the playoffs for an NBA-record 16 straight seasons, so the fact that he’s lottery-protected might not. bode well for Atlanta. However, Sacramento’s roster looks a bit better on paper for next season, particularly on offense, and the club will have another year to continue making improvements before the pick can be passed on.
If that carries over into 2024, both teams would be happy — the Hawks would pick up another first-round pick, recouping some draft equity after dealing three first-round picks (two unprotected) and a pick trade to San Antonio for Murray , while the Kings would have finally broken their playoff drought.
If that doesn’t carry over into 2024, there’s still a good chance the Hawks will get the pick in 2025 (top 12 protected) or 2026 (top 10 protected). This might actually be the preferred scenario for them, as the first unprotected pick they traded to the Spurs is for 2025, and San Antonio has trade rights in 2026.
The West is stacked, so a playoff spot is definitely not a given, but the Kings have some interesting plays, most of them young. There are realistic scenarios in which they improve over time and qualify for either the qualifying tournament or the playoffs. Murray could be the wildcard, because if he’s as ready for the NBA as he looks, he could be a game-changer.
Overall, the Huerter trade was an understandable deal for both parties. The Kings have a decent young starter who’s under contract for four more years and fixing some weaknesses on the roster, and they’ve protected the first round they handed out so he doesn’t hopefully come back to bite them. .
The Hawks cleared long-term cash and dodged taxes, secured a low-cost candidate in Holiday, a veteran presence in Harkless, and clawed back some capital after selling a substantial amount to Murray.