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30Q: Can Kevin Huerter play small forward?

The former Hawk may hold more promise at the wing than some believe.
By | 42 Comments | Sep 13, 2022

Feb 11, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (3) shoots against the San Antonio Spurs in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As Bryant so wisely pointed out in yesterday’s 30Q, over the last decade-plus, no question has haunted Kings fans more than “can so-and-so play small forward?” And over the last decade-plus, the answer has mostly been “not really, but we have no other choice”. James Anderson, Garrett Temple (the first and second time around), Buddy Hield, Iman Shumpert, Arron Afflalo, and Kent Bazemore (the first time around) are just a few of many names that come to mind when considering Sacramento’s history of throwing smaller players to the wolves at the wing.

As the Kings head into training camp, their options are once again questionable, although maybe not as concerning as in years’ past. Harrison Barnes has proven himself as a reliable small forward in the past, but the last few years have shown him to be more effective as a stretch-four, rather than as a true perimeter player, especially on the defensive end. Keegan Murray is a rookie who also looked more natural as a four in both college and in Summer league, while Kent Bazemore and/or KZ Okpala hopefully aren’t playing too many minutes for a Kings team with their eyes locked on the postseason. And so enters Kevin Huerter, Sacramento’s latest edition of shooting guard, small forward, or both?

When comparing Huerter to wannabe forward of the past, one of the more obvious things that stands out is his size. Standing at 6′ 7″ with a neutral to slightly positive wingspan, Huerter fits more into the mold of traditional wings, although his slight frame (200 pounds) detracts from that advantage a bit. He certainly doesn’t carry the bulk of a Harrison Barnes-esque player, but Huerter also isn’t punching up quite as much as some players in previous seasons.

In addition to his height, Huerter was also a more impactful player at the wing than at shooting guard for the Hawks last season. Overall, Atlanta was better with him on the floor last year, posting 3.8 more points per 100 possessions (73rd percentile) with him in the game, but those numbers get even better with Huerter at small forward. Fifty-seven percent of Huerter’s minutes came at the wing, and the Hawks outscored their opponent by 5.2 points per 100 possessions, versus just 0.4 points with him at shooting guard.

To be clear, that positive impact was entirely on the offensive side of the floor, although the impact was quite significant. Overall, the Hawks scored 1.2 points per possession with Huerter at the wing (91st percentile), while they put up 1.14 points per possession with him at guard (57th percentile). On an individual level, Huerter was also much more effective at the wing, scoring 1.17 points per possession, while posting an effective field goal percentage of 57.1%, compared to 1.09 points per possession and an eFG% of 53.1% as a guard. Interestingly enough, Atlanta may have recognized those splits, as Huerter actually saw 1,247 minutes at the wing, versus 875 minutes at shooting guard, the first time in his four-year career in which he saw more time at the three than the two.

Unlike the Kings, however, it wouldn’t be wise to ignore the defensive side of the floor, and this is where things get a little rougher for Huerter. The Hawks surrendered 1.8 more points per 100 possessions with him at the wing compared to the two-spot, and that’s likely due to Huerter’s frame, which often allows bigger wings to move past him without proper resistance or causes him to get trapped against screens that heavier players might be able to fight through. Overall, Atlanta didn’t actually see that much of a difference in points per 100 plays (96.3 with Huerter at SG, versus 96.9 with Huerter at SF), meaning that increase of 1.8 points per 100 possessions was due to a combination of surrendering more three-point makes and free throw attempts with Huerter at the three-spot.

There’s no doubt that the defensive prospect of Huerter at the wing isn’t exactly encouraging, but frankly, neither are any of the options for Sacramento, which is more of a roster construction than individual player concern. Last season, Harrison Barnes was one of the least effective defenders in the league, and far worse than Huerter. The Kings surrendered 117.6 points per 100 possession when Barnes manned the wing (18th percentile), and they gave up 6.7 more points per possession with Harrison in the game, the worst mark of any NBA player to post at least 2,000 minutes last season. In comparison, the Hawks were actually slightly better with Huerter on the floor than off, allowing 0.3 fewer points per 100 possessions. This isn’t to say that Huerter is a good defender, but rather that he may be at the same level or even be slightly more effective than Barnes at this stage in their careers.

Can Kevin Huerter fill in at small forward? Yes, he can, especially for a team competing for the 10th seed, rather than for an NBA championship. His offensive impact will hopefully outweigh his negatives on the defensive end of the floor, and even if those differentials are closer than one would hope, he’s still a much better option than most players on an improved, but imperfect roster.

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42 Comments
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1951
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September 13, 2022 9:45 am

Something, something, positionless, something, something …

comment image?fit=400%2C411

sonny
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September 13, 2022 2:06 pm
Reply to  1951

Vivek and his kids should be positionless with the Kings.

andy_sims
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September 13, 2022 2:32 pm
Reply to  sonny

This is a Grade-A burn.

andy_sims
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September 13, 2022 2:32 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Or third-degree. I’m not a doctor or burn evaluator.

Marty
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September 13, 2022 3:47 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

This is a Grade 4 burn.

10E69812-46D6-4884-B43D-0B4F26C59395.jpeg
RobHessing
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September 13, 2022 4:20 pm
Reply to  Marty

“This your dumpster. This is your team!”

Dougscott
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September 13, 2022 9:47 am

As the roster is currently constructed, the depth be…

Fox, Mitchell, Delly
Heurter, Monk, Lamb, Ellis
Barnes, Davis, Moneke
Murray, Lyles, Metu
Sabonis, Holmes, Len, Q

That’s a PG, a Big and 3 wings on the floor at all times

TheGrantNapear
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September 13, 2022 8:26 pm
Reply to  Dougscott

Murray isn’t likely starting to start off the year. I think MM slides in at the 2 and KH to the 3.
Who is starting doesn’t matter too much, I think this is an 8 man roster with a clear drop off in talent after that, so those 8 should see the bulk of the minutes

RobHessing
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September 13, 2022 10:38 am

He’s no Quincy Acy, Rudy Gay, Luc Mbah A Moute, Travis Outlaw, John Salmons, Omri Casspi, Nik Stauskas, Derrick Williams, Caron Butler, Duje Dukan, Matt Barnes, Tyreke Evans 2.0, Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Bruno Caboclo, Vince Carter 20.0, Nigel Hayes, Justin Jackson, Malachi Richardson, Jakarr Sampson, Corey Brewer, Alec Burks, B.J. Johnson, Iman Shumpert, Troy Williams, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wenyen Gabriel, Justin James, DaQuan Jeffries, Mo Harkless, Louis King, Glenn Robinson III, Robert Woodard II, Josh Jackson or Harrison Barnes, but he might do in a pinch.

alec26
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September 13, 2022 11:18 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Luc Mbah A Moute could play defense.

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
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September 13, 2022 12:21 pm
Reply to  alec26

Don’t feel like we really saw enough of Luc since he only lasted nine games with the Kings.

BeTheBall
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September 13, 2022 12:47 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

That list has me crying over here.

RobHessing
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September 13, 2022 1:21 pm
Reply to  BeTheBall

And that’s just the Ranadive era!

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
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September 13, 2022 1:26 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Did you have to Google “list of Sacramento Kings small forwards since 2013?” 😉

TerzoM
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September 13, 2022 3:55 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

comment image

HongKongKingsFan
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September 13, 2022 4:57 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Out of the list…
we only got like 6 players that can be so called “qualified SF”

Rudy Gay, Casspi, Salmons, Shumpert, Bogdan, Barnes

TheGrantNapear
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September 13, 2022 8:28 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Love the list, absolutely nostalgic. These players got me through my 30’s.

RobHessing
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September 13, 2022 8:36 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Those players won in the 30s.

SuperShaka
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September 14, 2022 12:09 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Sadly not until Rudy Gay did the Kings win 30.

eddie41
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September 13, 2022 8:55 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

what about Donte Green?

RobHessing
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September 14, 2022 8:44 am
Reply to  eddie41

Pre-Vivek. But if you want to start post-Metta World Peace, add Greene, Francisco Garcia, Andres Nocioni, Desmond Mason, Dominic McGuire, Ime Udoka, Antoine Wright, Tyler Honeycutt, Terrence Williams and James Johnson.

RikSmits
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September 14, 2022 10:31 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Tyler Honeycutt

May he rest in peace.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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September 14, 2022 1:54 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

AND

Jason Thompson!

RobHessing
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September 14, 2022 2:28 pm

Hahaha!!! I gave it serious consideration. Marvin Bagley, too.

Klam
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September 13, 2022 11:02 am

Heh, intentional or not, I love how the title of this article includes a TKH meme.

murraytant
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September 13, 2022 1:23 pm

while I was not aware of his differential statistical value at SF, I had seen him as the SG—good size, good shooting and could cover up some of Fox’s weaknesses, like he did for Trae. Since the Kings do not have a large center or PF, playing him at SF means some size challenges.
With deft bench management- i.e., good coaching, he may be maximized at SF but teams with large and powerful centers, PF’s and SFs could give the Kings fits.
Position less is great for offense, but each player has to guard someone. Zone?

Jack
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September 13, 2022 4:31 pm
Reply to  murraytant

What about Barnes and Davis to the heat for Robinson and Martin? Heat want Barnes and we could use Martin at small forward.

andy_sims
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September 13, 2022 4:52 pm
Reply to  Jack

$75 mil is a ton to eat on Robinson’s contract, and he’s just a worse version of Huerter.

Jack
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September 13, 2022 6:39 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Robinson is not the main attraction. Martin is. Robinson is still a really good shooter.He can backup the SG or SM position. With these two we would have 3 or 4 starting lineups depending who we are playing against and other reasons. I would really like to trade Holmes to Hornets for PJ Washington and James Bocknight. Washington would be a great backup for Murray and Bocknight would be our third guard. I think this might work because the Hornets are still looking for a quality starting center.

Jack
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September 13, 2022 6:43 pm
Reply to  Jack

Can we use the rights to Sasha Zenekov for part of a trade?Please let me know.

andy_sims
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September 14, 2022 11:17 am
Reply to  Jack

I understand that Martin is the reason for doing the trade, but is he worth adding a lousy and long-term contract for a player who may never play meaningful minutes again?

Martin had his best season this year, and we’re talking about 9.2/3.8rpg. It’s impossible to tell whether he can spread the floor based on the 115 threes he’s taken in his NBA career. You don’t just eat Robinson’s $75 million over four years to get Caleb Martin.

eddie41
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September 13, 2022 8:49 pm
Reply to  Jack

well, it is weird that you keep floating proposals including Duncan Robinson, who has a teeeerrrriiiibbbbllle contract.

Jack
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September 14, 2022 8:48 am
Reply to  eddie41

The other hypothetical trade idea would be Barnes to the Clippers for Luke Kennard and either Terence Mann or Amir Coffey. I like them both as small forwards but would take Mann over Coffey. Kennard is one of the best 3 pt shooters in the league and is an underrated play maker. Much better contracts.

andy_sims
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September 14, 2022 11:18 am
Reply to  Jack

Given that all you’ve said is true, what is LA’s motivation to trade two good players on good deals for a year of Harrison Barnes?

eddie41
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September 13, 2022 8:53 pm

Haven’t seen much of Huerter yet, but his profile seems like someone who ideally would guard the worst wing on the other team, like K Mart did when playing with Artest.

ArcoThunder
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September 14, 2022 5:59 am
Reply to  eddie41

accept we don’t have an Artest so….

considering Kevin guarded the best opposing guard since he got in the league one would think that would be an ideal fit for him with this roster and pairing with Fox. who knows though. looking forward to seeing what Mike Brown thinks. Pretty sure he’s qualified to make the correct judgment on who Huerter is most suited to guard depending on matchups.

RikSmits
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September 14, 2022 10:34 am

A good addition, but I worry that this Swiss Army Knife view on him may make him a jack of all trades, master of none. Or in other words, a guy with certain limitation, of whom we expect to do too much.

Hobby916
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September 14, 2022 11:26 am
Reply to  RikSmits

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” I will take a guy that can do much more on the court at a competent level than a guy that fills a single role.

RikSmits
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September 14, 2022 11:34 am
Reply to  Hobby916

Problem is that with the Kangz, they tend to turn into jackasses of all trades.

Sacto_J
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September 14, 2022 1:48 pm

This one’s easy. Yes. He CAN play small forward. That’s what he’s listed as on almost all the databases. But then, so is Terrance Davis.
“Should he” is a whole-ass debate.
Really depends on the matchups, the other personnel on the floor with him, the defensive scheme, etc. And once we see those we can enter into phase 2 of said debate, should he continue to play small forward based of a certain sample size.

These guys could run a mean game of small ball if their legs are up for it. They could play a fairly traditional lineup as well with KH at 3, Barnes at 4. Or you could go Barnes at 3 and Lyles at 4. Or Murray at 3 and Barnes at 4. It’s really tough to call until we see what coach Brown’s game plan is. But I think you have to play KH at the 3 at least some of the time, how else is Monk gonna get minutes?

catterj
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September 14, 2022 3:16 pm

The BBall Index has an interesting lineup tool that allows you to create a custom lineup from players that never played together.

I created one with Fox, Monk, Huerter at SF, Barnes, and Sabonis and here is what it looks like with BBall Index’s results:
comment image
O-LEBRON is their all-in-one metric for offense like APM, RAPM, RPM, or RAPTOR. They seem to be doing pretty well with Huerter in that role surrounded by those other players. Huerter is bad at getting to the rim as evidenced by his free throw attempt rate, but there are enough strong rim-getters in this lineup.

However, defense is another story.
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BBall Index’s D-LEBRON loves Sabonis. Huerter is slightly below average. The other three are quite bad. Averaged out and this lineup will probably surrender a lot of points.

Jack
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September 14, 2022 4:22 pm
Reply to  catterj

This tells me Brown and associates have a lot of work on defense.

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