Analysis: Kevin Huerter can play point guard, too

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte Hornets drives to the basket against teammates Kevin Huerter  and Vince Carter of the Atlanta Hawks during their game at Spectrum Center on December 08, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Combined ShapeCaption
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte Hornets drives to the basket against teammates Kevin Huerter and Vince Carter of the Atlanta Hawks during their game at Spectrum Center on December 08, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Hawks (6-17) put together one of their more complete performances of the season in a 122-107 win in Charlotte Sunday.

Here are some takeaways from the win:

1. After missing 11 games with a left shoulder injury (the Hawks went 1-10 without him), this marked Kevin Huerter’s second game back. Even though he was playing with a 25-minute restriction and is still getting back in a groove, Huerter’s impact can’t be minimized. Huerter finished with nine points (making 3 of 6 3-point attempts), six assists, two steals, two rebounds and one blocked shot. In Trae Young’s absence, Huerter took over at point guard and gave the team another facilitator (in addition to shooter). And when Young and Huerter play together, it relieves some pressure on Young. “We always talk about Kevin as a shooter but the thing we miss the most is his ability to facilitate,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I think he had six assists tonight and only six shots. So he gets six threes and six assists, what an advantage you have for a player like that. ... That’s the biggest thing we missed out of Kevin Huerter, him not being around, is his ability to create plays for other guys. And that helps us, because you can move Trae off the basketball.”

2. On that note, the Hawks are getting healthier overall, which gives them more options to work with. Allen Crabbe returned Sunday after right knee soreness kept him out of Wednesday’s loss to Brooklyn and De’Andre Hunter returned as well (he was also out Wednesday after dislocating his right index finger in Monday’s win vs. Golden State. “I just thought everybody was communicating with each other a little bit better,” Pierce said. “Some of that, I think, has to do with rotations. When you have healthy bodies and you can play guys and you don’t have to play guys extra minutes, I can sub guys out. ... I just thought they were engaged and communicating and when they were tired, I was able to pull them out and not feel like I was missing a beat, or like they had to do too much while they were out there.”

3. To no one’s surprise, Trae Young led the Hawks in scoring yet again, finishing with 30 points (14 of which came in the fourth quarter) and nine assists. But this game was largely about the Hawks’ supporting cast stepping up. Five other Hawks scored in double-digits in Jabari Parker (19), Vince Carter (17), Alex Len (13), Allen Crabbe (11) and De’Andre Hunter (10). In total, the Hawks’ bench provided 57 points.

4. The Hawks are no stranger to defensive rebounding woes, entering the game ranked second-to-last in the league at 31.6 per game. But neither are the Hornets (they’re the only team behind the Hawks, at 31.1 per game). That scale tipped in the Hawks’ favor Sunday, thanks to 10 rebounds from Alex Len, eight from Damian Jones and seven from Jabari Parker. In total, the Hawks tallied 37 defensive rebounds (48 total) compared to the Hornets’ 31 (44 total).

5. Playing in familiar territory, former UNC Tar Heel Vince Carter led the Hawks in scoring off the bench with 17 points (7-11 FG, 3-for-6 from 3-point range), getting plenty of cheers from the crowd throughout the night. Carter, who after he plays a game in 2020 will become the first NBA player to play a game in four decades, added two assists and one blocked shot. “His value is always just the leadership, he’s able to keep us organized and keep balanced, when he’s picking and popping and shooting threes and opening up the floor like that... it opens up everything for everyone else, but just always happy to see him perform well at this stage in his career,” Pierce said.

By the Numbers

28 (the amount of assists the Hawks tallied)

Quotable 

“I just thought they were engaged and communicating and when they were tired, I was able to pull them out and not feel like I was missing a beat, or like they had to do too much while they were out there.” (Pierce on the Hawks getting healthier)