The Atlanta Hawks' brilliant postseason run has been the biggest story of the 2021 NBA playoffs so far, with Kevin Huerter playing a major role. The Hawks have been underdogs in all the series they have played in the playoffs, and have managed to get the better of their opposition in the first two rounds. They are currently locked in a best-of-seven-game battle with the Milwaukee Bucks with the intent of making the NBA finals.
Kevin Huerter's emergence has been a major factor in the Atlanta Hawks' success, as the young swingman has played his role to near perfection.
3 factors why Kevin Huerter is the Atlanta Hawks' trump card in the Eastern Conference finals
Kevin Huerter is averaging 11 points, close to three rebounds and two assists per game in the 2021 NBA playoffs. He played a starring role in the Atlanta Hawks' dramatic Game 7 win against the Philadelphia 76ers, proving that he can be the second option behind Trae Young for Nate McMillan's side.
Huerter has great responsibility on his shoulders for the remainder of the series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Here is why he is the X-factor for the Atlanta Hawks in this conference finals matchup.
#3 His ability to impact proceedings both with and without the ball
Kevin Huerter was always a reliable shooter coming out of college, but it is remarkable how he has improved his playmaking in just three years in the league. Huerter has averaged 3.8 and 3.5 assists per game in the last two seasons, with a healthy turnover count of 1.6 and 1.1 respectively.
These numbers indicate his ability to hurt the opposition with the ball in his hands, something he couldn't execute in his first year in the NBA (2.9 assists and 1.5 TOV per game).
Huerter remains an off-ball threat, and his tendency to come off screens and bomb long-range shots from the perimeter remains a concern for opposition teams. Kevin Huerter possesses the talent to affect the game both on and off the ball, and his versatile skill set could potentially win the series for the Hawks.
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#2 His versatility on the defensive side of the ball
Apart from being a dual-threat on offense, Kevin Huerter is also a promising defender. The Atlanta Hawks are missing key wing defender De'Andre Hunter, who was ruled out for the season in the initial stages of the playoffs. That, along with Bogdan Bogdanovic's knee issue, has left Nate McMillan devoid of options to field at the 3-spot.
But Kevin Huerter has stepped up big time on defense in the Hawks' recent games. Huerter was seen guarding Milwaukee Bucks' small forward Khris Middleton on multiple possessions in Game 1. He also took the Jrue Holiday assignment at times, allowing Trae Young to focus his energy on offense.
If Huerter continues to be a dependable option on defense who can guard 1-3, he is going to be a major asset for McMillan for the series.
#1 Increased importance on offense in light of Bogdan Bogdanovic's fitness concerns
Atlanta Hawks swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic looked like a shadow of his usual self as he ended the game with four points, three rebounds and two assists. Bogdanovic is playing through right knee soreness, which has severely hampered his production.
With Bogdanovic struggling with a knee problem since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Kevin Huerter has stepped up. As mentioned earlier, he had a brilliant outing in the closeout game against 76ers, and his teammates and head coach will expect him to assume more offensive responsibility for the remainder of the playoff games.
Kevin Huerter's ability to score the basketball has been evident throughout the playoffs. The next step would be to ramp up offensive production, especially with Bogdanovic's inability to put up numbers. Kevin Huerter's game and size closely resemble that of Bogdanovic, and it won't be shocking if the young shooting guard is able to deliver while playing the Serbian's role.
The Atlanta Hawks take on the Milwaukee Bucks tonight, and the Hawks' fate will be dependent on how well Kevin Huerter plays.
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