Atlanta Hawks superstar point guard Trae Young is off to a blistering offensive start to his NBA career, quickly ascending to All-Star levels in his sophomore season as the league’s 4th-highest scorer (29.6) and 2nd only to Lebron James in assists per game (9.3). However, while these are historic numbers, his defensive metrics have him as the league’s worst defender among point guards.
That being said, the Hawks have prioritized surrounding Young with talented defensive players in Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, and Clint Capela, which will remain a focus for Travis Schlenk.
Prior to the 2020-2021 season beginning (whenever that is), the Hawks coaching staff will have a tough time deciding whether to rely on Kevin Huerter, a relatively raw but capable offensive threat and secondary ball-handler, or Cam Reddish, an immediate defensive playmaker and potential 2-way force for the Hawks, at the 2-guard position.
Let’s compare Huerter and Reddish’s profiles.
Kevin Huerter: 12.2ppg, 38%3fg, 41.3%2fg, 82.8ft%; 6 ft 7 in, 190lbs
When the Hawks drafted Maryland sharpshooter Kevin Huerter alongside Trae Young, who had drawn comparisons to Steph Curry, speculation arose that Huerter could be the Hawks’ version of Klay Thompson. I recall when Atlanta drafted him, I’d even hype up their pairing to my friends — “Guys, they can be the next great backcourt in the East, just watch!”
Two years into his career, Huerter has lived up to some of those lofty offensive expectations by shooting around 38% from 3 and showcasing some improved playmaking ability, tallying almost four assists per game this season. But unfortunately, as was the case with his rookie campaign, a couple of injuries (knee and left rotator cuff) never allowed him to establish full offensive consistency in his second year. But defensively, Huerter hasn’t shown that he can adequately cover for Young’s deficiencies, which primarily accounts for the Hawks’ coaching staff’s hesitancy to “close the book” on the 2-guard discussion.
Cam Reddish: 10.5 ppg, 3.7reb, 1.5 asts, 33.2%3fg, 38.4%2fg, 80.2ft%; 6 ft 8 in, 218lbs
Alright, I know you’re probably thinking: “How is this even up for discussion? Reddish’s stats show that he can’t shoot the ball to save his life.” But to provide some context, Reddish posted an abysmal 21.5% from 3 and 29.6% from 2 from October to December (31 games). In January through March (27 games), he shot 41% from 3 and 46.8% from 2, seemingly finding his groove and demonstrating significant improvement. Although these splits come from relatively small sample sizes, if Reddish can maintain his shooting numbers from the latter half of the season, he’s a starter and possibly something special.
Defensively, Reddish passed the “eye test” upon his arrival to the NBA. At 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan, he almost immediately demonstrated a sharp defensive acumen. His lanky frame allows him to poke the ball away from offensive players, especially late in games (Miami Heat I’m talking to yall!) and dive into passing lanes to disrupt passes.
Hawks Coach Marlon Garnett spoke highly of Reddish’s defensive ability, and the team as a whole recognizes his elite potential on that end. SI’s Ben Ladner sung praises of Reddish’s “fairly advanced grasp on the finer points of off-ball defense,” and the way he affects “opponents’ sets at the point of attack and as a help defender.”
Now that the Hawks’ season has officially ended, Atlanta’s coaching staff has an intriguing impending decision to make about Huerter and Reddish’s future roles on the team, and beyond that, each player’s ability to impact winning in the long-term.