Hawks: Kevin Huerter is becoming a key piece for Atlanta

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Following a thrilling win after being down 18 points to the 76ers at home on Monday, the Hawks look like a team that has a fighting chance after being largely dominated by Philadelphia since the fourth quarter of game one. Their efforts can largely be credited to a former first-round pick, but it may not be the one you’re thinking of. John Collins’ energy helped bring life to this Hawks team, and Trae Young orchestrated the offense with brilliant passes. However, former Maryland guard Kevin Huerter was one of the biggest reasons the Hawks clawed back, and he’s been playing very well all series.

Huerter was one of the few guys who didn’t miss a ton of minutes in 2020-2021, appearing in 69 of 72 regular-season games. I had high hopes for Huerter this season, but he didn’t make the big leap I had expected — only shooting 36% from deep and averaging around 11 points per game. That has all changed in the postseason.

Following a series against the Knicks in which he shot 46% from behind the arc, Huerter’s shooting has become much more of a necessity with De’Andre Hunter done for the season. He’s kept it up, canning 43% of his three-pointers and shooting 54% from the floor. Huerter’s shots always seem to come at key moments, and it’s likely the reason why Nate McMillan gave him his first playoff start on Monday. Not only has Huerter’s offensive output been a pleasant surprise, but he has also come up with some clutch defensive stops — something the team was desperately missing with Hunter out of the rotation.

The stat sheet won’t tell the whole story, but Kevin Huerter is finally looking like a guy that the Hawks can use as a dependable sixth man going forward. The fact that he’s playing his best ball on the brightest stage is the most encouraging part.

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