The Hawks are 17 games into the NBA season, and it’s clear this team has what it takes to make it to the playoffs without going through the play-in. However, doing anything meaningful in the postseason is another question entirely. The team has flaws. The bench could use bolstering, the inconsistencies are reoccurring, and the shooting from the perimeter is horrendous. Some of that should be mitigated when Bogdan Bogdanovic returns, but all these issues seem unnecessary if the team just never traded Kevin Huerter.
Atlanta is last in the league in three-pointers made, and the lack of floor spacers is to blame. Following a disappointing ending to the 2021-22 campaign, everyone knew personnel changes were coming. And boy, did they. The Hawks acquired Dejounte Murray in exchange for Danilo Gallinari and multiple draft picks. The entire offseason was predicated on getting tougher on defense and adding playmakers; it just came at the expense of shooting.
The trades continued, but they weren’t as obviously beneficial to the team as the Murray acquisition. The Hawks dealt Huerter to the Kings for Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless, and a future draft pick. With Harkless no longer with the team, the trade was essentially a swap of Holiday and Hurter because draft picks come second in this league.
Now, Huerter is averaging a career-high 16.1 points per game on the most efficient shooting splits of his career, including a 49.5% clip from beyond the arc. And I understand the system could accentuate Huerter’s skill set and benefit him more than Atlanta’s offensive scheme. But the notion that volume is why he’s having the best season of his career is categorically false.
Huerter is averaging less than a minute more per game this season than his highest season with the Hawks. He’s also averaging only a little more than one field and three-point attempt per game than his highest totals in Atlanta. The volume increase is only marginal. He’s just shooting out of his mind, which could be attributed to the system in Sac Town or the motivation from being traded.
Regardless, the trade looked dumb when the Hawks made it; now, it seems even worse. And most recently, the deal looks like a total shitshow with news that confirms it wasn’t Travis Schlenk or anyone in the front office’s idea to trade Huerter.
Chris Kirschner of The Athletic was the team’s beat reporter for years before taking a role within the company to cover the Yankees. He tweeted that the trade was an abomination and implied it came down from ownership.
The Huerter trade was an abomination but that didn’t come from the front office
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) November 18, 2022
This makes it all that much worse because Tony Ressler said this about going into the luxury tax this offseason, “If the question is are we scared of the tax, are we scared of going into the tax? I’m scared of paying the tax and not being a good team, yes, that I’m scared of, but if we have to go into the tax to be a great team for a period of time, so be it.”
As the roster currently stands, the Hawks have a little under $2 million of cap space until reaching the luxury tax threshold, per Spotrac. Huerter’s $14.5 million cap hit this season would have Atlanta’s team cap around $12 million above the tax line. Given the tax’s escalator, the Hawks would likely be on the hook for around $12.5 million in penalties.
- $0-5MM above tax line: $1.50 per dollar (up to $7.5MM).
- $5-10MM above tax line: $1.75 per dollar (up to $8.75MM).
- $10-15MM above tax line: $2.50 per dollar (up to $12.5MM).
- $15-20MM above tax line: $3.25 per dollar (up to $16.25MM).
Is $12.5 million worth it to have Kevin Huerter on this team instead of Justin Holiday? Ressler obviously didn’t think he was the piece to make the Hawks a championship contender. And that’s fine; It’s his prerogative. It’s his money. Still, it can be frustrating for fans who were convinced by ownership that they’d be willing to spend money to compete for championships, and the Hawks aren’t even trying. It would’ve been more respectable to bite the bullet, pay the tax to have Kevin Huerter in the fold then reassess next offseason if the tax penalties were worth it. To not even try is extremely discouraging as a Hawks fan.