The Trail Blazers offseason is upon us, and the 2018 NBA Draft will provide Portland with an opportunity to supplement its roster with a talented youngster. With only the No. 24 pick at their disposal on draft night, the Blazers will look to thread the needle by finding an NBA-worthy prospect in the latter stages of the first round. As a result of an impressive performance at the NBA Combine, Maryland’s Kevin Huerter will be featured in today’s profile.
- Height: 6’7”
- Weight: 194
- Wingspan: 6’7”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SG
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 18-37
- PPG: 14.8 | Per 40: 17.1
- RPG: 5.0 | Per 40: 5.8
- APG: 3.4 | Per 40: 3.9
- FG%: 50.3
- 3P%: 41.7
- FT%: 75.8
Thanks to the NBA’s emphasis on floor spacing, Huerter’s draft stock has steadily increased since he declared for the NBA Draft. The 19-year-old shooting guard’s most marketable skill is his ability to punish defenses that leave him open from beyond the arc. Last season, Huerter proved to be one of the deadliest catch-and-shoot practitioners in the country. Outside of punishing late-reacting defenders, the New York native has improved his ability to shoot off screens. He’s quick to get into his shooting motion off the dribble. When driving, his ability to finish with either hand inside the paint keeps defenders guessing. Defensively, Huerter is competent, avoiding embarrassment by relying on proper positioning.
At just 19 years old, Huerter has a considerable amount of work to do on his body before he will be able to compete defensively with NBA veterans. Even with a favorable height measurement for a shooting guard, his positional flexibility has a firm ceiling due to his uninspiring wingspan. On the other side of the ball, Huerter is limited inside the arc. Without an explosive first step, it could be difficult for the former Terrapin to create his own shot. Those issues are compounded by his inability to get to the free throw line. Without advancement in those areas of his offensive game, defenders will be able to close out on him with limited consequences.
Don’t let Maryland’s up-and-down 19-13 record fool you; Huerter was a consistent offensive presence throughout the season. The sharp-shooting sophomore made the most of his increased role by raising his statistical output across the board in 2017-18. Against a perimeter-friendly Syracuse defense in late-November Huerter shot an impressive 7-of-9 from beyond the arc in a narrow loss.
Thanks to his age, Huerter’s upside should be able to outweigh the potential red flags. Most of the 19-year-old guard’s problems stem from age, and could be remedied by an NBA training regimen. Despite his obvious deficiencies, he does have an elite ability to stretch the floor. He is willing to play within himself, limiting his weaknesses by minimizing their exposure. Team’s outside of the lottery will likely be cautious of a player that catapulted up draft boards due to a stellar outing at the combine, but his shooting is impressive. If he can prove that his work in the pre-draft process can translate to the court, Huerter could blossom into a serviceable two-way player.
By bringing in Anthony Morrow for last year’s training camp, the Blazers expressed a clear interest in finding cheap help from beyond the arc. Huerter would check the same boxes, and would provide Portland’s coaching staff with a 19-year-old prospect ready to be molded into more than just a shooter. Even with that in mind, Huerter might not be the pick if the Blazers are looking to make a splash on draft night.
Optics aside, the former Maryland standout would help keep defenses honest by punishing teams that ignore him. If his body does develop, he could see time at the small forward spot in the right matchups. But even with a bit of luck, Huerter won’t be ready for significant minutes until he addresses the holes in his game.
Do you want to see Huerter in a Trail Blazers jersey next season? What prospect would you like to see us highlight next? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com