With the dust still settling from the conclusion of the 2018 NBA draft combine, teams and scouts have swiftly begun running back to headquarters to edit their big boards after getting what theoretically was their first face to face time with this year’s class of prospects.
The Los Angeles Lakers were not excluded from the experience, as both Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson made their way to Chicago to get their very own glimpses of who could potentially fit this year’s first round bill.
Not unfamiliar to using the combine as a resource in analyzing prospects, the team struck gold there last year when they caught the newly appointed member of the NBA’s “All Rookie-first team,” Kyle Kuzma’s shooting barrage in person, something that has since been noted as serving a factor in the team selecting him 27th overall.
As far as to who the team could be circling on their board this time around as the next potential piece to the promising young core, the answer may have once again been presented at the yearly pre-draft event.
Of the number of prospects that participated in the multi-day process were a select few that specifically popped in the eyes of those covering the event. Among these individuals was one who did especially well enough to go on to be labeled: “Probably the most impressive shooter at the combine” by a Western Conference scout.
The player in mention—potential first-round pick, Kevin Huerter.
At still only 19 years of age, Huerter helped make a name for himself in draft circles this past season with his tremendous shot diversity and potential three-level scoring upside. His stellar shot-making during his sophomore campaign at Maryland culminated with 50/41/75 shooting splits for the Terrapins.
For a Lakers team that finished 29th in three-point percentage last season and has not shot above league average from distance since the 2013-14 campaign, bringing in a potential knockdown threat makes a substantial amount of sense.
And now that it’s been announced that Huerter will work out for the Lakers, it’s worth asking: Just how good of a shooter is Kevin Huerter?
With legitimate NBA range and a stunning 64 percent true-shooting percentage, Huerter has the potential to have some of the greatest gravitational pull in the league for years to come.
The combination of clean and consistent shooting mechanics, and just enough swagger to pull up from anywhere makes the guard a serious scoring threat from every inch of the floor. This level of shooting ability is something the purple and gold have lacked drastically in recent seasons as their league rankings exposed.
Huerter’s aforementioned shot diversity is not strictly prohibited to common catch and shoot situations. He has also shown adept efficiency at nearly every level, including both off movement and off the dribble.
The guard’s ability to come off screens, designated hand-offs, and more impressively off the dribble into a one motion, and smooth shooting stroke could potentially be a game changer for the Lakers’ offense if his efficiency translates at the next level.
In many instances these types of pin downs and floppy actions went to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last season in Luke Walton’s offense, and although KCP was relatively efficient in the role, one could not help but ponder how much more value per possession could have be derived if Huerter were the one in these situations.
With this in mind, an important notion for shooters in general are the ancillary skills that can be leveraged in cohesion with the gravity they provide to an offense. There are “3 and D” archetypes who do just that: shoot the three ball and defend. Of course if a player is truly one of the elite of the elite, or at least above average, like a J.J. Redick or Kyle Korver, there is the possibility to survive strictly on their spacing value alone.
Whether or not Kevin Huerter is one of these types of players at the next level is still to be determined, but what he does and could potentially have are in fact enticing ancillary skills to supplement his shooting, specifically his playmaking.
Huerter’s paycheck will most likely ultimately be dependent on his outside shot, but the Maryland product flashed real playmaking chops last season to possibly project an untapped source of creation on the floor.
Playing primarily as an off-ball threat in college, Huerter’s experience playing point-guard in high school helped pay dividends in adding another dimension to his game. This natural feel and savvy court awareness could serve as an important counter at the next level when teams aggressively close out and chase him off the three-point line.
Not the lightest of foot, yet Huerter showed to be very capable and willing to attack those eager close outs from the opposition and either zipped a pass to a weak side teammate in the corner, or found his big man rolling to the paint for the lob look.
His on and off ball creation could theoretically be a welcome addition for Lonzo Ball specifically, who could benefit from playing alongside a backcourt mate who could get him more scoring opportunities off ball in catch and shoot situations or through cuts to the rim.
Huerter’s question marks entering the NBA are worth mentioning and something the Lakers, and other teams around the league must consider. Mostly tied to his overall athleticism, specifically his functionality and defending at the next level, Huerter has drawn concerns on whether or not he can even get by as a professional.
In some respects these general concerns are valid. Despite showing ambidexterity finishing around the rim and a polished in between game, there is also skepticism revolving around him due to his loose handle and scoring/finishing against physicality and length. That being said, Huerter does possess encouraging physical features in his favor that could help him fare well enough at the next level despite initial issues.
Officially measuring in at 6’7” with shoes and possessing a standing reach of 8’5,” Huerter has the positional size and length to alleviate some of the defensive ailments he may conceivably have when going up against more gifted athletes in the NBA.
There is also the element of him simply being an underrated defender in a general sense. Not a stopper by any means, Huerter does seem to have a nose for the ball and uses his size well enough to stymie opponents with an unexpected good first lateral step.
Quickness and situational athleticism are not characteristics one would immediately think of Huerter having in spades at first glance, yet they were — almost ironically — something he tested positively at during his time in Chicago. The potential first-round pick finished the combine with the third best shuttle run time, tenth-best lane agility time, and a sported a 38 inch max vertical leap.
Though not entirely representative of an explosive first step, or serving up posters on the regular, the tests and his overall impressive performance during the combine does help soothe some of the concerns about his game projecting at the next level.
Huerter’s chances of being a Laker, or in the NBA at all come draft night, is still up in the air with an uncertainty if he plans to return to Maryland for another collegiate season. The May 30th deadline is ticking, and although many scouts and teams believe his shooting and all-around game are first-round talent, there is still a wait and see game to be had.
With that in mind, the Lakers may in fact be one of the very last teams to see the sharpshooter in person before he makes his decision. One could speculate if Huerter does indeed decide to remain in the draft he potentially could have been given a soft-landing spot promise by one of these remaining teams during the process.
As a team firmly in his mid-first/early second draft projection, Los Angeles could potentially fit this bill considering their desperate need for shooting, and simply multi-talented players, ahead of what is the be an eventful offseason.
NBA Draft Combine measurements courtesy: stats.NBA.com