Cam Reddish

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Hawks’ Kevin Huerter to start ‘modified on-court work’ but out for at least 3 more games

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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks say guard Kevin Huerter will miss their upcoming road trip while he recovers from a shoulder injury.

Huerter strained his left rotator cuff when fouled by Denver’s Nikola Jokic on Nov. 12. He was examined again by team doctors Monday night and has been “cleared to begin modified on-court work and return-to-play rehabilitation,” according to a press release by the team.

Huerter provides another three-point threat to Atlanta, 58 percent of his shots come from beyond the arc and he hits 38.6 percent of them. Rookie Cam Reddish and DeAndre’ Bembry have filled in for Huerter, who is averaging 9.3 points a game. Reddish recently missed two games with a sprained left wrist.

The three-game road trip begins Wednesday night at Milwaukee.

 

Rumor: Kings passed on Luka Doncic in draft because Vlade Divac doesn’t like Doncic’s dad

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Luka Doncic looks like an NBA superstar — already, at age 20 — and the kind of player that can win MVPs and turn a team into a contender. A true franchise cornerstone.

Anytime a player like that doesn’t go No. 1 in the draft, especially when that player comes in with the level of hype Doncic did (he had just won the EuroLeague MVP at 19), there’s fingerpointing at front offices. How did they miss on this guy?

In the case of the Suns (who  had just hired Doncic’s international coach), multiple of sources around the league say Phoenix owner Robert Sarver pushed for Deandre Ayton, the in-state Arizona player (and, to be fair, he was on top of a lot, if not most, team draft boards).

The Kings are harder to pin down, Vlade Divac is well connected in Europe and had seen Doncic. So why pass? Tim MacMahon of ESPN told this story on The Woj Pod about Doncic (hat tip to Jesse Reed of Sportsnaut).

“My understanding is that [Divac] being so close to Luka and knowing his dad so well factored into their decision. Basically, he didn’t think a whole lot of Luka’s dad, and the whole like father like son … well … no, this is a different dude. You messed that one up, Vlade.”

The Kings will undoubtedly push back on this idea, and there’s certainly no way to prove this rumor. The Kings’ argument for their moves would be a respectable one: They had Marvin Bagley higher on their draft board — and he is a quality young big man (out right now with a fluke broken thumb) — plus they had a primary ballhandler they liked in De'Aaron Fox. From the outside, it is impossible to say what really drove the Kings’ decision, but it would not be the first time that personal feelings got in the way of smart basketball moves.

Even if you buy Sacramento’s reasoning, that doesn’t make this any less of a miss. They either underestimated Doncic or overestimated Bagley (who looks to be good but not on Doncic’s level). Also, having a player a team likes is a terrible reason to pass on the best player available even if they fill the same role. It’s the “we have Clyde Drexler so we’re not going to take Michael Jordan” issue. Talent wins in the NBA. Flat out. Draft the best player, get the most talent, and if a team ends up with too many players at one position or has overlapping skill sets, then make a trade from a position of strength.

Which is to say, MacMahon was right about this, “You messed that one up, Vlade.”

A discussion point on this draft for a future day: Do the Hawks get a pass for setting up the trade of Doncic that netted Atlanta Trae Young and the pick that became Cam Reddish? Young is a special talent as well, so it feels a little too early to make that call, but Doncic has looked the better player.

No MRI needed for Trae Young, out Thursday but could return next week

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This is as good of news as Atlanta could have hoped for on Trae Young.

Young got treatment today at the Hawks’ facility in Atlanta, but no MRI is scheduled — the right ankle sprain isn’t severe enough to warrant one. Young has been ruled out for the Hawks game Thursday night against Miami, but after that the team is off until next Tuesday and Young could return for that game or later next week. While the Hawks are going to be cautious with their young star, he’s not going to miss extended time.

Last night, Young had put this message out on Instagram.

This means Atlanta can exhale — as can fans everywhere because Young has been must watch this season. When the injury happened at the start of the second quarter Wednesday night, it looked much worse.

Atlanta needs him back, the Hawks are 22.5 points per 100 possessions better this season when Young is on the court. Young has torn up the league to start the season, averaging 26.8 points per game, shooting 50 percent from three, and dishing out 7.3 assists per night.

Behind him there is a steep drop off. Evan Turner is supposed to be the backup point guard but has been out with left Achilles pain, which leaves just-claimed-off-waiver Tyrone Wallace as the only pure point guard on the roster. Then there is second-year man Kevin Huerter, plus rookies Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, to handle the other guard spot.

Three Things to Know: Trae Young’s ‘painful’ ankle sprain will hurt Hawks

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) It’s going to be a painful for the Hawks without Trae Young. After the game, Trae Young described his sprained ankle as “painful.”

We all knew that when it happened — it made you a little queasy to watch it.

Young’s ankle is going to be painful for the Hawks until he gets back.

The Hawks have been 22.5 points per 100 possessions better this season when Young is on the court. Or, put in raw numbers, Atlanta is +28 when Young has been on the court this season and -24 when he has sat.

If you need more proof of just how critical Young is to Atlanta, just watch what happened against Miami, where it was basically an even game when Young was in, but not too long after he went down the Heat went on an 11-0 run and never looked back, winning 112-97.

Miami got Jimmy Butler back and he had 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting, attacking the rim and getting to the line 15 times. It opened up the Heat offense. Butler thanked Heat fans — and Bam Adebayo is already joking around with Butler on Twitter.

Miami also had a big night from its rookies, Tyler Herro had 29 points and Kendrick Nunn added 17 as the starter in the backcourt with Butler. More on them later.

For Atlanta, they await the MRI of young’s ankle that will come on Wednesday.

The Hawks are without backup point guard Evan Turner (left Achilles pain), which means it’s a combination of just-claimed-off-waiver Tyrone Wallace, second-year man Kevin Huerter, and rookies Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, to handle the guard spots for the Hawks.

We all hope Young is back soon, the game is just more fun when he plays.

2) Anthony Davis put up 40 points and 20 rebounds — in three quarters. Other players have put up 40/20 lines before — Shaq was the last Laker to do it, back in 2003 — but Davis set a record when he did it against Memphis Tuesday:

He’s the first player to score 40 points and grab 20 rebounds in three quarters.

Davis was attacking and aggressive, which drew a lot of fouls — he was 26-of-27 from the free-throw line on the night. Consider this: Davis had 20 third-quarter points and was 1-of-1 from the field. It was all at the stripe.

Memphis hung around in this one for a half, behind impressive rookie Ja Morant who had 16 points on the night. Memphis even led in the third quarter until Davis fueled a 29-2 Lakers run that essentially ended the game.

The Lakers did what good teams should do the last couple of games and feast on weaker opponents (Charlotte and Memphis will be near the bottom of the league this season). Now they head out on the road for three and that will be a better test.

3) Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro are not your average rookies in Miami. Pat Riley and the Miami Heat don’t lean on rookies. This is an organization that trusts veterans, stockpiling them through free agency or via trades, and when the Heat do land in the lottery or get a rookie they like they bring the guy along slowly.

Until this season.

The combination of undrafted Kendrick Nunn and first-round sharpshooter Tyler Herro not only started the first three games but also have been crucial to what Miami is able to do — they are combining for 37.3 points per night through four games. Nunn and Herro are key reasons the Heat are 3-1 to start the season.

Both started the first three games of the season — the first time the Heat started two rookies in a game since Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers in 2008 — until Jimmy Butler returned on Tuesday. Herro went to the bench, yet still led the team with 29 points.

Herro was a player fans knew, a star at Kentucky who was drafted No. 13 overall last June. He impressed at Summer League and going into training camp it was easy to envision a role for him next to Butler and Goran Dragic as a floor spacer.

Nunn was the surprise. He went undrafted in 2018 and paid his dues for a season in the G-League before the Heat signed him on the final day of the regular season. Nunn impressed at Summer League, in workouts around the team, and at age 24 is now starting in front of Goran Dragic for the Heat.

Both rookies are playing with confidence. And when you combine Herro and Nunn with 22-year-old Bam Adebayo and 23-year-old Justise Winslow, suddenly the future in Miami looks bright. That’s a lot of quality young players.

Ones that could well lift the Heat back to the playoffs this season (thanks to a little help from that Butler guy, too).

Are the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls the future of the Eastern Conference?

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

This season, the Eastern Conference shapes up to be a showdown between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Joel Embiid. Two long and athletic teams that know how to defend. Both have questions — how will the losses of Jimmy Butler for the Sixers and Malcolm Brogdon for the Bucks impact them? — and there are teams like Boston and Indiana hanging on the fringes trying to get in the conversation, but the East is shaping up as a two-team race at the top.

The other question in the East: Who’s got next?

The Bucks and the Sixers are relatively young, they should be at the top for years, but what young teams are on the rise in the East and look like they could be coming for the Bucks and Sixers in a few years?

Atlanta and Chicago.

There’s a long road still to travel still, and plenty that can derail these teams, but the Hawks and Bulls have the potential to make that elite status. Let’s look at them.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Talent wins in the Association, and for Atlanta it all starts with the potential of Trae Young and John Collins. In our summer rankings series of “The 50 Best Players in Five Years” series, we ranked Collins 24th in the NBA and Young 10th in the summer of 2024. NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh put it this way:

“I made the declaration earlier this summer that Collins and Young ould be this generation’s Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash. I stand by that. Collins may not be as strong and polished offensively as Stoudemire, but they play with the same force around the basket. Every time Collins dunks, you wonder what the basket ever did to him to deserve that assault.”

Young plays with a flash and style you just can’t take your eyes off of. He has shooting range out to the parking lot, impressive and improving handles, and the kind of court vision that cannot be taught. He must become a better defender, he’s got to score more efficiently around the rim, and the calls for him to be an All-Star in his second NBA season, at age 21, may be jumping the gun, but Young is poised to be one of the faces of the league.

The chemistry with Young and Collins can be everything for this team, and the foundation of a contender.

Around them they have Kevin Huerter as a potential long-term backcourt mate with Young, they added a solid young center who suddenly could hit threes last season in Alex Len, and on the wing they drafted a couple of guys with potential in DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish, hoping at least one of them develops into the No. 3 guy next to Collins and Young. (A lot of teams were not as high on Hunter as the Hawks heading into the draft, but Reddish could be a steal at No. 10.)

Those young players have landed in one of the best player development systems in the NBA — that’s why Lloyd Pierce was brought in as coach last season, and he delivered. He has found a great balance of letting guys learn and accountability, the kind of tough-but-fair teacher everyone respected in school. The Hawks are building something that feels real and lasting.

Is this the year they make the leap? Last year they had 29 wins, and the usual trajectory would have the Hawks mid-30s this season, which in the East likely keeps them on the fringes of the playoff chase most of the season. But a leap is coming, one up above .500. Maybe this season, more likely the following season, but it’s coming. The potential trajectory for this team looks like a rocket to the moon.

CHICAGO BULLS

Let’s be upfront here: I have less faith the Bulls eventually can reach the upper echelons of the NBA than I am the Hawks, and the primary reason is I don’t trust fully GarPax in the front office. Yes, they have built an impressive young team with potential, but if I told you in four years the front office had screwed up the chances, would anyone really be shocked?

But make no mistake, this team has potential.

That starts along the frontline — Lauri Markkanen is very good at basketball. He averaged 18.9 points a game and nine rebounds a game, shooting 36.1 percent from three, all at age 21. He’s entering his third NBA season and we could see a leap in his game. Next to him is second-year man Wendell Carter, who averaged 10.3 points and seven rebounds a game, and more importantly, was the kind of rim protector any good team needs in the modern NBA. Together, that’s a very good frontcourt of the future, one that fits the modern game.

Scoring on the wing comes in bunches from Zach LaVine, who showed he more than a dunk contest guy. He took more than five threes a game and shot 37.4 percent, he is a good passer who keeps the ball moving, and is at least trying on defense. Next to him is a quality wing in Otto Porter, who averaged 13.9 points per game last season, shot 40 percent from three, and could become a free agent next summer (although don’t bet on him opting out of $28.5 million).

The point of the future will be Coby White, who has a world of potential but it’s going to take a few years of work to get there.

This summer the Bulls made two pickups that — in my mind — will vault them into the playoffs this season. One is point guard Tomas Satoransky, who Washington let walk (one of their confusing moves) and will be the guy that knows how to start plays, hit threes, defend, and just go get a bucket now and again when they need it. He played well for stretches with the Wizards when John Wall was out. The other quality pickup is Thaddeus Young, who was critical to the Pacers’ defense last season, plus he just is a glue guy on the offensive end who can be a backup four and give them quality minutes (don’t be shocked if he closes games for Jim Boylen at times).

The Bulls have a young but reasonably well-rounded roster, and while they won 22 games last season they could be in the high 30s this season and pushing for a playoff spot in the East. It’s a big leap.

Bulls fans hope just one of many.