After beating the Utah Jazz to get their first win of the regular season, the Kings are getting ready for their much-anticipated home opener against the Golden State Warriors. The budding rivalry already treated fans to two thrilling preseason matchups that seemed more like playoff games than anything else.
Both teams are looking to make a case for themselves as one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season and will bring their A-Game to Golden 1 Center. De’Aaron Fox just became the Curry Brand’s first signature athlete, but that doesn’t mean Stephen Curry will hold back in his attempts to beat the Kings.
Even with Draymond Green out due to an ankle injury, the game promises to be an exciting one and a win won’t come easy for either team. Here are three things to keep an eye on in the Kings’ home opener and first game on national TV.
#3: How does Kevin Huerter look?
Ever since preseason kicked off, Kevin Huerter has been unable to find his shot, carrying over the same struggles he faced in last season’s playoffs. Over the seven-game series against the Warriors, he shot only 34.7 percent on field goals and 20.3 percent on threes. Whatever the problem was has not fixed itself yet.
In the Kings’ season opener against the Utah Jazz, Huerter went 3-9 from the field and 1-5 from three. If his shooting struggles continue, it poses not only a problem for Huerter but for the entire team.
Huerter is much more than just a shooter, but his ability to stretch the floor and punish defenses from behind the arc was a big part of the Kings’ high-scoring offense last season. He was great in dribble handoff actions with Sabonis, either knocking down the three or getting to the rim if the defense ran him off the line.
As the Kings’ third-leading scorer, everything he did was a vital part of the team’s success. Now, Keegan Murray is expected to take on a bigger role offensively, and Chris Duarte will get minutes on the wing, but that doesn’t necessarily make Huerter expendable.
After the Kings finished the season as one of the worst defensive teams in the league, Mike Brown has made it his mission to improve that. He is asking his players to put in more effort, fight over screens, and be physical.
Huerter has never been a particularly good defender, but now there is a magnifying glass on his performance, and it seems to have made him unsure of himself, especially if he is not hitting enough shots to justify his presence on the court.
Chris Duarte already replaced him in the starting lineup once, and Mike Brown looks ready to give him more minutes in the regular season as well if he doesn’t like what he sees from Huerter. That is a lot of pressure on a player who was such an integral part of the Kings’ new-found success.
So, it is important to keep an eye on how Huerter looks in the next couple of games, particularly a high-profile one like the Kings’ home opener. How does he respond to the pressure? Can he find his shooting touch? Can he bring the defensive intensity Coach Brown wants to see?