There were nerves for the Atlanta Hawks' two top draft picks on Monday night. The Hawks opened the preseason portion of the 2018 campaign with a 116-102 win against the New Orleans Pelicans at McCamish Pavilion.
The fifth selection in this summer's NBA Draft Trae Young felt the expected pre-game jitters for a player playing in his first home game.
“I’m having a little bit of nerves, but I think that just comes with it, playing in your first game in the NBA,” Young said prior to the game. “There’s definitely a little bit of nerves, but I’m really excited to be here.”
Young's tenure in a Hawks' uniform began with him starting at point guard and early on he looked like he felt pregame though he displayed playmaking ability early with seven assists in the first half. Young 1-for-11 when the Hawks went to the locker room for the halftime break.
In the third quarter Young drained a three pointer in the left corner and it seemed to settle him, though he attempted a similar three-pointer on the next possession that came up short of the basket. He quickly added two more field goals over the next 2 minutes and went on to finish the game with 11 points and eight assists in 20 minutes of play.
"It’s a good thing seeing the ball go through the hole,” Young said. “It wasn’t necessarily really good on the next possession, shooting it really short, but I think that was just a little bit of conditioning. It was very good seeing the ball go through the hole whenever it goes.”
Following the game, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce applauded Young’s playmaking ability.
“He was going off the backboard, wrap arounds, and we’ve talked about it all along, his greatest skillset is that he can facilitate,” Pierce said. “He can find guys and when you have a player with the ability to find guys in creative ways, he’s fun to play with.”
The second of the Hawks’ three first round picks Kevin Huerter played 19 minutes and put in two points after going 1-for-5 from the floor. Huerter’s learning curve may be a bit more challenging after he missed Summer League action as he recovered from a wrist injury following the college season. Huerter was happy simply to be back on the basketball court playing in an organized game.
“It was exciting,” Huerter said. “It seemed like a long road to get back and the way this season is coming up quick, but I’m just excited to be back out there and get to play against some different people. I think the first couple times up the court and when I made my first move and touched the ball the first time, that was when I kind of settled down and really felt into it. I would say those first couple of possessions out there I didn’t really know what to expect.”
Huerter’s three-point prowess is what made him an attractive selection for the Hawks who appear to be trying to harness the pace and space culture. Monday, Huerter felt he left some shot opportunities out on the floor.
He was told by multiple teammates after the game that some of the shots they need him to take in order to help the offense run the way it’s supposed to.
“I’m going to start looking for my shot a little more,” Huerter said. “For me a big part of my game is finding other guys, but I may have passed up a couple shots. Teammates were saying they wanted to see me shoot.”