Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter’s season is likely over after grim injury diagnosis

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Kings guard Kevin Huerter will likely miss the rest of the season after suffering a left shoulder injury in Monday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Kings provided an update on Huerter’s injury before Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards and the diagnosis was not good for the 25-year-old shooting guard.

The team said imaging exams showed Huerter sustained a left shoulder dislocation and a torn labrum. Treatment options are still being evaluated. A league source told The Sacramento Bee Huerter will decide on a course of treatment, including surgical options. There is no timetable for his return with only 23 days remaining in the regular season.

Kings coach Mike Brown has indicated Keon Ellis will continue to start in Huerter’s absence. Sacramento is 7-0 with Ellis in the starting lineup, but the Kings will miss the shooting and floor spacing Huerter provides as they try to secure a playoff berth in the Western Conference.

The Kings (40-28) were sixth in the West going into Thursday’s game against the Wizards. They were a half-game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns with 14 games remaining.

Huerter sustained the injury when he was fouled by Desmond Bane in the first quarter of Monday’s overtime win against the Grizzlies. Bane swiped down at the ball but struck Huerter’s left arm as he went up for a layup attempt.

Huerter went down under the basket and remained down for several minutes while receiving attention from the team’s medical staff. Huerter was eventually helped to his feet and led to the locker room for further evaluation and treatment. The team later announced he would not return to the game.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine in 2020 showed NBA players who sustained a shoulder dislocation returned after an average of 7.6 weeks. New York Knicks star Julius Randle is ramping up to a return after missing almost eight weeks with a right shoulder dislocation.

Players who underwent surgery to repair shoulder instability were sidelined for an average of 19 weeks. Grizzlies star Ja Morant underwent season-ending surgery after suffering a torn labrum in January.

An eight-week recovery would prevent Huerter from returning until May 13. The conference semifinals are scheduled to begin May 6-7 with the conference finals set to begin May 21-22.

Huerter came out of Maryland as the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Hawks before coming to Sacramento in the July 2022 trade that sent Maurice Harkless, Justin Holiday and a first-round draft pick to Atlanta.

Huerter scored 23 points in his Kings debut against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 19, 2022. He averaged 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 48.5% from the field and 40.2% from 3-point range last season, helping the Kings end the longest playoff drought in NBA history after 16 consecutive losing seasons. Huerter’s 3-point shooting was critical to Sacramento’s success as the Kings took the league by storm, averaging a league-high 120.7 points per game while recording the highest offensive rating in NBA history.

This season has been more of a struggle with a series of highs and lows. Kings coach Mike Brown has challenged Huerter to become a better defender since the start of training camp. Huerter has been better defensively at times, but offensively he has been wildly inconsistent.

Huerter’s scoring average has fallen to 10.2 points per game. His shooting percentages have dipped to 44.3% from the field and 36.1% from 3-point range. He shot 39.6% from beyond the arc in November, 31.6% in December, 39% in January, 39.4% in February and 25% in March.

Brown moved Huerter to the bench for five games in late December and early January. Huerter returned to the starting lineup 10 days later but continued to produce mixed results. He was held to four points on 2-of-11 shooting in a Jan. 9 win over the Detroit Pistons and scored a career-high 31 points while going 7 of 12 from 3-point range in a Jan. 18 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Huerter told The Bee this season has been a “roller coaster” for him.

“Definitely a roller coaster,” Huerter said. “I think this whole year for me, just trying to find consistency somewhere. A lot of ups and downs and I think really just continuing to find myself and find ways to contribute to help this team win.”