Trae Young is clearly the driving force of the Hawks’ success, and he will be the focal point of this team for many years to come. However, when he’s off the court, the Hawks need another ball-handler that can take the pressure off the second unit. Hawks general manager, Travis Schlenk, has been outspoken on this topic — knowing where this roster needs to improve, “We’re in a good space. A lot of our guys are under contract moving forward. One of the areas, it’s no secret that we’ve always struggled to field a consistent role is at the backup point guard spot. We’ve had a couple of different guys. I think that’ll be one area where we look to shore up this offseason.”
Given that Lou Williams is set to become a free agent, Schlenk must address the back point guard position. Williams hinted in an Instagram post that he would be returning to the Hawks next season, but even though Lemon Pepper Lou is a fan favorite and a valuable veteran for this team, he will be 35-years-old next season and is looking for a multi-year deal, which could force the Hawks to find help elsewhere. Jake Gordon believes the answer could come from the NBA draft in the form of Ayo Dosunmu from Illinois, and though I agree the answer is in the draft, Sharife Cooper is more of my cup of tea.
Most mock drafts have the former Auburn guard being selected in the middle to late part of the first round, which means he could be available for the Hawks at 20. Cooper averaged 20.1 points, 8.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game in his lone collegiate season. He is one of the top playmakers in this draft class, apparent in his eight assists per game. Cooper has a high basketball IQ that enables him to facilitate and find his teammates, which puts his incredible passing instincts and vision on full display.
If he sounds a bit like Trae Young, that’s because they share similar qualities in their play style. Like Young, Cooper struggles on defense, and given his size, he won’t improve dramatically. He’s a volume shooter (39.1 FG%) with an inconsistent perimeter shot (22.8 3PT%), who can be careless with the ball (4.1 turnovers). But like Ice Trae, Cooper can run the offense and get to the rim, which is critical for the offense with their star off the court. The question is, “Will he be available when the Hawks are on the clock?”
Photo: Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire
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