Last night, the Atlanta Hawks snagged AJ Griffin with the 16th pick in the NBA Draft. The 6’6”, 222-pound forward out of Duke brings a lot to the table, including elite three-point shooting and lockdown defense. Welcome to Atlanta, AJ!
I was shocked that Griffin fell to 16. Most pundits had the 18-year-old in the top 10 of their mock drafts, so I doubted the Hawks could get him without trading up. However, Griffin did end up landing in the Hawks’ lap. And I’m so glad he did.
AJ Griffin and Tari Eason were two guys that I thought would fit seamlessly into what Atlanta is trying to do. Although a second star to pair with Trae Young is a need, that wasn’t going to happen in the draft. Atlanta desperately needs 3-and-D players on the wing. Griffin fits that description like a glove, and he could develop into even more than that.
In his freshman year with the Blue Devils, Griffin shot a staggering 44% from distance, along with a reliable 102 defensive rating. From the outset of his Hawks tenure, he will be plug up a lot of holes, whether that’s as a starter or a second-team player. But here’s the great part — Griffin is only 18-years-old. While the Hawks aren’t necessarily going to wait around for him to develop, he has the potential to be much more than a shooter and defender.
Scoring in the paint and ball handling are some of the things that AJ Griffin struggled with, but those are things that can be improved. With his athleticism, there are a lot of aspects to his game that can be fixed. In the coming years, I can see Griffin blossoming into an integral part of this Atlanta core and a valuable third option on a championship team.
This move alone isn’t going to get the Hawks over the hump. But it’s common knowledge that the front office is looking to do anything to get to the Finals. If the Hawks get a legitimate second star and add some more defense, this Atlanta team can be a problem, much like they were two seasons ago.
Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
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