Hawks: Will AJ Griffin’s role mirror that of Jalen Johnson’s rookie year?

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When the Hawks selected Jalen Johnson out of Duke with the No. 20 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Travis Schlenk landed a lottery-esque caliber prospect using a best-player-available philosophy. However, with both John Collins and Danilo Gallinari in the fold, playing time was going to be hard to come by.

Johnson only appeared in 22 games with the Hawks while playing in 12 games with the club’s G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks. With them, he averaged 20.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists per game, 1.7 blocks per game, and 1.3 steals per game. He was pretty efficient too, canning 37.5% of his 3’s and shooting 44.8% from the field. He was pretty much dominant, but the Hawks battling for playoff seeding didn’t allow him to get many minutes; in fact, he played 121 minutes the entire season, less than Jordan Crawford (160 min) and Priest Lauderdale (180 min).

The team obviously hopes he will bud into an impactful two-way player, but the sample size is far too small to draw any rational analysis. It should be fascinating to see what type of player he can be in his second year.

In a similar chain of events, the Hawks landed a player in the 2022 draft that probably shouldn’t have fallen to No. 16; as it happens, AJ Griffin is a former Duke Blue Devil as well. It’s fair to wonder if the rookie will even get playing time, given Nate McMillan‘s history in that area. However, with the Hawks looking to upgrade the roster via trade, McMillan might not have a choice if Travis Schlenk trades away a few wings.

They’re also two different players. Griffin might need to develop defensively, though he has the physical tools to be a good defender, but his shot is as pure as any coming out of the draft.

That shot alone should earn him some minutes, but depending on how the offseason shakes out, Griffin could be in line for a similar role as Johnson or a much larger one. It just depends on how many wings are kept on the roster, but I’d wager he’ll be a more prominent piece in the rotation compared to his Blue Devil brother’s rookie year.

Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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