Travis Schlenk’s parting gift to the Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin

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The Atlanta Hawks have been on a rollercoaster for much of the season. Entering the year, expectations were high given the offseason acquisition of Dejounte Murray, but it’s been nothing but controversy and injuries. Rifts between players, coaches, and the front office have painted a picture of organizational dysfunction; however, the Hawks have now won four in a row as the team gets healthier. 

There are a couple of reasons for Atlanta’s recent resurgence. Most importantly, the team is finally healthy. For essentially the entire season, the Hawks have been missing at least one of their key players, which for a team with no depth has proven catastrophic. Secondly, the chemistry was always going to be an issue with two ball dominant guards. The last is the role players doing their part.

De’Andre Hunter looks like the guy that signed for $90 million. Despite never garnering national recognition, Clint Capela might be the most important player on the team, and AJ Griffin has become one of the better rookies in basketball.

It’s another stellar pick from Travis Schlenk, who selected Griffin 16th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. With Schlenk out of the organization, it’ll be his final parting gift to the Hawks.

Griffin’s breakout performance came earlier in the season against the Bucks. Without Trae Young, Atlanta upset Milwaukee, handing the Bucks their first loss of the season behind Griffin’s 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

As the season has progressed and the rookie’s opportunities grow, Griffin has become more comfortable and inherently more effective. The Duke product has two game-winning baskets against the Raptors and Bulls.

Nobody is going to argue that Griffin is the Rookie of the Year, but he’s playing like a top 10 first-year player right now. His stat line won’t blow anyone away, but his efficiency should.

Griffin is averaging nearly 10 points on an almost 50/40/90 shooting split… that’s unbelievable for a young man that is only 19-years-old, regardless of the attempts. He has a special combination of size and skill, able to play the 2 or 3. Moreover, he’s no slouch on the defensive end.

Griffin has been a great team defender, given his length and basketball IQ. His on-ball defense is sometimes concerning because he lacks first-step explosiveness, but the effort is always there. Most importantly, Griffin doesn’t play outside of his limits. His energy is contagious, and he looks eager to improve his game in every facet; it seems the Hawks hit on another mid-first-round pick — Travis Schlenk’s parting gift.

Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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