With Jalen Johnson in the fold, should the Hawks look to trade Danilo Gallinari

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Summer League is now in the books, and at first glance, it looks like Travis Schlenk once again pulled off magic during the NBA Draft. Sharife Cooper played like a talent that should have gone in the lottery, and the Hawks got him with the 48th pick, but the star of the show was Atlanta’s first-round selection, Jalen Johnson.

The former five-star recruit that was once a projected top-five pick fell all the way to the Hawks at 20, likely because of character concerns after he left Duke in the middle of the season to focus on the NBA Draft. But you know what they say? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the Hawks may have found one of the best players in the draft well outside of the lottery.

Johnson was named First-Team All Summer League after nearly averaging a double-double — 19 points and 9.5 rebounds — on 57% shooting from the field and 41% from deep. But more than just the stats, the eye test was off the charts. His highlight reel was full of dunks like these.


Johnson has athleticism that you can’t teach. He very well might enter the Hawks practice facility as the most athletic player in the gym, but he offers so much more than that. For someone 6’9″, his versatility is off the charts. He can run the floor and make plays with the ball in his hand like a point guard; his mid-range game already has some polish to it, and with some more development, he could become a reliable three-point shooter. There are not many holes in Johnson’s game, and I see no reason he shouldn’t get plenty of minutes as a rookie.

Except for one…

The Hawks don’t really have many minutes to go around. 

Johnson’s a combo forward that can play the 3 or 4. He could even be a small-ball 5, but for argument’s sake, let’s take a look at whose in front of him on the wing and at power forward.

Small Forward: De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish

Power Forward: John Collins, Danilo Gallinari

Two of those guys are starters — De’Andre Hunter and John Collins — that will command at least 30 minutes a night. Gallinari is the team’s sixth-man, and there are very high hopes for Reddish as he enters his third year in the league. The best opportunity for Johnson to see the floor early might just be as a small-ball five, given Onyeka Okongwu‘s injury. Unless… they make a trade.

We know Hunter and Collins aren’t going anywhere, but we have heard trade rumors surrounding Reddish and Gallinari this offseason. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hawks moved Reddish, but if they really wanted to give Johnson an opportunity at his most natural position, trading Gallinari makes the most sense.

Beyond the positional fit, moving Gallinari could be financially responsible. He’s owed over $20 million this season and next (although he does have a $5 million buyout for 2022-2023), which is a lot to pay an aging veteran that could watch his role dwindle. Gallinari also has suitors. It’s been reported several times this offseason that the Timberwolves are interested in acquiring the 6’10” Italian’s services. I don’t necessarily like what Minnesota has to offer, but there could be another team out there that is a more desirable fit as a trade partner.

Gun to my head — I believe this is the group the Hawks begin the season with. It’s probably a bit over-reactionary to make significant trades to accommodate for a rookie’s playing time after just four Summer League games, which are essentially glorified practices. However, Johnson will get some opportunities early on, and if he shines, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hawks chose to move Gallinari before the trade deadline.




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