Atlanta Hawks 2018-19 Player Profile: Alex Poythress

Alex Poythress #22 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Alex Poythress #22 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The 25-year-old Savannah native used a solid preseason to show he can contribute as a role player on a rebuilding Atlanta Hawks squad.

Of all the players on the Atlanta Hawks roster, perhaps none are less desirable to meet in a boxing ring than Alex Poythress (sorry Alex Len). The former Kentucky Wildcat is an uber-athletic freak. Filling out his 6’7″ frame with 238 pounds, Poythress is the guy you’re not jumping at the chance to take a charge from.

But while he has all the physical tools to become a consistent contributor on an NBA team, at this point in his career, he has yet to put it all together.

Undrafted out of Kentucky, he signed with the 76ers for the 2016-2017 season and spent most of the year in the G-League. A season later he was with the Pacers organization, during which he played in just 25 games for Indiana, averaging 1 point in 4 minutes per game.

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When the Hawks signed Poythress to a two-way deal back in July, they were buying a scratch lotto ticket on the chance that the muscle-bound small forward would figure it out.

The attitude and aggressiveness are already there. The guy plays hard. He’s a vacuum on the offensive glass and has demonstrated tremendous hustle in flying around off the ball. He sets tough screens, doesn’t clog the lane and finishes nicely at the rim in limited opportunities.

In short, he does all the little things well. In short, he plays like a guy who’s hungry–a guy ready to escape G-League purgatory.

In a second-unit capacity, Poythress can be a solid contributor. The guy had a great preseason, to the tune of averages of 9.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 steals, and he looked the part — bouncing of guys and banging on the offensive glass.

Against the San Antonio Spurs, Poythress was a big part of why the game was kept close enough for TraeTL to send us to bed happy.

And against the Heat in the preseason finale, he demonstrated his defensive acumen.

The guy’s got a hot motor–he flies around to put himself in the right place at the right time. There’s a skill to that. Trash picker-uppers are a coach’s best friend–they steal a few possessions from the opposing team, and in a game as close as the Spurs one was, those few possessions made all the difference.

Yet, there is a substantial obstacle in the road to Poythress being an every-game presence for Atlanta.

He’s signed to a two-way deal, meaning he can not spend more than 45 days in the NBA before having to sign a contract to be a part of the 15-man roster. So, barring injuries and/or a change in how the front office views his performance this preseason, Poythress will spend much of the year in Erie as a member of the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate BayHawks.

Poythress is at a crucial point in his career. At the tender age of 25, he is shedding the tag of “developmental prospect” and transitioning into who he will be seen as for the remainder of his time in professional basketball. Now’s the time to show he belongs.

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If he continues to play with the same competitive fire he demonstrated during the preseason, Poythress will make it hard for GM Travis Schlenk to keep him locked up in Erie.