Atlanta Hawks NBA Draft: Travis Schlenk does it again

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 3
Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Hawks 2021 NBA Draft Pick No. 1: Taking Jalen Johnson at 20th overall is quintessential “best player available”

Jalen Johnson has the kind of size and athleticism that should come to mind when you think of the modern NBA forward. Not only does he have the length, but he has a 7-foot wingspan and weighed 209 pounds at the NBA Combine but was listed at 220 pounds in college. Schlenk obviously sees the benefits.

"“He is an extremely talented player. Great size, great raw skills. Rebounds. Defense.”"

In his first game, Johnson snagged 19 rebounds. It was against Coppin State, but Johnson showcased all of the abilities Schlenk mentioned. Here he is using his size perfectly to wall off his man and not only snag the rebound but also get the putback.

He had 19 boards and four blocks in that game putting his end-to-end athleticism on full display.

Taking Johnson gives them protection in the event Collins or Reddish are elsewhere in the near future, a capable backup right now, and the ability to be that secondary facilitator in the offense; albeit from an unconventional position.

Schlenk also touched on the issues that Johnson went through at Duke (and IMG academy).

"“Obviously, he had some issues at Duke. In high school as well. When you are picking at 20 and that sort of talent is there, you certainly feel good about it.”"

The Hawks have a strong culture headed by Trae Young on the floor and old-school Nate McMillan who certainly unlocked this roster’s full potential last season. They were 14-20 when he took over and ended up as the fifth seed, which was also thanks to a coin flip. If there is a locker room that can handle whatever issues might come with Johnson, it’s this one.

Besides, most say the biggest issue for Johnson in college was procedural overall, with COVID protocols and an injury leading him to focus on preparing for the draft.

Johnson finished his collegiate career averaging 11.2/6.2/2.2 and slashing .523/.444/.632

He will need to cut down on the turnovers and fouls, but that’s not uncommon for rookies. His free throw shooting also needs to improve. At any rate, his selection started the night off in a bang for Hawks fans, but it didn’t end there.