Atlanta Hawks: The NBA world reacts to Sharife Cooper’s Summer League

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks have had a really good offseason. Aside from retaining their own guys in Trae Young and John Collins with long-term deals, drafting the next wave of key contributors has been key in that. To that end, the Hawks have knocked it out of the park at the very least. But many have taken it a step further.

The superlatives have flown around Jalen Johnson (20th overall) and Sharife Cooper (48th overall) as they have put on a show for Hawks fans.

Don’t get caught up in the record. This is Summer League after all. These guys are balling.

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Both players slid in the draft, landing right into the Hawks laps. Johnson’s fall was predictable given how his college (and high school) career ended.

He’s done nothing but remove doubt since being in Las Vegas.

Johnson has shown us a little bit of everything but it’s been his energy, passing, and rebounding that have stood out the most.

He lost his cool a little bit in Game 3 and wound up missing a good chunk of the second half sitting on the bench.

But Cooper has apparently opened quite a few eyes, including Memphis Grizzlies point guard, Ja Morant.

This isn’t the first time Young has been impressed by Cooper this summer. The Hawks superstar point guard had to be held back from running on the court to celebrate the rookie hitting the game-winning three against the Pacers.

The two met up after the game and shared a moment.

Cooper is 17th in minutes per game, 23rd in points per game, and leads in both total assists and assist per game. He has routinely found guys for good looks and he and Johnson have already formed a solid lob connection. They even began their third Summer League game with one. It’s been one of the most promising developments.

He is on a two-way contract — not an uncommon practice for second-round picks — but his play is going to make it hard to keep him in the G-League.

His slide was about his size and shot.

At 6-foot-1 and just 180 pounds, many felt he couldn’t thrive despite seeing many examples of players overcoming that like Young. Detractors also pointed to his shooting 39.1 percent from the floor and 22.8 percent from beyond the arc.

So far this summer, Cooper is shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from distance.

The only knocks against him have been his turnovers — he’s averaging 5.7, the most in Summer League — and, surprisingly, his free-throw shooting. Head Coach Nate McMillan said he’d spoken with Cooper about his giveaways, saying he’d forgive two of them.

But no one expected him to be as inefficient at the line as he has been through three games.

An 82.5 percent free-throw shooter while at Auburn, Cooper has hit just 66.7 percent of his attempts at the charity stripe.

Next. Atlanta Hawks: 1 improvement for each draft pick after Game 3. dark

Given that it wasn’t a concern for him before, we can hold off on chastising him for the moment. Who know’s when he’ll make it onto the big squad. So for now we can all just enjoy his play for what it has been: exciting.