Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Johnson is already changing opinions of him

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

Atlanta Hawks fans have been head over heels for Jalen Johnson since he threw down his first lob in Summer League. The league has already taken notice as he has been talked of as a steal of the class. He finished averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds while earning First Team All Summer League honors.

But not everyone was as high on Johnson in the beginning as we were when we said the Hawks should absolutely stop any slide he might experience on draft night.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic released his Summer League rookie scouting reports on Thursday and in his section on Johnson was a mea culpa of sorts. Vecenie talks of not seeing “it” at the outset.

Atlanta Hawks rookie Jalen Johnson is already turning doubters into believers

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"“I thought he was careless on defense and didn’t provide any value on that end for the Blue Devils, and really was much more ineffectual on offense than you’d expect due to his lack of burst and inability to get past anyone. His shooting also leaves major room for concern.”"

That was a sentiment shared by many, actually. And Johnson’s departure from Duke only served to exacerbate the notion that he wasn’t fully committed.

He also had a messy exit from his high school team.

Luckily, his level of engagement proved to be better at the pro level even if only in Summer League.

"“Johnson looked really good at summer league, playing in a role that makes a lot more sense than what he was asked to do at Duke. Here, he was able to just get out in transition, finish plays, and make easy decisions while using his obvious gifts of size and athleticism. He’s uncannily coordinated for his size at 6-foot-9, with tremendous balance and body control. That balance filtered through his contact balance as well, as he regularly showcased the ability to finish through contact at the event.”"

The best part is Johnson showed better touch from beyond the arc than many thought he would. A 44.4 percent shooter from outside, Johnson’s volume was just too low to draw a reasonable conclusion. He shot 41.3 percent from deep in Las Vegas.

"“More importantly, he showcased more confidence stepping into open 3s than he’s ever showcased at any level of his play to this point…That jumper is the critical skill for him. If he shoots it from the corners and at the break, he’ll be an effective player for the Hawks. If he doesn’t shoot it, the fit gets a bit murkier.”"

The only issues Vecenie raises are how reliant Johnson was on scoring in transition, stating that “nearly 40 percent of his points came in transition”, and his turnovers in close quarters when trying to do a little too much. But he expects Johnson to spend time in the G League.

We had plans for Johnson to be a part of some Hawks lineups this season but a stint in College Park would help him iron out the kinks in his game. Ultimately, though, we think Johnson and the Hawks are a perfect match. Vecenie agrees.

"“I love the fit for him within this Atlanta scheme. If he can shoot he’ll be able to play the 4 next to a big, while also occasionally coming up and setting screens for Trae Young, then acting as something of a release valve in short-roll settings due to his ability to pass and take advantage of 4 on 3 scenarios when teams decide to trap the all-star point guard. Insofar as fit informs how players’ careers end up, I think Johnson is much more likely to make it in Atlanta than he would have been just about anywhere else.”"

Next. The Atlanta Hawks got yet another good grade on their offseason. dark

That’s a stark contrast to some that questioned the fit because Johnson wouldn’t be able to work on his game at the NBA level. We’d imagine he’ll get plenty of opportunity with the Skyhawks but also have his chances with the big club too.