Atlanta Hawks: Gorgui Dieng has been the only impactful center

The Atlanta Hawks have played in two preseason games and have a record of 0-2. We focus on process over results during the exhibition period so there were even positives to take from their blowout loss in the opener. Wednesday’s fall wasn’t as bad as that, but it did border on disappointment.

Cleveland, one of the worst teams in the league last season, was playing the second leg of a back-to-back after being obliterated by the Chicago Bulls.

Atlanta came in with a full day’s rest since their last match, but couldn’t close out a close game.

The Atlanta Hawks reserve big men haven’t been overly impressive this preseason

Again, we won’t dwell on the final outcome, though it would have been nice to see the Hawks do what the Bulls did to the Cavs. But over these two games, Atlanta has allowed an average of 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds to opposing starting centers Bam Adebayo of the Miami Head and Jarrett Allen of the Cavs.

Of course, with Clint Capela and top backup Onyeka Okongwu sidelined that was somewhat to be expected.

Gorgui Dieng has put up stats. He is averaging 6.5 points and 8.0 boards and a surprising 3.5 assists. He had six dimes and played over 31 minutes in a 13-point, 11-rebound double-doubleagainst Cleveland.

What he hasn’t done is knock down his triples — he’s currently shooting 25.0 percent from downtown — or blocking shots as he has zero despite playing over 22 minutes per game.

The rebounds are second on the team behind John Collins who’s had a great preseason after landing a new contract with averages of 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, Collins and rookie Jalen Johnson have looked like the best centers in Capela’s absence beyond Dieng.

Johnson hasn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers. Just 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. But he’s averaging a half block and steal apiece and is just sixth in minutes per game among Hawks players to appear in both preseason games. He could honestly be the solution to absorb the remaining minutes behind Dieng until Oknogwu returns.

We’ve already seen Nate McMillan remove veteran journeyman Jahlil Okafor from the rotation. The former third-overall pick played just over 13 minutes in the opener but had just two points and two rebounds.

He didn’t touch the floor in the second game.

27-year-old rookie Johnny Hamilton has gotten just 6.8 minutes per game. He hasn’t done much either, albeit with the small chance, with averages of just 1.0 points and 1.0 boards.

The best news is that Capela is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. Okongwu should be back by February. In the meantime, the Hawks might be better off going with Collins and Johnson taking the majority of the backup big minutes. Especially if Dieng isn’t the dynamic reserve he should be.