Through two preseason games, the Atlanta Hawks are 0-2. They’ve had some decent individual performances from players. John Collins is stuffing the stat sheet with 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals. Cam Reddish is averaging 13.0 points and Kevin Huerter had 15 points on 60.0 percent shooting (75.0 percent from deep) in his lone appearance so far.
What they haven’t had is a complete game.
The prospects of that changing against the Memphis Grizzlies just took a major hit with the news of several players dealing with various ailments. But, this being preseason, that just means a big chance for one of the healthy players.
Atlanta Hawks rookie point guard Sharife Cooper is in a good spot to make his mark
Friday’s injury report listed not only Trae Young, who is stealing on the mend from a quad contusion. But also offseason trade acquisition and top backup point guard, Delon Wright. The journeyman is reportedly dealing with ankle soreness. Suddenly, the Hawks depth is already being put to the test.
With Lou Williams and Skylar Mays on hand, the Hawks could manage to get through two more preseason contests without either Young or Wright if they so chose.
However, there was every reason to preserve Williams for the regular season even before he went out and looked like his usual self in the opening loss to the Miami Heat. And while Mays is certainly capable, there is still a better option.
This would be the perfect opportunity to let rookie Sharife Cooper loose.
The 6-foot-1 former Auburn Tiger has very decent numbers so far. He is averaging just 4.5 points in 13.6 minutes. But he’s averaged 4.0 assists (to 1.5 turnovers), and 2.0 rebounds. More impressively, he is shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from outside.
His assists have been impactful, like this lob to John Collins that nearly took the roof off of State Farm Arena on Wednesday.
Cooper was impressive in Summer League play too, putting up 14.8 points and 7.3 assists.
He’s already looked like a steal with the 48th overall pick, joining fellow rookie Jalen Johnson (20th overall). Also like Johnson, Cooper will have a hard time getting on the floor during the regular season with everyone healthy.
At least he would if he weren’t on a two-way deal and destined to spend much (if not all) of the year in the G-League.
A hometown product, playing for the College Park Skyhawks on a regular basis is what’s best for Cooper this season. But giving him the keys for the rest of the preseason is what’s best for the team.