The Atlanta Hawks need Jalen Johnson sooner than they had hoped

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks had their winning streak snapped at seven games on Saturday night in a 99-90 loss to the visiting New York Knicks. It sends their record to 11-10 and them to eighth in the East, one spot below the Knicks. What the loss doesn’t do is take away from their well-timed streak to get themselves back over .500 on the year.

None of that was the biggest story to come out of the game though.

That dishonor goes to the losses of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish, who was coming out of his slump, to injuries. The former will reportedly be out for a couple of weeks while the latter’s return will depend on his response to treatment.

It’s a huge blow to a team that came into the season without Onyeka Okongwu for at least a couple of months and lost De’Andre Hunter until January about a week ago.

Jalen Johnson should get more time with the Atlanta Hawks as they navigate injuries

The response was to call guard Skylar Mays up from the G League with the expectation being that he and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will be able to absorb the minutes vacated by whoever takes over for Bogdanovic and Reddish. That will likely include more match-up-based lineups depending on who the opponent is.

Luwawu-Cabarrot has averaged just 1.7 points per game in very scant minutes to begin the year.

Mays has split his time between the Hawks and the College Park Skyhawks.

He’s averaging 2.0 points on 80 percent shooting and 50 percent from deep in seven games with the big club and 17.6 points (on 39 percent shooting), 3.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists with 1.6 steals in five G-League appearances.

Both have experience and good size for their respective positions.

However, neither has done much beyond being present to suggest they can help make up for all of the losses the Hawks have suffered.

Rookie Jalen Johnson, the 20th-overall pick in this past NBA Draft, offers the size and skill set to at least be deserving of a spot in the intermediate rotation. He’s averaging 14.8 points, 14.0 boards, and 2.0 assists in four games with the Skyhawks. The rebounds are second in the G-League and Johnson is shooting 45.8 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from deep.

He is also shooting a miserable 16.7 percent at the free-throw line.

That is more than reason enough to keep him out of the rotation if not off of the big roster altogether for the time being.

Except, he’s only attempted 1.5 free throws per game in the G-League. And in his seven appearances with the Hawks, Johnson has hit both of his attempts. Again the volume is small but the point is the thought of him getting minutes, particularly right now, makes sense.

Johnson is averaging just 2.0 points in those games but has received very few minutes, all in mop-up duty while playing for Nate McMillan who defers to veterans almost to a fault.

There is hope, though.

We saw McMillan trust Okongwu more as last season wore on and the big man reward him with solid play during the playoffs.

Now, Okongwu was the sixth-overall pick last year so there is something to be said for his pedigree and the Hawks needs at the time. But, despite his actual draft position, many felt Johnson was a lottery talent. His slide was due to character concerns that have yet to be an issue worthy of reporting.

Next. Studs and duds from loss as injuries pile up again. dark

Johnson has played fewer games than all but seven other first-round picks from his class. That makes sense given the Hawks depth when healthy. But they are no longer healthy and their first-round pick could be the cure for what ails them.