The Atlanta Hawks have a Sharife Cooper problem

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks have started to get their season back on track. They are riding a four-game winning streak which is needed given that they were eight games back from a .500 record. Given how competitive the Eastern Conference is this year, the Hawks would only be in the play-in seeding at this record, not the playoffs.

They have had issue after issue, which explains the low position in the standings. However, after making the Eastern Conference Finals last season, it is a bitter pill for the franchise to swallow, all the way from the front office to the casual fan.

They are about to get their starting shooting guard, Bogdan Bogdanovic back, and things are looking reasonably rosy for the team now. However, they are facing a problem with their second two-way player, Sharife Cooper which they need to resolve.

The Atlanta Hawks need to develop Sharife Cooper into an off-ball player.

Given that Cooper barely played any basketball in the month of January due to being called up to the Hawks squad and then contracting Covid-19, it is little wonder he is struggling. He has come back to the College Park Skyhawks and has not been anything like his best.

Cooper is a player who is caught between two teams and his game has suffered as a result. Now that Delon Wright is coming into his own for the Atlanta Hawks, there is less call for Cooper to play with the varsity squad.

However, in the time that he has been away from the College Park Skyhawks, Cat Barber has made the team his own. He has been on fire, developing chemistry with the rest of the squad. This means that the ball is in his hands as he creates rather than Cooper’s.

As a result, Cooper has had a negative impact on the box score in both games since his return. He had five points, four assists, and three steal in the game against the G League Ignite. Worse still he had was minus 23 in the box score. Then, against the Wisconsin Herd, Cooper had three points, six assists, three rebounds, and two steals. This time he only had a minus 13 impact on the box score.

By contrast, Barber had 20 points and 11 assists against the Ignite and 19 points and 10 assists against the Herd. There is a good reason that he is running this team, and why the Hawks thought highly enough to give him a 10-day hardship deal.

So where does that put Cooper? He is a point guard by nature, performing at his best when the ball is in his hands. Well, what he needs to do is develop his game off the ball. In the two games, the rookie has shot the ball poorly, going 3-of-16 from the floor.

Next. Will Kevin Knox keep him place in the Hawks rotation when Bogi returns?. dark

If he can continue to work on his catch-and-shoot 3-ball, and also work into his spots without the ball, Barber has shown that he has the talent to be able to find him. If he can do this, the Skyhawks will benefit and Cooper may yet be able to be unleashed on the NBA.