Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Johnson should get an extended look with Collins out

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks (26-29) are far from conceding the season despite how ugly their 136-121 loss to the San Antonio Spurs was on the eyes and the stat sheet. But with John Collins set to miss the next three games ahead of the All-Star break, now would be a good time to get a good look at rookie Jalen Johnson.

It’s not lost on anyone that Nate McMillan has been notoriously slow to give rookies anything and that there was a good argument for keeping the 20th-overall pick in this past June’s draft under wraps.

Even as the Hawks were struggling, there were enough mitigating factors to say staying the course was the way to go.

Despite their 9-3 record cited after the deadline, they’ve lost 3-of-4 after Friday.

The Atlanta Hawks should take this opportunity to see what they have in Jalen Johnson

Johnson missed the College Park Skyhawks last two games, one with a glute strain and the other after being called up following Collins’ injury. But he has received plenty of love from us for his efforts in the G-League this season where he is averaging 17.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists with 1.5 blocks to top it all off.

He hasn’t been terribly efficient shooting just 42.3 percent overall and 25.9 percent from deep. But the overall percentage is tied with Bogdan Bogdanovic and is also better than both Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams on the season.

The former Duke Blue Devil has also shot 47.4 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from three in his extremely limited action with the Hawks.

This isn’t even about his offense, though. It is about his defense.

Johnson went under the screen, yes. But his length allowed him to recover faster than most and certainly better than the majority of the Hawks options on the wings. He finished that game with 17 points and five rebounds.

This is something the Hawks could certainly use more of. It especially shows why they need him with Collins sidelined. They will miss his ability to switch on the front line if Danilo Gallinari starts and will lose shooting if and when Onyeka Okongwu sees time at the four spot, something he has only done sparingly to this point in the season.

Johnson allows the Hawks to keep De’Andre Hunter at small forward and away from bigger bodies as he too is an injury-risk meaning playing him up a spot isn’t ideal.

The Hawks have tinkered with Timothe Luwauw-Cabarrot at power forward during dire times and could turn to Gorgui Dieng in a pinch. But they lose size and athleticism, respectively, if they go that route.

Either could be an issue for a team that has struggled with getting cross-matched in transition and with matchups against the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers on tap.

This isn’t to say that Johnson should start or even be the first man off of the bench.

Next. Hawks play dangerous game, stand pat at NBA trade deadline. dark

But there has to be a role for a versatile forward who can protect the rim from the weak side and play passing lanes on the perimeter like Johnson on a team that is allowing opponents to shoot 48.4 percent from deep over their last four games.