Why AJ Griffin will get minutes for the Atlanta Hawks when Johnson did not

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks and Nate McMillan have a reputation for not giving their rookies playing time, preferring to develop them methodically, and giving their veterans the minutes. However, this is not entirely true. In his first season as coach McMillan started developing Onyeka Okongwu straight after he took over from Lloyd Pierce.

McMillan’s purview is to win with the talent he has been provided with and it is his call as to who gets the minutes to achieve that result. With the Hawks losing last season there was a great outcry from the supporter base to play rookie Jalen Johnson, which McMillan heeded towards the end of the season before Johnson ran out of luck.

While AJ Griffin was only selected a few slots higher in the draft than Johnson, he is much more likely to break into the rotations. So, why is this the case? Well, it all comes down to what the Hawks know what they are getting.

The Atlanta Hawks know what they are getting with AJ Griffin

One of the reasons that Johnson dropped down the draft order was that teams were a little put off by his past commitments to teams. He only played 13 games in his single season at Duke. He showed plenty of promise but the problem with this is that every player who makes the NBA is talented.

Griffin played a full season at Duke, showing commitment to a game plan and sticking to it. He also displayed a specific skill which is what McMillan is going to develop over the season, his 3-point shooting. He will get some quality minutes in this year’s summer league, which will go a long way to seeing how much playing time he can garner at the start of the season.

Johnson displayed some tremendous all-around skill during summer league but when he got on to an NBA court he was not able to create the same way. The Hawks were also trying to repeat their stunning Eastern Conference Finals from the season before. Therefore, they were not developing talent after retaining the majority of their roster from the season before.

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This season the Hawks are going to try and make changes over the offseason and then McMillan will experiment with rotations and fit as the regular season starts. This is when Griffin will have his chance to make it into the rotations. Hopefully, he does not waste this opportunity.