Atlanta Hawks rookie phenom has forced his way into the rotation

AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Rookie Atlanta Hawks rookie forward, AJ Griffin, has seen his playing time gradually rise after not featuring in the first four games of the season. His excellent play has been a large factor. Drafted by the with the 16th-overall pick, Griffin was viewed as both solid support for the depth at forward as well as a reliable shooting replacement for the now-traded Kevin Heurter.

How quickly Griffin would become a viable piece of the Hawks rotation, however, was unexpected by the fanbase, coaching staff, and even front office. Hawks head coach Nate McMillan, who is notorious for his conservative attitude toward playing rookies, has played Griffin 15.6 minutes per game after the rookie made his debut.

In his first three games, Griffin averaged six points, one rebound, and one steal on 58% shooting from the floor and 67% from three-point range in only six minutes per game.

Since then, he has gone on to average 8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, an assist, and a steal on 36% from behind the arc and 52% from the field. Granted, some of his numbers are inflated from his 31- minute, 24-point, three-steal performance against the Milwaukee Bucks in which he shot 10-for-15 from the field.

However, if anything, this only proved to McMillan that Griffin can thrive with a larger workload.

His talent goes even deeper than the numbers. His ability to catch and shoot from deep three-point range, hit acrobatic shots, and cut quickly off the dribble makes him a superb off-ball player to pair with the Hawks’ star guards.

What does this mean for Atlanta Hawks rookie AJ Griffin going forward?

Naturally, Griffin will get much closer to 15 minutes than 31 going forward, but that’s to be expected of a rookie who has only eight games under his belt. Regardless, his play has been a welcome surprise for a Hawks team who desperately needs performances from their young bench.

The formula of his increased playing time has worked in terms of winning, too.

Since having his minutes increased, the Atlanta Hawks are 3-2 with signature wins over the New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

If Griffin can keep it up, you could potentially see his minutes plateauing somewhere around 20 per game as he becomes De’Andre Hunter or John Collins‘ primary backup. If reports are indications of anything, it’s that Griffin will put in the work required to achieve that.

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Hawks fans, keep a keen eye on this young stud. He might just carry this squad to unexpected heights.