After several years of the Atlanta Hawks having no rookies appear in the top-ten list anywhere, Bleacher Report has released their top-ten rankings and the Hawks have an entrant. To the surprise of no one, that entrant is AJ Griffin, the 16th pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
The rookie has forced his way into the Hawks rotation with his stellar performances, including some game-winning heroics against the Toronto Raptors. This game was enough for the Hawks’ brains trust to keep him playing, even starting him for three games since that game.
Griffin has shown the potential that the Hawks hoped he would display. Yes, he is still doing some dumb rookie things and is defending at a normal rookie level but he will get improve at that end. The good thing for the Hawks is that Griffin is going to get better at both ends of the floor. What it also means is that head coach Nate McMillan is not as reluctant to play rookies which are going to benefit the team in the future.
The Atlanta Hawks are finally benefitting from a rookie’s hunger on the court.
Griffin was touted as a generational shooter when he was drafted and he is yet to let the Hawks down in that department. If you take into account the Raptors game and then the next eight games, Griffin has been a crucial piece to the Atlanta Hawks puzzle.
The rookie has averaged 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.0 assists in 26.6 minutes per game. His shot selection has also been impressive. He is going at 47 percent from the floor on 11.2 attempts. This is remarkable given that 6.2 of his attempts were from beyond the arc, where he is 36.0 percent.
His ability to show what he can do has helped the Hawks trust that other young players can contribute to this team when it is in a win-now mentality. Jarrett Culver is one of the players who has benefitted and his game has helped the Hawks with both John Collins and De’Andre Hunter being out.
However, what makes Griffin’s achievement even more impressive is that all of the other players on the list are on teams that are likely to finish the season out of the playoffs. They are getting a much greater opportunity to display their skill sets.
On the other hand, Griffin is on a team that has started the season pretty well, despite some of the horrific results they have produced. The Hawks are notorious for not playing rookies with the exception of when their current young core, which was due to having no other choice. McMillan is also not known for playing younger guys either.
Still, if Griffin can develop on the court on a winning team, this sets the Atlanta Hawks up to have a really bright future. This should see them contending for championships in the next few seasons.