The Atlanta Hawks fell to the Washington Wizards 119-116 and second-year forward Jalen Johnson was the odd-man out of new head coach Quin Snyder’s rotations. Trade deadline acquisition Saddiq Bey saw his second-most action as a Hawk – and most off the bench – with 27 minutes.
“Both [Johnson and rookie AJ Griffin], I think, understand whatever their place is in a rotation on a given night, one, they support each other,” Snyder said at practice the following day, per Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We think a lot of both of them & their ability to get better. There’s different ways to improve. Sometimes it’s getting pressure & being able to keep competing.”
Snyder noted that there are not many instances of 10 or even 11-man rotations around the league.
The Hawks used nine players against Washington.
Johnson’s progress has not been linear with his stats improving, though mostly due to increased playing time. He is shooting just 47.8% from the floor and, while his 28.3% mark from deep is an improvement from last season, he is still shooting just 66.1% from the charity stripe.
A former 20th overall pick despite possession true lottery pick talent, Johnson had a tough enough time cracking former head coach Nate McMillan’s rotations, though McMillan was known to oppose developing players in-season. Johnson also missed summer league and the preseason with a non-surgical procedure putting him further behind in that development.
With McMillan now out, that development will fall on Snyder and, if the first game is any indication, there is still some work to do for Johnson to be demanding of minutes.
It is also no small item that Griffin was also mentioned in Williams’ quote.
Like Johnson, Griffin was thought to be talented enough to be drafted in the lottery but fell to them in the mid-teens. He burst onto the scene with his sweet shooting and showed a knack for making the big play with a pair of game-winners.
But, after knocking down over 40% of his threes over the first 47 games of the season and earning a spot in the 2023 NBA Rising Stars game, Griffin has shot just 20.8% of his triples in the last 11 games. He has not hit multiple threes in a game since January 30, has hit just one three in his last 14 attempts, and has missed his last five deep looks over two games.
We’ll see how Snyder continues to rotate the two of them with Griffin’s floor spacing less and Johnson’s size both needed a little less now that Bey is in town.
Trae Young Owns Up to Atlanta Hawks’ Poor Finish vs WAS
Part of the beauty in adding Bey is that the Hawks no longer need one of Griffin or Johnson to be consistent contributors. Even Bey has had to go through those growing pains seeing the shine from his strong rookie season give way to greater, perhaps unrealistic, expectations.
What the Hawks do need is for their stars to step up in the moment.
According to Trae Young, he did not do that as the Hawks saw the Wizards close the game on a 17-5 run.
“They did a good job of scoring,” Young said via the Wepa.FM YouTube channel. “And then I had a couple shots that got blocked and just didn’t get good shots up. I just think we could have done a better job of closing out the game. We had a lead but it’s tough because we feel like we had a chance to win and I don’t think I did a really good job of closing out the game tonight.”
Young – who finished with 31 points and seven assists – was 1-for-8 from the floor in the fourth quarter. He was 10-for-18 over the first three-quarters of the game and, after going 1-for-3 from downtown in those first 36 minutes, he put up an identical mark in the final frame.
There has been a lot made of Young’s leadership or lack thereof.
There are also not many better ways to show that leadership than to be self-deprecating in moments that call for it such as Young’s poor showing in the fourth quarter.