“Jalen Johnson underwent an MRI earlier today at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex,” the team announced in a tweet on March 20. “The MRI revealed a mild left hamstring strain and mild left groin strain. He will be re-evaluated in one week and his status will be updated as appropriate.”
Johnson has been sidelined for each of the Hawks’ last two contests. The 21-year-old is averaging 5.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 assists with .480/.292./.652 shooting splits in 14 minutes per game this season.
It’s an improvement from his rookie campaign but it hasn’t been linear.
His numbers have not really changed all that much but there has been a concerted effort from Quin Snyder to get him going.
“Building confidence and me just playing more,” Johnson said via Jameelah Johnson’s atlhawksfans channel on YouTube on March 9. “I think that’s all it comes down to essentially. …It helps because, especially coach, he tells me, ‘on to the next play’. He’s giving me advice, I’m going to halfcourt to talk to him at a free throw or something. He’s giving me pointers on what to do. So, just having that communication has been great and I’m looking forward to keep building and having a strong relationship too.”
Snyder’s brand of player development can be heard when he speaks on where Johnson’s game is at this point in his career as he’s deployed him in different ways than before such as on the perimeter.
Johnson primarily operated as a big under the tutelage of former head coach Nate McMillan.
“We knew with his length…that there was versatility there,” Snyder said noting that assistant and former interim head coach Joe Prunty had broached the idea with him, per Kevin Chouinard of NBA.com. “He’s still learning. He is not used to being out there that much. He still gets screened sometimes. There are certain things that he’ll just instinctually improve upon. But his instincts are really good…We felt that with his length he shows a different look defensively.”
Snyder also cited Johnson’s ability to grab long rebounds from the perimeter as a reason for the shift in what he’s been asked to do when he’s on the floor.
Quin Snyder Balancing Atlanta Hawks Youngsters’ Minutes
Snyder stepped into an interesting problem with the Hawks boasting a pair of talented youngsters in Johnson and rookie AJ Griffin. The latter is a better shooter but the former offers greater size and positional versatility.
The Hawks need both in spades leaving Snyder having to find the right balance of their minutes.
“Both of them…understand whatever their place is in a rotation on a given night, one, they support each other,” Snyder said, 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.”
Griffin – who has averaged just over four minutes while seeing action in just three of the Hawks’ last seven games recording four straight DNPs at one point – is averaging 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks over the last two games in Johnson’s stead.