As most know by now, the Atlanta Hawks have parted ways with power forward John Collins after dealing him to the Utah Jazz earlier this offseason. He was previously the longest-tenured Hawk as he had been with the team since his rookie season in 2017-2018. After being on the trade block for the past few seasons, he was dealt in an underwhelming package that consisted of Rudy Gay (who was later waived) and a future second-round pick.
With Collins off the roster, a new opportunity for the young, soon-to-be, 3rd year forward Jalen Johnson has emerged. Drafted 20th overall in 2021, Atlanta has taken time with his development. Up until the Dejounte Murray trade last offseason, Johnson was the third power forward on the depth chart behind Collins and Danilo Gallinari.
As a result, Johnson spent much of his time in the G-League during his rookie season as he only appeared in 22 games. With Gallinari being traded to San Antonio, Johnson was now allowed to get minutes with the big league club. This time, he was on the roster for good and even appeared in 70 games last season.
Of those 70 games he played, he only started 6, but his role increased significantly when head coach Quin Snyder was brought in. As Quin was still learning the team and the rotation as a whole, he opted to give Johnson a bit of run, and he stuck with that for the rest of the season. In 13 games after Snyder was hired, Johnson played an average of 17.6 minutes per game, which was an increase from his 14.3 minutes per game from before.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s increased role saw rookie AJ Griffin receive a reduction in playing time as he received several DNPs and didn’t play a single minute in the playoff series vs Boston. With that declaration, Johnson saw a boost in minutes and production under Snyder.
Before his increased role, Johnson averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds a game, as well as, only 28.4% from 3 on only 1.4 attempts per game. In the 13 games after his increased role on the team, he saw a jump to 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game along with being a 30.4% shooter from 3 on 1.8 attempts per game.
Jalen Johnson’s impact goes far beyond the surface-level numbers.
If you watched Johnson play last season, you’d know that his mark on the game goes far beyond the stat sheet. It couldn’t be more exemplified than in the game vs the Miami Heat in the Play-In Tournament. In just 14 minutes, Johnson made an instantaneous impact on both ends of the floor.
In that game, Johnson had 3 steals, but he also exhibited some vision with 3 assists. That entire game was about the monster board work by Atlanta. Clint Capela had an insane 21 rebounds, but Johnson got 3 key offensive rebounds of his own. His imprint on the game is not always going to reflect on the stat sheet. Instead, it will be illustrated by his hustle and determination which every team needs.
Although Johnson has shown flashes of what he is capable of, his skillset and growing capabilities can make him an x-factor going into his 3rd season.
So how exactly can Johnson make an impact in the 2023-2024 season?