Hawks’ Jalen Johnson flexes key skill in offseason workout video: Watch

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

This is a big year for the Atlanta Hawks and, perhaps, no player stands to benefit more from their offseason changes than third-year forward Jalen Johnson.

Gone is starting power forward John Collins, who was traded to the Utah Jazz in a move largely viewed as a salary dump. The Hawks have been in hot pursuit of Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam but to no avail.

As it stands, the battle to replace Collins in the starting lineup is between Johnson and trade deadline acquisition Saddiq Bey. The latter certainly comes with a big advantage in terms of experience with 165 starts out of 204 total appearances before arriving in February, though he only drew seven starts out of 30 appearances after.

But, if Johnson has anything to say about it, that battle will be very close.

Johnson, 21, averaged 5.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists this past season but his efficiency left plenty to be desired.

He shot 49.1% overall last season but just 28.8% from beyond the arc. Collins was coming off a career-worst 29.2% from beyond the arc last season but has a 40% season under his belt and is a career 35.6% shooter for his career.

Bey, 24, averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 boards, and 1.4 assists while also canning 40% of his looks from outside in 25 appearances with the Hawks after being traded for a handful of second-round picks. He also drew five of his seven starts with Atlanta over the Hawks’ final six contests of the regular season.

But he does not have the same juice off the dribble that Johnson clearly does.

Hawks’ Jalen Johnson a better replacement for John Collins than Saddiq Bey

Part of the knock against Collins over the years has been that he was not capable of getting his own bucket save for the straight-line drive.

To that end, 60.9% of Bey’s makes last season came off an assist. That is much lower than Collins (82.5%) and even Johnson (69.6%). But Johnson was billed as a playmaking forward coming out of college whereas Bey was largely viewed as a 3-and-D type of player.

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Bey is not a great defender so, if there’s one area where Johnson can create a lot of separation, it’s there as he’s capable of guarding multiple positions. And, if he is given the opportunity to show what he can do with the ball in his hands more often, Johnson could wind up running away with the starting job barring an unforeseen addition.

His defense and ability to create offense are a needed skill set even with the Hawks rostering Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. But it will be on Johnson to be more efficient and stay out of foul trouble so that his impact remains positive.

And it’s not like Bey offers nothing – his three-point shooting is also highly-valuable as an outlet with Murray and Young, in particular, being adept at getting into the painted area.

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The Hawks’ need for another power forward may be getting overblown if one of Bey or Johnson can step up in training camp.