Start, Bench, Cut: Sorting through the Hawks’ power forward options

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Hawks, Jalen Johnson
Atlanta Hawks, Jalen Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Bench: Jalen Johnson

Johnson is still the player who had lottery-pick potential only to land in the Hawks’ lap at No. 20 overall in 2020. After being used as a backup center as a rookie, Johnson almost all of his minutes at power forward last season with 2,071 possessions, and he has been working with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James this offseason.

It could pay off big time if he can refine his skills.

Johnson, 21, averaged 5.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists last season but saw his role fluctuate after Quin Snyder took over as head coach, particularly in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics.

He closed the regular season strong, though, averaging 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks over the final six games after returning from a hamstring injury.

The Hawks’ net rating with Johnson at power forward was minus-0.7 last season.

Their top three groupings were substantially better, though, which is why Johnson ends up in the “bench” section. His skill set suggests he needs more playing time but he also still needs the ball in his hands at this point as a 28.2% three-point shooter so far in his career. Even in that strong stretch to end the season he shot just 26.7% from long distance.

Snyder’s teams feature the long ball. It would figure that Johnson’s efficiency from the outside will need to become more consistent before he can assume a starting role full-time, though he does have the potential.