This offseason was eventful if uninspiring by the Atlanta Hawks.
Their splashiest move was subtracting John Collins from the core via trade. But, with the regular season on the horizon, they have made contract decisions on a pair of players.
“The Atlanta Hawks have exercised the fourth-year (2024-25) contract option on forward Jalen Johnson and the third-year (2024-25) option on guard AJ Griffin,” the team announced on October 22. “Per team policy, terms of the agreements were not disclosed.”
The Hawks had until October 31 to make the decision, the same deadline date for rosters to be cut down to 15 players maximum. But both Griffin and Johnson are recent first-round draft picks and they figure to play key roles this coming season, the first full campaign under head coach Quin Snyder.
Johnson was the No. 20 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
He averaged 5.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists last season and looked poised to take a substantial leap in Year 3 during the preseason.
Johnson was in competition for the starting power forward spot vacated by Collins. It appears that 2022-23 trade deadline acquisition Saddiq Bey will get the first shot once the regular season opens, though, since he started the preseason finale.
Griffin was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2022 draft. A sharpshooting swingman who entered the league with an NBA-ready jump shot, Griffin averaged 8.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting 39% from beyond the arc. Like Johnson, Griffin is a former Duke Blue Devil and was a projected lottery pick before sliding to the Hawks.
He played a key role throughout the regular season despite hitting a rookie wall in his efficiency.
But Griffin was left out of the Hawks’ postseason rotations completely, failing to see the floor in any of their six playoff games.
Despite the slump, and his exclusion from the postseason, Griffin’s skill set is clear. And his better-than-advertised defensive ability still has him front and center in trade speculation as a potential target for other teams.
With these decisions – which were essentially formalities – behind them, the Hawks can turn their attention to other lingering pieces of business.
Hawks staring down deadline with Onyeka Okongwu, Saddiq Bey
The Hawks have until 6 pm ET on October 23 to come to terms on an agreement with fourth-year big man Onyeka Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Okongwu is stuck behind starting center Clint Capela, though the former did draw a start at power forward this preseason.
That logjam also sparked trade speculation this offseason with Capela linked to the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets in rumors. But there was also an expectation that the Hawks would let Okongwu hit restricted free agency.
“This team has so much long-term salary already committed for a middle-of-the-pack roster,” wrote Keith Smith of Spotrac on June 6. “This probably goes to restricted free agency in 2024.”
Similar sentiments have been expressed about the negotiations with Bey.
As the clock ticks toward the deadline, deals can certainly still be reached.
But it would be anything but surprising to see the Hawks let the deadline come and go without so much as a peep about how things are going in those negotiations.