Insider praises Hawks’ rising star: ‘Just makes things happen’

Atlanta Hawks, Jalen Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks, Jalen Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The rise of Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson is happening before our eyes.

Not just his development as a player on the court, which has been a boon to the Hawks, albeit one which they were anticipating. But also because Johnson continues to rise in prominence in the public eye.

“Johnson brings new speed, power, defense, rebounding and bouncy unpredictability to the Atlanta Hawks — changing the look and feel of the team regardless of whether coach Quin Snyder starts Johnson or brings him off the bench,” wrote ESPN’s Zach Lowe on November 10 (subscription required). “Johnson just makes things happen.”

In Lowe’s eyes, Johnson “should probably start”, with the third-year forward shooting 38.9% on 3.0 three-point attempts per game over his last six outings, five of which were starts.

Johnson is averaging 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 steals this season.

The former No. 20 overall pick in 2021, Johnson had seven points and three rebounds in the Hawks’ win over the Orlando Magic in Mexico City on November 9, recording his sixth block in eight games this season.

Johnson led our list of Hawks players whose stock is rising thanks to his strong start. But his journey – even as a former first-round pick – is also notable. He requested to go to College Park and play with the Skyhawks just so he could see the floor, according to former head coach Nate McMillan.

This offseason, Johnson linked up with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James whose skill set very much resembles that of the Hawks’ forward.

As for Snyder’s decision on who to start, Johnson has logged three straight.

Jalen Johnson a prime example for AJ Griffin to follow

Second-year wing AJ Griffin got into this one after back-to-back DNP-CDs. It’s been an odd start to the once-prominent rookie who was hitting key shots for the Hawks last season but found himself glued to the bench in the playoffs.

The latter trend has bled into the regular season with the former No. 16 overall pick seeing fewer than 10 minutes in each of the first four contests of the regular season before not playing at all in those two games. Even when he has gotten in, it has been in short bursts and has resulted in Griffin being a minus-7 on the year.

Perhaps Griffin should follow Johnson’s lead and request to go play for the Skyhawks who just held their media day on November 9 and whose season begins on November 12.

He would certainly get plenty of playing time.

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It would be one of the more talented teams in the G League with rookies and fellow Hawks draft picks Kobe Bufkin, Mo Gueye, and Seth Lundy as well as undrafted free agent Miles Norris all expected to play for the Skyhawks this season.