Hawks announce roster move for former first-round pick

The Atlanta Hawks made a roster move with former first-round pick AJ Griffin following the team's return from the All-Star break.

Atlanta Hawks wing AJ Griffin
Atlanta Hawks wing AJ Griffin / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

This season hasn’t gone as expected for second-year Atlanta Hawks wing AJ Griffin.

The No. 16 overall pick of the draft in 2022, Griffin burst onto the scene as a rookie, showcasing a penchant for spacing the floor and knocking down clutch buckets. It’s been a different story entirely this season.

In an effort to get his season – and career – back on track, Griffin has been assigned to the College Park Skyhawks in the G League.

“The Atlanta Hawks announced today that guard AJ Griffin has been assigned to the College Park Skyhawks,” the official announcement from the Hawks PR handle on X, formerly Twitter, on February 21.

Griffin, 20, is averaging 2.1 points and shooting 27.3% from downtown this season.

He has made just 18 appearances, dealing with an inconsistent role and personal issues that kept him away from the team.

It’s a significant step back for the former Duke standout, who averaged 8.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting 39% from beyond the arc in his first season, including multiple buzzer-beaters.

His role began to decrease in last year’s playoffs. Head Coach Quin Snyder effectively benched Griffin for the Hawks’ entire five-game postseason run.

It has continued into this season, with young journeyman Garrison Mathews assuming a larger role than anyone would have forecasted coming into the season. Snyder has cited Mathews’ ability to impact the game in various ways as a reason for his increased minutes.

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AJ Griffin following Hawks teammate’s lead

It’s not uncommon for young players to venture down to the G League, especially when they aren’t seeing a lot of playing time. Hawks rookie Kobe Bufkin has certainly found his stride with the College Park Skyhawks this season.

But the more pertinent example for Griffin is third-year forward Jalen Johnson, the No. 20 overall pick in 2021.

Johnson was in a similar situation under former Head Coach Nate McMillan.

His minutes and a consistent role were hard to come by, with McMillan saying the season wasn’t the time to develop players on the floor on a team trying to compete. Johnson eventually requested to go down to the G League.

This season, Johnson is among the leading candidates for the Most Improved Player, if not the frontrunner.

There is no guarantee that a similar outcome awaits Griffin.

But it is better than spot minutes in garbage time, which has come sparingly for a Hawks team that has played the second-most clutch games in the league this season.