Hawks' former top pick suffers injury in G League debut

The Atlanta Hawks sent former first-round pick AJ Griffin down to the G League to regain his form, only for him to emerge worse for the wear.
Atlanta Hawks forward AJ Griffin
Atlanta Hawks forward AJ Griffin / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Atlanta Hawks (24-31) sent AJ Griffin down to the G League and the College Park Skyhawks to regain his rookie form. Griffin did not start his G League debut, though he did still log 21 minutes in a 131-124 loss to the Indiana Mad Ants on February 22.

He finished with 12 points on 41.6% shooting, including 2-for-5 from beyond the arc. He also snagged four rebounds and one steal.

Unfortunately for Griffin, he also suffered an injury.

“Per league source, Hawks wing AJ Griffin has been diagnosed with a mild left ankle sprain,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Lauren L. Williams on February 22. “His status for next the Skyhawks game is TBD.”

The injury occurred early in the fourth quarter with the Skyhawks trailing the Mad Ants by one point.

“AJ Griffin just fell and grabbed at his left ankle on a play where it looks like he may have rolled it,” NBA.com’s Kevin Chouinard reported in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “Skyhawks had to call timeout with him unable to continue.”

It’s been an enigmatic season for the second-year wing, Griffin.

The No. 16 overall pick in 2022, Griffin averaged 8.9 points and shot 39% from beyond the arc in 19 minutes per game across 72 appearances as a rookie, drawing 12 starts.

This season, he is averaging 2.1 points and shooting 27.3% from downtown. He’s also appeared in 18 of the Hawks’ 55 games this season, battling inconsistency and personal issues. And even those stints have largely been inconsequential.

He lost his spot in the rotation in last year’s playoffs, failing to see the floor at all.

Quin Snyder’s comments about Hawks’ Garrison Mathews spoke volumes

Head Coach Quin Snyder has opted to go with young journeyman Garrison Mathews. Mathews is also a shooter first.

But Snyder has cited the impact Mathews makes in other areas as a key reason why he has seen the floor as much as he has. He is effectively the ninth man in the rotation. But that is a role most would have tabbed Griffin over him coming into the season.

“Garrison had a game where he played 1:30, and it was an important 1:30,” Snyder told reporters on November 30. “Sometimes you say that, and people ... roll their eyes. But 1:30 became however many, 10 [minutes] tonight. And we need anybody who comes in the game to compete.”

Griffin had made 11 appearances to that point in the season.

He’s made seven appearances since then. The personal issues certainly played a part in that, but his already small role has been diminished.

Griffin can’t find his stride if he isn’t getting on the floor, so the Hawks – and Skyhawks – have to hope that the injury is short-term. They are already set to navigate the “foreseeable future” without Onyeka Okongwu, per Snyder on February 22.

And while they get Clint Capela back, Snyder expects him to be on a minutes restriction.

The Hawks return to play by welcoming the Toronto Raptors into State Farm Arena. The Hawks have won two of their three previous meetings this season.