Hawks should pounce on rival star's return, add big-bodied youngster

The Atlanta Hawks should look to take advantage of the return of a rival star player that triggered a teammate's release.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder
Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks have ample backcourt depth with even more reinforcements – namely rookie Kobe Bufkin – who have yet to play. They also have so many wing players that some can’t even see the floor like AJ Griffin, who could be a potential trade candidate. 

They can even say they are three-deep at center after seeing what Bruno Fernando gave them in their latest loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 16.

But there is a bit of a gap in players who can slide between the 3 and 4 spots.

That is where the Hawks could look to pounce on former Memphis Grizzlies big man Kenneth Lofton Jr., whom the team waived in advance of star point guard Ja Morant’s return to action from a 25-game suspension for conduct detrimental.

Lofton, 21, is a second-year former undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. He is averaging just 2.6 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 0.9 assists this season despite a slightly larger role amid a slew of injuries for the Grizzlies.

It is a step back from his efforts with the team last season.

But the 6-foot-7, 275-pounder nicknamed “Gen Z-Bo” in homage to former Grizzlies star Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph has game, and he would certainly help beef up the Hawks’ backline off the bench, even in a bit role.

Of course, there could be a minor bidding war for the intriguing youngster.

Appreciate all the love from the city of Memphis along with the opportunity given from the grizzlies and the hustle all love,” Lofton posted on X on December 17 following his release.

Lofton averaged 20.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in 17 appearances (15 starts) during the G League regular season with the Memphis Hustle in 2022-23.

Hawks Clint Capela ‘day-to-day’ with knee injury

Hawks starting center Clint Capela missed the loss to the Cavs with a knee injury. The team updated his status on the day off.

“Clint Capela … underwent an MRI earlier today at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex,” read an official release from the team on December 17. “He has been diagnosed with a left knee bone bruise.

“His status is day-to-day, and he is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game vs. Detroit”

Capela is averaging 10.5 points and 11.5 rebounds with 1.7 blocks and 1.1 assists this season. The assists are his most since 2021-22 while the blocks are his most since the 2020-21 campaign.

It was the first absence of the season for Capela, 29, who has dealt with knee issues over the past few seasons.

Atlanta still has top backup Okongwu to go along with Fernando should Capela miss more time.

And rookie Mouhamed Gueye will factor in, though he is more of a 4 at this stage of his development, especially physically. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a player like Lofton working diligently in the background for moments like these.