The Atlanta Hawks got a big win to close out the 2023 calendar year, beating the Washington Wizards 130-126 on New Year’s Eve.
They closed out the year mired in trade rumors around several players, including Dejounte Murray, whom several teams are said to be interested in trading for, as well as Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter.
But it hasn’t just been the Hawks’ high-priced veterans drawing interest.
“In previous talks with the Atlanta Hawks surrounding [Pascal] Siakam, Jalen Johnson was a player Toronto coveted,” wrote Michael Scotto of HoopsHype on December 30, citing league sources. “However, the Hawks would ideally like to retain the 22-year-old forward amid his breakout campaign”
Johnson, 23, was the No. 20 overall pick of the draft in 2021. He spent most of his rookie season in the G League.
After flashing more during his second season, Johnson has a legitimate case for Most Improved Player this season, averaging 14.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while adding 1.0 steals and shooting 40.8% from beyond the arc.
He had a career-high 24 points with 13 rebounds and four assists in the win over the Wizards.
It was his second straight double-double and nearly his third. He finished one rebound short in the loss to the Chicago Bulls on December 26. Johnson has five double-doubles on the season, and he has fallen one rebound short of three more.
Hawks, Raptors exchanging trade offers, rejections for Pascal Siakam
Johnson is not the only Hawks youngster the Raptors have had eyes for. The Raptors also liked Kobe Bufkin, whom the Hawks selected No. 15 overall in this year’s draft.
Bufkin was a rumored potential swing piece in a trade for Siakam.
The Hawks declined then as they have with Johnson now. Bufkin’s season was interrupted by a thumb injury. But he has strung together some encouraging performances with the College Park Sky Hawks in the G League.
The Raptors, for their part, are rumored to have rejected an offer from the Hawks that featured Hunter and second-year man AJ Griffin.
Hunter has missed the last five games with a knee injury, and he isn’t set to be re-evaluated for another week or so. Griffin recently returned to the team after an eight-game hiatus for personal reasons.
The Hawks could use both players on the court to help boost their trade value if nothing else.
They’ll get to enjoy a two-day break before getting back to work and trying to start a winning streak with a tilt against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 3.