Why is AJ Griffin not even starting for the College Park Skyhawks?

When AJ Griffin was assigned to the College Park Skyhawks, there was a rightful assumption that the Atlanta Hawks forward would start for the team. He is not, so let's take a look at why this may potentially be the case.

Oct 30, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) handles the ball
Oct 30, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) handles the ball / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Atlanta Hawks assigned sophomore forward AJ Griffin to their G League affiliate the College Park Skyhawks, it was a fair assumption that it was to get him minutes and confidence. To do that it was also a solid assumption that he would start and be a fairly dominant player on the team, given his talent level.

Well, it is best not to assume anything in the NBA. This has not been the case. At the time of writing the former first-round pick has played four games and has started in none of them. He has come off the bench, averaging 15.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game.

While these numbers are not earth-shattering for an NBA sophomore who was a factor for the Hawks last season, they can be explained. The Hawks may be looking for something very specific in Griffin during his G League assignment and it may not be obvious until the offseason.

Why AJ Griffin may not be starting for the College Park Skyhawks

When the Atlanta Hawks assign a player to the Skyhawks, they are always looking for something to happen. Right now, it is possible that the Hawks are looking to see what energy and production Griffin is able to bring to the floor when he comes into a game as a sixth or seventh man.

So, why, when Trae Young is poitentially out for the season are the Hawks not playing Griffin with the varsity squad to see what he can produce? The answer is simple. They have one of the most expensive bench units in the NBA and if they are going to make any major improvements, they need this to change.

They are not going to move on from Bogdan Bogdanovic. He is often in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year and is one of the best shooters in the league. This then leaves De'Andre Hunter, who has potentially been made expendable by the play of Saddiq Bey. This means that the Hawks will be trying to showcase Hunter's talents to get the best value for him in the offseason.

However, this means that there has to be a succession plan. Hunter is producing good numbers and has been solid since his return from injury. So, this means that the Hawks have a very short window to move on from Hunter before they need to sign Bey who is out of contract at the end of this season.

Griffin needs to get used to coming off the bench and having an impact on the contest in a similar way to Hunter. You can't continue to showcase Hunter to keep his value high and develop Griffin in the same role on the same team, it is just not possible.

This means that Griffin needs to showcase all that he can bring as a sixth man in a similar system in the second-best league. If he can do this, then the Hawks will be in a better position to trade Hunter and get pieces that address additional needs. Now, it is up to Griffin to show the Hawks that he can be that player and not waste his sophomore season.