3 bold predictions for AJ Griffin in his rookie season with Hawks

Is AJ Griffin a game-changing steal for the Atlanta Hawks?

The Atlanta Hawks selected AJ Griffin with the 16th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. The former Duke forward could prove to be a steal in this draft class.

Griffin was once viewed as a potential top five pick this year. However, that changed due to concerns about his foot speed, defensive skills and fears of injury

Unfortunately, Griffin was absent from the Hawks’ summer league debut. It was mainly because he had pain in his right foot.

Still, the Hawks might feel like they got lucky with that pick. For the second year in a row, the Hawks benefited from a predicted lottery win. In the 2021 NBA draft, they selected Jalen Johnson, another Duke forward, with the 20th overall pick. Now Griffin lands on her lap. In both cases, the Hawks decided to sign the best player available because of more pressing needs.

Specifically, Griffin is the son of former player and coach Adrian Griffin, who is now part of the Toronto Raptors coaching staff.

To be clear, AJ Griffin has NBA-level talent. All he might need is an opportunity, and the Hawks can give him that. If everything falls into place, Griffin could play a significant role for the Atlanta Hawks next season. He possesses several qualities that the Hawks seem to have found appealing.

One good thing about Griffin is that he can work within a system. That may have worked against him in the NBA draft, but it will work in his favor as an NBA player. Remember, he dropped so far in the draft order simply because other rookies had better picks. Duke’s inherent system and playing style may have caused Griffin’s numbers to be depleted. Still, at this high level, it’s better to have the acumen to play within a system. It’s one of the reasons so many Duke products endure and endure in the NBA.

For illustration, Griffin’s shooting is one aspect that can help the Hawks, but that will only happen when he’s on the ground. Griffin can clear the floor, but he’ll only get playing time if he earns head coach Nate McMillan’s trust. Coach Nate doesn’t typically start beginners or play them in tons, but Griffin could be an interesting exception.

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AJ Griffin Bold Hawk’s Predictions

3. Griffin will be the Hawks’ third-best marksman

Griffin is a good size and can play both wing positions. He can also shoot the lights out of any arena. This shootout has been his calling card since high school. It should allow the Hawks to spread the ground better, especially with Kevin Hurter, who is now on a different team, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has recurring knee problems.

Griffin also has a wingspan of 6’11, which should improve his shooting skills even further. He should be able to shoot past most players chasing him.

In college, Griffin made 44.7 percent of his three-point attempts, which is a pretty high rate. For Coach McMillan, Griffin can play a lot of minutes if he can approach that shooting percentage in the NBA.

The Hawks’ new star backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray will certainly benefit from having a bevy of shooters on the wings. Both Young and Murray need catch-and-shoot types to complement their attacking tendencies. Griffin could be one of them.

2. Griffin will be a defensive liability

As good as Griffin is with his outside contact, however, his defense leaves a lot to be desired. In college, he was made vulnerable by switches on the perimeter.

Griffin has trouble defending fast and athletic players. He’s usually a step slow, which is a liability in the current NBA landscape. In an age where shooters roam alongside dribbling attackers, being a step too slow is already a step too far. Griffin should expect and prepare for opponents to attack him on defense.

Even more so than his shooting, this area could prove to be a stronger barometer of Griffin’s playing time in the coming season.

1. Griffin is out through injury

Griffin’s balance has also been questioned in the past. This is mainly due to persistent leg problems. In the past, he sustained a non-contact knee injury during his junior year of high school. At the time, it was called a dislocated knee. The next year he had complaints again. This time they were on his back and ankles. To make matters worse, another knee injury occurred prior to his rookie season at Duke.

As you can see, Griffin had quite bad luck with injuries. This also seems to have hampered his explosiveness and athleticism. At this level, both things are important, especially for beginners.

The bottom line for Griffin is that his shooting will be valuable to the Hawks. On the other hand, his shooting only matters if he’s healthy enough to be on the ground or if his defense can keep up.

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