If the Hawks don’t have Trae Young and John Collins, what are they?
Well, they’re deep, and feeling great after beating the Memphis Grizzlies easily Friday night.
Atlanta has, yet again, turned things around after long periods of losses, including in early November and most of December and early January. They’ve cut down on turnovers and have secretly become one of the league’s best offenses thanks to steady shooting from their key guys. If Young joins Collins on the sidelines against the Pelicans, they’ll feel it, but easily have the talent to overcome those missing pieces.
The Eastern Conference finalists maintained much of the same roster from the last couple years, including those dangerous wing scorers like Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Lou Williams, although LouWill is nearing the end of a long career. Same could be said for Danilo Gallinari.
Seven Hawks rotation members average double-figures and another, Onyeka Okongwu, is at 9.0 ppg and is more of a defensive presence who will find time switching onto our smalls. Watch for these matchups against CJ McCollum or Jose Alvarado in isolation situations and monitor what New Orleans can generate from that.
What’s New, Jax?
The Pelicans haven’t turned into the 2000 Lakers, but things generally make more sense. This includes: Jaxson Hayes is officially a positive NBA player—remember how long it took for NBA fans to say that about, say, Austin Rivers?
He’s not forced to play center, like, EVER. JV is a must-play 5-man this organization needs, and we’re all left drooling for certain lineups with everyone healthy.
Don’t forget, Hayes didn’t earn any floor time in 13 different games by the time it was December. Since approximately February, he’s getting 20+ minutes every night out.
He’s averaging 16.5 points per game in the last four games. In that time, he’s also collected six blocks, only three turnovers, and in two of the games, had just one foul; he’s even made 18 of 23 free throws in that time.
It’s been quite the journey for the third-year man from Texas. His draft brother Nickeil Alexander-Walker got bogged down with disappointment and poor play and now finds himself scrapping and scraping for handfuls of minutes in Utah. Jax has taken an incredible amount of criticism, much of which has stemmed from organizational whispers expressing concern over his effort to get better and overall professionalism.
He’s finally earning minutes and making an impact.
Friday, they beat the pants off the uneven and talent-dry San Antonio Spurs 124-91. They missed everything for, seemingly, the entire first half, and eventually Pop popped off and got ejected in the second quarter. Jax was there to make more 3s (He’s 6-of-10 from deep since March 11.), grab rebounds, and outplay his Spursian counterparts.
His time as a defender is so much more stable, as he seems to understand there are 5 players to keep track of! At times, you can still see him examining the floor, which means there are still periods of active thinking on the floor. There’s a fine balance between thinking the game and letting your mind get in the way of making plays.
Keep it up, Jax!
When: March 20, 2022, 5:00 p.m.
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM