What AJ Griffin brings to the Atlanta Hawks: ‘His best basketball is ahead of him’

It isn’t an official Duke recruitment coverage. However… it does not harm.

“I say, at all times take the professional child. It’s within the genes, man,” says Chris Carwell, assistant technical director. NBA As we recruit the kid, take him. Within the worst case situation, his purpose can be 1,000 factors — and in one of the best case, you’d get AJ Griffins, Seth Currys, (Mike) Dunleavys.”

It is a noble firm that Griffin ought to preserve, particularly after he simply completed his first and solely yr in faculty basketball. (His father, Adrian, Stream Toronto Raptors assistant coach, having performed 9 seasons within the NBA himself). However you possibly can see the place Carrawell got here from: Dunleavy Jr. performed 15 years within the NBA after being named third in 2002, and Curry eight years into his skilled profession regardless of not being there. The lineage is there – and now, after Atlanta Hawks Griffin picked fifteenth total within the NBA draft Thursday, so there are comparable expectations for achievement.

The excellent news? Regardless of Duke’s unbelievable new season, during which he performed a key function in The Blue Devils’ development to the fourth last, there’s optimism that the 18-year-old may very well be extra productive on the subsequent stage. Even his former coach agrees: “His finest basketball is,” says Carwell, “in entrance of him.”

This sense exists largely for 2 causes. The primary is that Griffin, who made 25 appearances for Mike Krzyzewski’s final crew, was nonetheless popping out of an extended hiatus earlier than this season. Ankle and knee accidents sidelined Griffin within the latter half of his center faculty season, in addition to his senior yr. (He ended up spending most of that yr in Tampa, the place he educated close to his father and the Raptors, who had moved out of Toronto as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.) Then, at a Duke preseason apply in October, Griffin injured his proper knee which prevented him from Be part of the course in full till December. The purpose is, it was an extended course of simply to get Griffin into the ballpark.

As soon as again, Griffin needed to discover out precisely his function. It wasn’t as a singular star—together with 4 different draft picks, that wasn’t potential—or overly sized. “He needed to play us the place capturing him was a weapon,” Carwell says. “So we informed him, simply be one of the best shooter within the nation.” Griffin was virtually; He finally settled into this capturing function and emerged as among the finest 3-point shooters within the nation. He hit 44.7 % of his 3s—the highest 10 marks nationally amongst prime gamers—in 4.1 makes an attempt per recreation, and in practically half of the competitions he is performed (12), he is hit a minimum of 3 times. Per Synergy, in spot makes an attempt, Griffin averaged 1,165 factors per possession (PPP), which was rated “glorious” and on the 91st percentile nationally.

Clearly a child may shoot him.

However what else can he do?

That is the place opinions differ concerning the 6-foot-6, 222-pound wing. Optimists within the NBA entrance desks imagine Griffin has a extra refined recreation than he was in a position to present final season, and that he has the potential to be a top-caliber 3D winger. Jimmy Butler He was Griffin’s favourite participant rising up, and comparisons between the 2 had been frequent throughout the preliminary draft course of. Carwell famous the similarity of their physique, including, “I do not know if (AJ) understands his physique but.” Working example: Griffin was so good as a shooter on set and in transition final season that, in keeping with Synergy, these two actions accounted for greater than 60 % of his complete offensive property…with no others accounting for even eight %. That is partly what makes evaluating Griffin troublesome. He completed Offensive Rating No. 17 nationally final season, in keeping with KenPom, and made 54.7 % of the 2s — however his pattern dimension was fairly small.

“However as these guys see on the subsequent stage (when) they arrive to work,” Carwell says, “he can take off. You get a child who can shoot, (but additionally) who will be capable of put the ball on the bottom and create the pictures.”

The priority with Griffin is that if these creation expertise will not be realized. The identical goes for the defensive finish, the place Griffin’s body suggests one factor and his precise motor expertise one other. He struggled at occasions to defend the straights races final season, not wanting on the a part of the highschool athlete he had earlier than the harm. However as one of many youthful gamers within the draft, and somebody who hasn’t even walked away a yr with critical accidents, Griffin nonetheless has room to develop into a great participant.

Which signifies that for now, Griffin’s capturing would be the greatest asset that instantly interprets to Atlanta. Then, if his recreation continues to develop any additional?

We will speak concerning the Griffin years from now as one among this draft’s greatest steals.

(Photograph: Kelley L Cox / USA At this time)