Hawks’ Rookies Get First Taste of NBA Action

Saturday, July 13, 2013
By Jaryd Wilson

A few thoughts on tonight’s 90-83 loss to the Clippers:

The end result was a loss, but there’s plenty to be excited about if you’re a Hawks fan.  The only logical place to start is with John Jenkins, who scored 24 points on 11-23 shooting and hit two threes.  Just about all 23 shots were quality looks, which is probably the most impressive part considering it was this group’s first game together.  Jenkins showed leadership on the floor and took it upon himself to make plays.

Lucas Nogueira, Atlanta’s first draft pick who was cleared to play about 25 minutes before tip-off, excelled on the offensive end.  He scored 10 points on 5-8 shooting and pulled down three offensive rebounds (eight total).  Several of the makes were rim-rattling finishes off alley-oops.  Offensively he’s a fun player to watch, and he runs the floor so well.  Defensively is where he needs to improve.  He’ll grow stronger obviously with NBA weight programs, which should help, but he also needs to learn to stay on his feet.  There were several times when he went for the block and it cost his team two points.  If he stays grounded and vertical, teams will have a hard time shooting or passing around him.  Again, this was his first NBA game ever, so all in all, he did very well.

Dennis Schröder, Atlanta’s other first-round draft pick, looked very good as well.  He’s a distributor offensively, always looking to make the extra pass, and that’s what you want from your point guard.  He had a tough shooting day, but shooting is the least of my worries when looking at Summer League talent.  I’d like to see him fight through ball screens a little better, but what I did like was his ability to attack the rim, something he struggled doing during training camp this week.

I thought Mike Muscala also had a fine first NBA game.  He also went 5-8 from the floor and finished with 11 points.  He runs the floor very well also, which surprised me because of how heavily scouts credited his low post game.  He did drift away from the basket a few times, and while he clearly has range for a guy his size, I’d like to see him be more physical offensively on the low block as the week progresses.

Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott, both returning from last year’s team, had fine efforts tonight too.  Mack didn’t play a lot in the first half but had an excellent second half, sparking a late Hawks charge.  Scott was feeling it in the first quarter before the Clippers bottled him up, but it’s clear that he and Jenkins have chemistry together on the floor.

I was surprised to see Kyle Weems in the starting lineup, but I thought he held his own.  He’s not a scorer, but he’s a good energy guy to have out there, and he plays great wing defense from what I saw.  It’ll be interesting to track him as well.

And how about Boban Marjanovic?  I said yesterday that he could be effective in spurts, and my was he ever.  Towering five inches over the tallest Clipper, Marjanovic dunked twice without jumping, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots in just 8:30.  I thought Quin Snyder used him perfectly to spell Nogueira and Muscala.

As a team, the Hawks need to do a better job on the glass and with their interior defense.  The Clippers were able to get inside at will, and when they missed, they rebounded their misses (17 offensive rebounds).  If the Hawks’ bigs stand their ground and stay on their feet, they should be fine.

The Hawks received two points today because they outscored the Clippers in two quarters.  Points are used to seed teams who finish with the same record, so those points could come in handy later.

As Coach Bud said yesterday, winning and losing isn’t as important as improving, so we’ll see what kind of improvement Atlanta shows on Sunday.

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