Why Atlanta Hawks Rookie A.J. Griffin Proves To Be Early Steal Of 2022 NBA Draft

In the waning moments of the Atlanta Hawks battle against the Toronto Raptors, the third youngest player in the NBA had the biggest impact. Rookie A.J. Griffin, Jr., 19, kept the Hawks alive by scoring on all four of his shot attempts to finish with eight points in the overtime session. None bigger than the buzzer beater that secured victory for the Hawks, who currently hold the third best record in the Eastern Conference. 

“I mean throughout the whole game I thought he came in and gave us a lift,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said following the game. “He was able to knock down some shots, make some timely baskets. I thought throughout the game and the ball found him in the in the second half and that over time and you know, he was able to finish plays with a lot of poise. Doesn’t panic out there and, you know, made some big shots forced.”

Griffin, who was drafted by the Hawks with the 16th overall pick, could be viewed as an early steal of the 2022 NBA Draft. Although projected as a lottery pick, teams overlooked Griffin due to his injury history in high school and his one year at Duke University. An injury prevented him from playing in the 2022 NBA Summer League, a tournament where rookies and young players get an opportunity to get early NBA action. 

Once the season began, many believed Griffin would struggle for playing time. However, he has found a way to crack the Hawks’ rotation and provide a spark off the bench. He scored 24 points against the title contending Milwaukee Bucks and finished the Raptors game with 17 points. 

“I’m always happy when A.J. has success,” Trae Young said following the Raptors game. “It’s always exciting to see people’s success and I’m just happy.”

The son of NBA veteran and Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin, Griffin remains humble in his approach and focused on getting better each day. 

“I got to say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to earn coach’s trust and to be able to be out there,” Griffin said. “And knowing that I got coach’s trust, knowing that the whole team is behind me and encouraging me to continue to play hard and rise up to the occasion. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be able to execute.” 

View the Hawks buzzer-beating play against the Raptors. 


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