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Kia Rookie Ladder: AJ Griffin discovering his rhythm in Atlanta

AJ Griffin talks together with his father Adrian Griffin, an assistant coach for the Raptors, previous to a sport.

The NBA rookie “wall” is a well-established obstacle to new gamers’ improvement, one thing most of them hit by fatigue, harm, over-use and even under-use in some unspecified time in the future of their rookie seasons.

AJ Griffin, the Atlanta Hawks’ 19-year-old wing, hit his early – even earlier than he might see motion within the Las Vegas Summer time League. And it was of his personal making.

Griffin confirmed up so keen, so decided to show the Hawks proper of their choice (sixteenth total), that he overdid it.

“A day or two after the Draft, he was the primary to point out up within the constructing,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan stated Monday in Chicago. “He began his conditioning and ultimately type of ran himself into the bottom simply getting ready for Summer time League. However that is what he does. He works on his sport, he places the time in within the fitness center.”

Stated Griffin: “Simply popping out of faculty I obtained harm and earlier than faculty, I obtained harm.”

At Duke in 2021, arriving as a five-star prospect, Griffin suffered a knee harm earlier than the faculty season even started. He recovered properly, enjoying in 39 video games and hitting practically 45% of his 3-pointers whereas serving to the Blue Devils to the Closing 4 with fellow Ladder mate Paolo Banchero.

Getting harm once more (foot) whereas understanding and lacking Vegas suggests an extended low-profile season shuttling to the G League Faculty Park Skyhawks. However the Hawks’ harm and private issues have saved him round. He has made 44 appearances, averaged 21 minutes and began 10 occasions, contributing 9.8 factors per sport whereas hitting 40% of his 3-pointers.

The slender 6-foot-6 teen has logged time at three positions. And he grabbed some highlight early by hitting buzzer-beaters to beat Toronto in a November sport and Chicago 11 video games later. The final rookie to have a number of game-winners in the identical season? The Bulls’ Toni Kukoc in 1993-94.

AJ Griffin’s game-winning layup secured an additional time win over the Raptors.

“Offensively he is been fairly in keeping with what he brings to the ground,” McMillan stated. “The defensive finish is the place he is actually working and attempting to know guarding [wings and forwards].

“He is been a pleasure to educate – no matter you inform him, he does. He asks questions, which it’s essential to do. He is been nothing however a professional since he stepped into our facility.”

In that manner, McMillan stated, it is clear Griffin has NBA lineage – his father Adrian performed 9 seasons from 1999-2008 after going undrafted out of Seton Corridor and has been an assistant coach with 5 franchises ever since.

A type of groups was the Bulls, beneath Tom Thibodeau from 2010 to 2015. So with the youthful Griffin’s go to to United Middle, some reminiscences from his grade faculty years had been stirred.

“I used to go to the household room on a regular basis and shoot on the mini-hoop,” AJ Griffin recalled Monday. “It was already seen coming in – it felt good to be again right here tonight.

“I at all times had that mindset of eager to make the NBA. It comes with the on a regular basis sacrifice of eager to get higher. Irrespective of how small or how massive or how younger, if you happen to set your thoughts on something you are able to do it.”

Listed below are this week’s rankings, together with Griffin at No. 10, on the Kia Rookie Ladder:


The High 5 this week on the 2022-23 Kia Rookie Ladder:

(All stats by Tuesday, Jan. 24)

1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Season stats: 20.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.8 apg
Since final Ladder: 16.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.7 apg
Final Ladder: 1
Draft decide: No. 1 total

The Celtics bade a not-so-fond farewell to the Orlando Magic typically and Banchero, particularly, Monday after shedding the season sequence, 1-3. Banchero was a terror within the 4 video games, averaging 24.3 factors and taking pictures 14-of-25 from deep (56%) in comparison with 40-of-144 (27.8%) towards everyone else. It seemingly was no coincidence that Boston’s harm report the subsequent morning included “Al Horford, decrease again stiffness, OUT.”


2. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers

Season stats: 17.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 apg
Since final Ladder: 20.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.8 apg
Final Ladder: 2
Draft decide: No. 6 total

Mathurin was at his instant-offense finest towards Chicago Monday to assist Indiana snap its seven-game skid. He scored 15 of his 26 factors within the fourth quarter, posting a plus-13 because the Pacers accomplished a comeback from 21 factors down. His aggressiveness has earned him double-digit journeys to the road in six of his previous 13 video games and 12 total.


3. Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz

Season stats: 7.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.7 apg
Since final Ladder: 9.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.0 apg
Final Ladder: 5
Draft decide: No. 22 total

There is a blogger in Utah who made a case this week that Kessler ought to be the ROY favourite primarily based on an array of stats. It could assist if his minutes might rise and he took his manufacturing (13.6 factors, 13.0 rebounds, 3.4 blocks per 36) with them. Solely 5 of the previous 31 ROY winners averaged a double-double. Then once more, solely three of these 31 averaged 13 factors or much less.


4. Jalen Williams, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder

Season stats: 11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg
Since final Ladder: 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg
Final Ladder: 3
Draft decide: No. 12 total

All-around helpfulness characterizes Williams’ sport. The Thunder is 12-9 since he moved into the beginning lineup to remain on Dec. 12. His 44 dunks rank him second among the many rookies behind Utah’s Kessler. And he is latched onto a fairly good function mannequin, sporting Kobe Bryant’s sneakers and quantity (8) and attempting to emulate the “Mamba mentality.”


5. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings

Season stats: 12.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.9 apg
Since final Ladder: 18.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 0.5 apg
Final Ladder: 6
Draft decide: No. 4 total

Murray’s confidence has remained intact by the ups and downs of his NBA intro season. He simply posted a 60-50-100 taking pictures week and is at 42.1% from the arc on his 5.9 3FGA. One supply of reassurance: Teammate and fellow Iowan Harrison Barnes, veteran mentoring attainable substitute.


The Subsequent 5:

6. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 15.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.4 apg
Since final Ladder: 14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 7.5 apg
Final Ladder: 4
Draft decide: No. 5 total

Drive-feeding at PG in Cunningham’s absence = inconsistency.

7. Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 8.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since final Ladder: 17.0 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
Final Ladder: 8
Draft decide: No. 13 total

Large in France after his 23-15 evening in Paris.

8. Jabari Smith, Jr., Houston Rockets

Season stats: 12.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since final Ladder: 8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
Final Ladder: 7
Draft decide: No. 3 total

Lowest spot but for low impression on low-level Rockets.

9. Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs

Season stats: 9.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.4 apg
Since final Ladder: 17.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg
Final Ladder: 10
Draft decide: No. 9 decide total

Averaging 11.9p, 5.9r and 74.5% FT since switching to at least one hand on the line.

10. AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks

Season stats: 9.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since final Ladder: 9.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.3 apg
Final Ladder: 11
Draft decide: No. 16 total

Wing is taking pictures 60.3 total, 52.9% from deep in 2023.

11. Tari Eason, Houston Rockets

Season stats: 8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.9 apg
Since final Ladder: 10.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.7 apg
Final Ladder: N/A
Draft decide: No. 17 total decide

Rockets 6-6 when he has 2+ steals, 5-30 in any other case.

12. Mark Williams, Charlotte Hornets

Season stats: 7.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.3 apg
Since final Ladder: 12.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.0 apg
Final Ladder: N/A
Draft decide: No. 15 total

His 17p, 6r, 5 blocks line in 19 min. off bench at HOU earns this rung.

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Steve Aschburner has written concerning the NBA since 1980. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and follow him on Twitter.

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