5 things Hawks fans should watch at Summer League

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The Hawks begin play in the NBA Summer League on Saturday in Las Vegas. The team will play the Utah Jazz at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here are five things to watch for over the Hawks’ four-game schedule:

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1. Can Sharife Cooper carve out a leadership role?

The Hawks already have tendered a two-way deal to the young point guard, which shows that they are still committed to his development. But Summer League could be a prime opportunity for Sharife Cooper to prove that he deserves solid minutes on the main roster.

The Hawks still have three spots remaining on their roster, and this week’s tournament could be when Cooper earns a standard deal.

Last season, the 21-year-old played in 13 games for the Hawks but seemed to find a groove in the G League. He averaged 17.1 points, 4 rebounds and 7.3 assists with the Skyhawks.

During Summer League, Cooper will need to show his capabilities as a floor general, a scorer and that he has taken steps forward defensively.

2. How does AJ Griffin look in his debut?

This will be the first time fans get to see AJ Griffin in a Hawks uniform. The Hawks’ first-round draft choice last month, Griffin already has taken advantage of the team’s practice facility and the presence of the team’s coaching staff. So, he already may have taken some positive steps forward since leaving Duke this spring.

Griffin, 18, averaged 10.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and one assist per game. He made 49.3% of his shots from the field and knocked down 44.7% of his 3-pointers on 4.1 attempts per game, earning ACC All-Rookie Team honors.

So the former Blue Devil will look to show his prowess from long range, as well as his ability to create his own shots.

3. Do the Hawks’ young players display a hard-hat mentality?

With the Hawks looking to reshape their identity on defense, Summer League will be the perfect start to the team’s young players leaning into the hard-hat approach to the game. Hawks rookie guard Tyrese Martin already mentioned that he expects to play hard on both ends of the floor, crash the boards and willingly dive for loose balls.

So, the Hawks likely will take comfort knowing that their rising stars embrace a tough mentality.

4. Can this year’s Hawks pick up the team’s first Summer League championship?

The Hawks have yet to make an appearance in the championship game since the NBA began holding one in 2013. The Hawks have had mixed results over the years at Summer League.

Though the tournament is not indicative of how a team’s regular season will unfold, it could give the Hawks some indication of where their rookies stack up against the rest of the league.

5. What impact could Nick Van Exel have?

The players aren’t the only ones that fans will get a sense of. Each of the 30 teams selected their head coaches from their benches, and fans will see how their philosophies translate on the floor.

This year, Hawks assistant Nick Van Exel is at the helm, and he brings more than a decade of coaching experience.

Van Exel has mentioned that he hopes to connect with the younger players, and fans will get to see if that translates into success on the court.