Hawks rookie AJ Griffin capitalizes as team makes rotation adjustments

Last week, Hawks coach Nate McMillan said that he was finished with rotation experiments now that the team has embarked on its regular season. Though the experimenting of the rotation was left behind in the exhibition games, McMillan and the Hawks aren’t through with adapting as necessary.

On Monday, Hawks rookie AJ Griffin played 17 minutes in the team’s win over the Bucks. He played another 21 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Celtics.

With Griffin seeing more minutes on the floor, that leaves fewer to go around. It’s part of McMillan’s way of encouraging players to earn their playing time.

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“What I’ve said to them is, when you get that five minutes, you got to turn that five minutes into 10 minutes, and turn that 10 minutes into 15,” McMillan said. “And then you gotta turn that into a rotation. So, that’s what AJ is doing. He’s taking those minutes, and we got to find a way to increase his minutes. So it’s gonna be, possibly somebody else that’s out of rotation. But, that’s the role of the reserves.”

In the past two games, the person bumped out of the rotation was veteran forward Justin Holiday. He did not check in during Monday’s game against the Bucks and played only seven minutes Wednesday night.

When asked if Holiday felt all right Monday, McMillan said yes. He added that Griffin had been doing good things for the Hawks.

That included an energetic fourth quarter in which Griffin helped give the Hawks a boost in their attempt to erase a 27-point deficit against the 76ers on Saturday. Griffin scored nine points in 12 minutes and had a poster dunk on Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid.

In that same game, Holiday went 0-of-2 from the floor in 15 minutes and did not play in the fourth quarter.

With Bogdan Bogdanovic still rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, the Hawks have struggled to knock shots down from 3-point range. Griffin has provided the team with a little more consistency.

He has made 40% of his 3-point shots on 9.6 attempts per game, while Holiday has sunk 33% of his 10.4 attempts.

Holiday has tried to create offensive opportunities for himself off his defensive efforts. But with the Hawks looking to get out of their offensive slump, they’ve needed to adapt the rotation in a way that will generate as many favorable looks as possible.

“You hope that everybody can get out there and play well, and you can stick with your normal rotation,” McMillan said.” But, you know, like, (Saturday) night, we were down 20. You know, so you’re trying to find a combination that can get us back into the game. And we went with a combination of AJ out on the floor. And he played that whole fourth quarter. So it’s just those adjustments we make every single night.”

It’s an adjustment for Griffin, and he still is learning how to adapt to the extended minutes. He averaged only eight minutes in the Hawks’ first eight games, logging DNPs in three of them. In the past five, he has averaged 17 minutes, and he’s figuring out how to adjust when he doesn’t quite provide the instant offense like planned.

He scored six points Wednesday and missed his four 3-point attempts.

“I definitely try to, if my shot’s offline, just be able to see other ways I can affect the game,” Griffin said. “Whether that’s just playing defense or just, you know, trying to get guys going. It’s not, it’s not just always about me. So, I know that I could bring more than just scoring on one end and just be able to make an impact on both ends.”