The rookies will be alright: Five Summer League takeaways for Hawks

The Hawks closed the book on another NBA Summer League following their 101-80 loss to the Mavericks Sunday night. They finished the tournament in Las Vegas with a 3-2 record, and came away with plenty of knowledge of where their rookies stand.

The players will now go their separate ways for about two months - likely working on improving themselves in some fashion during their time away - before regrouping in September in the weeks leading up to training camp where they’ll get to work for the 2023-24 season.

Here’s what we learned from Summer League.

1. When the Hawks drafted rookie Kobe Bufkin last month, the young guard’s upside and drive intrigued them. Bufkin had plenty of ups and downs during his time in Las Vegas, but he showed plenty of potential on both sides of the ball.

Bufkin had a rough start to Summer League, picking up five quick fouls in the first half and ending the night with eight turnovers. But he moved in the right direction and learned from it. He made more decisive passes and showed a growing connection with fellow rookies Mouhamed Gueye, Seth Lundy and Miles Norris.

Though Bufkin put the ball on the floor and played through contact, the 19-year-old will have to continue working on his decision-making for his own buckets as he adapts to the speed of the game. Through five games, he shot 33.3% from the floor and 13.8% from 3.

But the rookie guard, who turns 20 in September, showed he isn’t afraid of the moment. He helped the Hawks to a 99-98 win over the 76ers after banking in a jumper with 12.7 in the game.

By the end of Summer League, Bufkin averaged 14 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

2. The Hawks took a swing by trading a 2027 second-round pick for Gueye. But the 20-year-old showed why the Hawks took the leap, signing him to a four-year deal using the new second-round exception because of his upside.

Gueye averaged 9.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in five games and looked like he belonged in the NBA. The team charged the Dakar, Senegal native with hesitating less on his shots and he took that advice to heart.

In five games, he shot 37.5% from 3 on 3.2 attempts per game, shooting with plenty of fluidity that will serve him well.

On top of that, he has the ability to put the ball on floor, as well as get the Hawks second chance looks. He averaged 2.2 offensive rebounds in Summer League.

On the defensive side, Gueye showed strong instincts, averaging one block per game. He kept his feet moving, only getting lost on a handful of possessions.

3. The Hawks signed Lundy and Norris to two-way contracts earlier this month. The two fit into the team’s system well with their ability to knock shots down from deep, with Lundy knocking down 38.1% of his attempts and Norris sinking 45.5% of his tries.

The two also shined on the defensive end, disrupting offenses in the perimeter but also rolling in to help protect the rim. Lundy averaged 1.4 blocks per game and many of his stops led to scoring opportunities for the Hawks on the other side.

Lundy and Norris will likely spend most of their time with the Skyhawks this season. The Hawks have a lot of depth on the wing and few other players ahead of them in the team’s rotation. But the two could give the Hawks plenty to think about when training camp opens up.

4. The Hawks currently have 14 players under guaranteed contracts, which leaves just one spot open. Both Vit Krejci and Tyrese Martin have non-guaranteed deals with the team but time is running out for one of them.

The Hawks have to make a decision on whether to guarantee Martin’s contract on July 21 and the 24-year-old competed hard to try and earn his spot. He put up 21 points and then another 25 points in the team’s second and third games of Summer League to help it to its first and second wins.

He looked strong as he worked to his sweet spots on offense, going 17-of-27 between those two games. He averaged 13.2 points, six rebounds and 2.6 assists in four games while making 44.4% of his shots from the field.

For Krejci, he created plenty of opportunities for his team, averaging 4.6 assists in five games. Both Krejci and Martin played well, but the Hawks have a tough decision ahead of them.

5. AJ Griffin played just two games at Summer League. The team’s first-round pick in 2022 has taken some steps forward as a ball-handler and creator, averaging two assists per game.

But Griffin is still trying to re-ignite his rhythm from 3, knocking down just 30.8% of his shots from distance.

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