Quinn Cook officially signed a contract with the Atlanta Hawks on Sept. 5. According to basketball-reference.com, the contract is guaranteed for $100,000 through January 10 and, with that, it is a relatively minimal investment from the organization.
The decision to add a young point guard did not come as a surprise given that Hawks GM Travis Schlenk had publicly said that the 15th roster spot would likely be used at the position. But it was a surprise to some that Cook was made available by being waived by the New Orleans Pelicans on July 25. The Pelicans do not have a ton of depth at the position and the backup point guard position has been especially unstable for the team the last couple of seasons.
Cook was a top 50 high school prospect and had offers from some of the best programs in the country. He would eventually sign with Duke and go on to help them win a national title in 2015 during his senior season. Teammates Jahlil Okafor, Justice Winslow and Tyus Jones would go on the be selected in the 2015 NBA draft. But Cook went undrafted despite having the highest individual offensive rating of any player on the Duke roster per kenpom.com (subscription required).
The 24-year-old point guard spent most of the last two seasons with the Canton Charge in the NBA D League. He was consistently one of the best players in the league. He was selected for the All-Star game both seasons and was awarded the All-Star game MVP last season. Cook was also one of the most prolific scorers in the D League during both of the past two seasons, averaging 22.6 points per game in 82 career games on 47% shooting from the field and 37% on 3-point attempts.
Last season, Cook played in five games with the Dallas Mavericks while on a 10-day contract another nine games with the New Orleans Pelicans. His individual highlight was a 22-point performance on just 13 shooting possessions at Golden State on April 8.
When summer league arrived, Cook was still under contract with the Pelicans so he played with their team in Las Vegas Summer League play. He played very well finishing 8th in points (20.6/gm) and 9th in assists (4.8/gm). It looked like he might have a future with New Orleans given that they had traded backup point guard Tim Frazier to the Washington Wizards for a 2nd round pick in the 2017 NBA draft. But he was waived a week after the Pelicans signed Rajon Rondo.
New Orleans has just the 2017-18 season to convince DeMarcus Cousins to commit to the team and sign a long-term contract. So they are currently prioritizing strengthening their roster for this season over adding and maintaining young, talented players that offer longer term upside.
The Pelicans probably did Cook a solid by waiving him as they could have kept him on their expanded roster at least until NBA teams have to cut the rosters to 15 players, two-way contracts aside, the day before the regular season starts. Cook was able to assess what team that had interest would be the best opportunity for him to earn playing time.
He is now with the Hawks, the team that was just the 27th best offensive team last season as measured by offensive rating and have since lost three of the top four scorers from that team. His potential as a scorer could help him work toward a possible rotation spot as the Hawks enter the 2017-18 season needing all of the offensive help they can get. Cook is likely to get a lot of playing time during the Hawks five preseason games given the degree to which starting point guard Dennis Schroder has exerted himself during Eurobasket play.
One interesting aspect of how Cook fits the current version of the Hawks roster is that he could right now be a better two-way player than Tyler Dorsey might ever be. But Dorsey is nearly three years younger than Cook.
Although he is, in my opinion, too good for the G League I would not be surprised to see Cook spend some time with the Erie Bayhawks just to work on adapting to the Hawks’ offensive and defensive systems. Time in the G League is probably not going to make him a better basketball player, but it could make him a better Atlanta Hawk.
Cook’s best skill is creating his own shot. He can be a little turnover prone at times and will probably never be anything more than an average passer as a point guard. So probably the one thing that will determine whether or not he might be a long term fit for the Hawks is how much he can develop his pick and roll game.
In limited NBA play, he has demonstrated that he can interact in the pick and roll to get and hit his own shot.
He can also make the basic pass in pick and pop action.
If the big man dives to the rim, he has shown that he can also make that pass. This pass is not very precise but on this play he is working with a center that has below average vertical ability.
When matched up against a limited defender, he can also navigate his way to the rim and convert the score.
He has also demonstrated patience in the pick and roll and the ability to maintain the proper depth until a constructive play is available.
But his best skill is using the dribble and step back technique to create his own shot.
He also has shown some ability to play off ball and come off a screen as a shooter, but he seems to have a strong preference to get at least a single rhythm dribble.
To increase his value as an off ball player on offense he will need to develop comfort with a simple catch and shoot. Only 11 of Cook’s 33 made field goals in the NBA last season were assisted.
Creating one’s own shot has increasing value in the modern NBA. But perhaps the one aspect of Dennis Schroder’s game that suggests that he might be able to continue to develop further versatility is how successful he operates in spot up situations. It is one of the reasons that during the 2015-16 season that Schroder and Jeff Teague were able to play together at times. Both of them were really efficient in spot up opportunities.
If Cook can develop a more advanced pick and roll game and some acceptable spot up skills, he might have a future with the Hawks. His offensive game is quite raw right now. Maybe Hawks University is the perfect place for him to increase his value as an NBA player. Stay tuned.