Coming into the season, virtually everyone knew the Atlanta Hawks would be one of the few teams at the bottom of the totem pole as far as wins and losses are concerned. With a new coach and a roster filled with rookies, sophomores, and players past their primes, this was almost inevitable. But the Hawks organization is looking more at player development as a measuring stick for success this season, especially for the rookies and, so far, the first-year players are living up to their expectations and some are exceeding.
Trae Young is looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate and Kevin Huerter is shooting the three-pointer pretty well at the NBA level. But as far as Omari Spellman goes, no one knew what to fully expect from him being drafted with the final pick in the first round in June. We’re more than a dozen games into the season and, to this point, he has shown he can be a hustle guy and a reliable outside shooter, though some other areas of his game are lacking.
Spellman has averaged 20.1 minutes for the Hawks this season while averaging 6.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. In the beginning of the season, the Atlanta Hawks started Vince Carter over Spellman, possibly due to all of his experience in the NBA, but for the past few games, head coach Lloyd Pierce has allowed Spellman to enter into the starting lineup and he’s taken full advantage of it.
Since Spellman became a part of the starting unit, he’s averaging 7.2 points and 6.5 rebounds while posting his first two career double-doubles. Each game, the rookie big man is becoming more and more comfortable in that role, even on the heels of a struggling performance against the Warriors.
It’s obvious Spellman has played at a high intensity and effort when he’s had the opportunity to see the floor. With that said, his most impressive skill is that he has shown he can consistently knock down the three-point jumper, make his free throws, and space the floor for his teammates from the big-man spots.
While at Villanova, he shot 43 percent from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts per game. Spellman is currently averaging 35.1 percent on 2.8 attempts with the Hawks from the longer NBA three-point line. This isn’t a low percentage from long range at all, especially at the power forward and center positions. Young has done a great job of getting guys open by being a magnet while driving and kicking out, but it takes confidence as a rookie to take the shot and believe you can make it. He shoots 36.8 percent from that distance on the road which also shows he’s not afraid to take that shot away from State Farm Arena.
A high energy player that likes to get down low and take contact in the paint can be a significant advantage to a team, especially if that player can shoot free throws efficiently. Right now, Spellman is shooting 71.4 percent from the line on 1.1 attempts. That’s not many attempts but, in time, his free throw rate will increase, especially as Spellman plays more minutes and uses his intensity to draw more fouls. Though Spellman isn’t shooting badly from long range, he could probably step in a little more and take shots closer to the rim so that it takes pressure off shooters like Young, Huerter, Taurean Prince, and Kent Bazemore.
There are real questions surrounding Spellman’s defense, especially at the power forward position, but the injury to John Collins has thrown him into a starting role a lot sooner than the organization expected when he was drafted a few months ago. Collins’ return will push Spellman back to the bench, where his defensive deficiencies will be less pronounced, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts.