Our 2021-22 Atlanta Hawks Player Review series continues with a look at the season of guard Skylar Mays.
While Skylar Mays is no star professional basketball player and almost certainly will never be, more importantly he’s a person about which no one seemingly has ever said a bad word. The Academic All-American of the Year for men’s NCAA Division I basketball in 2019-20, he brings smarts and savvy to the practice facility and even during sporadic court minutes, coaches and front office personnel rave about his locker room presence with the Atlanta Hawks.
Mays began the year on a two-way contract, the same contract he was under all of last season after being selected with the 50th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. But he rarely practiced or played with the College Park Skyhawks this season one year after their post pandemic hiatus, choosing to instead remain with the senior team for the majority of the season.
While many of his appearances were of little consequence – usually in garbage time when games were out of reach – he did play a larger role in the first half of the season. During the Hardship Hawks era, when up to a dozen players were sidelined with positive Covid results pursuant to the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols at a time, Mays used calm ball handling and sharp shooting to make an impact.
For a seven game stretch from December 22, 2021 to January 3, 2022, Mays saw at least nine minutes of game time, as well as at least 20 minutes in five contests and five starts over that stretch. He topped double digits in scoring three times and even recorded a double-double in an upset win at Philadelphia without Trae Young.
“When I got the chance to play, I thought I did pretty well,’’ said Mays during exit interviews. “I was proud of myself for staying ready throughout the season.”
Skylar Mays finished with 2.9 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.6 assists in just under eight minutes a contest. While his three point shooting slid a bit from the previous year, even shooting just 32% from deep couldn’t hold back an impressive 58.9% true shooting percentage, boosted by his 61.5% shooting mark from inside the arc.
Mays did make the 15-man roster briefly at the end of the season, by agreeing to convert his contract to a full-scale one on April 7, which allowed him to be on the 2022 postseason roster for Atlanta.
“It meant a lot,” responded Mays to a question about having his contract converted. “It meant that the work I was putting in was noticed and was appreciated. I’ll just try to build from there.”
With the contract conversion, it means Mays will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year. The Hawks will have to decide whether to extend a roughly $2 million qualifying offer or see Mays become an unrestricted free agent.
Sadly this looks and sounds like the end of the road for Mays’ time in Atlanta in my humble opinion. With Mays not cracking the healthy rotation in his first two seasons and the Hawks looking to retool a team that took a step back this past year, my guess is that Mays finds greener grass elsewhere.
If he lands on a team looking for young pieces to groom, he could see real minutes as a guard who can play either backcourt spot. But his hard work and locker room presence has certainly been appreciated in his time here.