The Atlanta Hawks completed their 2022 Las Vegas NBA Summer League action with a record of two wins and three losses after a comeback bid versus the Cleveland Cavaliers came up short on Saturday in a 94-90 loss. As was the normal pattern across five games of play, Atlanta dug a hole in the first quarter finding themselves down 10 points at one point.
In this game, however, they steadied their play more quickly and managed but a single digit lead for most of the game. Cleveland briefly pushed the margin to double digits in each of the first three periods, but Atlanta rallied each time to keep the game in range.
Atlanta’s summer head coach Nick Van Exel played a small lineup for most of the fourth frame as his team worked to play catch up. The tactic worked well apart from the struggles his team had on the defensive glass. The Cavaliers had five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter which they managed to convert to seven second chance points.
The Hawks continued using a switch-heavy scheme on defense, which in and of itself can result in some rebounding downside. And that may have been the difference in this game.
Sharife Cooper, who was dealing with an injured thumb through the Summer League schedule, reportedly re-injured the finger late in the second quarter and didn’t play in the second half which left the Hawks short a point guard.
Summer league veteran Chris Clemons stepped up to play 12 minutes in the second half and got a bit of support from Tyson Etienne and Tyrese Martin, who each spent some time initiating the offense for Atlanta.
Martin continued performing at the Hawks best player in Vegas on Saturday. He had 21 points on 19 shooting possessions which is acceptable from an efficiency stand point but more impressive when considering his elevated creation workload.
Finishing his first Summer League with 13.8 points per game on 45.6% shooting from the field and more assists than turnovers is a more than satisfying outcome for the 2022 No. 51 overall draft pick. He went 5-of-18 from the arc, but the shooting performance overall stabilized after a rough 1-of-9 outing in game one.
Most impressive was how Martin created so many of his own scoring opportunities by aggressively taking his man to the rim off of the dribble.
Chaundee Brown Jr. continued his positive work with 17 points on just 12 shooting possessions. He added four rebounds and a steal. He finished his summer play with 14.4 points per game on .456/.400 shooting from the field. He struggled a bit offensively when playing at a wing position apart from the shooting but demonstrated why he has value, especially on a two-way contract. He’s a professional defender and can handle himself versus bigger opponents.
Sparking the offense down the stretch Clemons managed 16 points and three assists. Etienne showed out in the second half again and produced 13 points and two assists.
Given the potential questions coming from Cooper’s play and the otherwise absence of a third point guard on the Hawks roster, it would not be surprising the see Clemons land a camp contract with Atlanta. Etienne has already reportedly agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal which mean he should be in camp with the team come September.
Former first-round pick Chandler Hutchison, interestingly, continued playing at small forward. It seems the Hawks gave him an opportunity show what he could do as he possibly works to reinvent himself as a big wing. He represented himself well but likely didn’t show enough to warrant more than a camp deal of his own.
Alpha Kaba started at center again and was mostly fine but hasn’t shown much improvement since being draft in 2017 apart from demonstrating significantly better hands. He is, however, the reigning Turkish League MVP. So, it wouldn’t be shocking to see an NBA team have some mild interest in him even as the Hawks continue to hold his draft rights.
Joel Ayayi had his quietest performance of his five games but did nothing to hurt his reputation and a smart, resourceful wing that plays with reliable effort.
Let’s take a look at some of the action.
Martin shows some burst in the open court getting to a dunk after an ugly Cavaliers turnover:
Martin shows some inexperience here by not tracking the nearest help defender who pounces for the steal:
The result is an impressive dunk for RJ Nembard Jr. who finished with 16 points to lead all scorers for the Cleveland.
Hutchison shows some smarts by flashing to the middle versus the Cavaliers match-up zone:
It leads to an open three for Martin.
Etienne showed some impressive passing in this game, including on this possession:
It eventually leads to a Grant Golden score.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Brown’s shooting performance was his confidence in taken open threes when they presented:
Speaking of impressive passes, here is one by Martin:
Martin shows an impressive correction from his earlier play as, here, he tracks the closest help defender, makes the read and delivers a pass to Golden for the easy score:
A really impressive drive by Martin on this possession:
As soon as he manipulates the defender to create space he consumes the available space and uses it to get to the middle of the paint.
But the defensive rebounding issues were the obstacle that couldn’t be overcome with the small lineups on the court for the Hawks.
It will be the first week of October before we see the Hawks take the floor again, which would be for pre-season action. Stay tuned as Atlanta continues to make roster decisions ahead of camp in September.