The Atlanta Hawks secured two consecutive victories following a four-game losing streak in December. A major component to these wins was none other than Jalen Johnson.
In just his third game back from injury, Johnson notched a career-high 24 points in a win over the Washington Wizards. Alongside his scoring, he contributed 13 rebounds and four assists, showcasing his versatility on the court. Johnson has proven to be indispensable to the Hawks’ success on both ends, particularly highlighted defensively with De’Andre Hunter sidelined.
Johnson’s offensive skill set adds a unique dimension to the Hawks’ play. He excels in transition, finishing ability, and brings overall physicality. Also, he could be considered the team’s second-best passer. His playmaking generates quality looks for teammates, resulting in four assists in Washington and three assists in the win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. This ability not only relieves pressure on Trae Young but occasionally leads to wide-open looks for him.
While Johnson’s playmaking is noteworthy, his athleticism has been on full display this season. The alley-oop connections with Young continue to electrify fans, showcasing the dynamic partnership between the two players. Trae Young described playing with Jalen Johnson on Twitter (or X) as, ”Peanut butter & Jelly ~ just flows.”
It’s evident that the team is growing more comfortable with Johnson handling the ball, a sentiment echoed by head coach Quin Snyder in an interview after Wednesday’s win over the Thunder.
"(Jalen) is getting more and more comfortable – and our team is getting more comfortable – with him having the ball in his hands ... He is capable of making plays and of making plays for other people." pic.twitter.com/cYjRFF5iz5— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) January 4, 2024
After his career-best scoring game, Johnson delivered again. He logged 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, and four steals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was also tasked with guarding MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, which subsequently led to foul trouble.
He was far better defensively in this game compared to the prior contest, and highlights were not far and between. Johnson was playing both comfortably and aggressively, putting together the best game fans have seen from him so far. He showcased his versatility with a monster dunk over Chet Holmgren, electrifying moments in the fast break, and acting as a one-man offense when the team needed him.
Johnson picked up his fourth personal foul with over ten minutes remaining in the third quarter. Snyder opted to pull him, and he would not return for the rest of the quarter. Though forced to take a long break, Johnson impressively picked up right where he left off. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter on 5-for-6 shooting to go with four rebounds and a steal.
Here, Johnson takes the fast break by himself with a behind-the-back into a dunk. Josh Giddey makes a business decision.
Below is an impressive move from Johnson, and a testament to his improvement from last season. He has showcased the capability of scoring in various ways inside the three-point line so far this season.
Johnson’s well-rounded game and ability to stuff the stat sheet in all categories have solidified his role in the Hawks’ recent successes. As they face the Indiana Pacers tonight in Indianapolis, the Hawks will undoubtedly rely on Jalen Johnson on both ends of the floor. Thus far, Johnson has exceeded even the most optimistic fans’ expectations.