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Hawks’ Jalen Johnson explains how G League helped his development

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Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson spent much of his rookie campaign in the NBA G League with the College Park Skyhawks, something he clamored for with playing time at a premium.

The decision to do so made a lasting impression on the organization.

Johnson logged only 22 appearances with Atlanta this season, averaging 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 5.5 minutes per game. He was the victim of a crowded depth chart in the frontcourt with the likes of John Collins, Danilo Gallinari and others ahead of him.

Rather than sit on the bench and miss out on playing time, Johnson elected to stay with the Skyhawks to work on his overall game. Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was impressed with his decision to commit to getting better and playing in the G League.

Jalen, this season, spent a lot of time in the G League and I thought it was really good because he wanted to go there. There wasn’t minutes for him with us with (John) playing the four and Gallo playing the backup four and De’Andre playing some four. For a young guy to want to go and play no matter where to get better, I thought it was really impressive, which I told him. I thought it helped him.

Johnson, in 21 games, averaged 21.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks on 47% shooting from the field. He registered 13 double-doubles on the season and had the second-most rebounds in a game this season when he hauled in 23 on Nov. 21.

The 20th pick felt as though his decision-making improved the most throughout the season. He learned to not force it on the court and let things come to him naturally. Johnson, speaking at the Hawks’ exit interview on Wednesday, loved what the G League did for him.

It helped me a lot, especially maturity-wise. I can’t tell you that I would have told myself that I’d rather go to the G League than travel with the team. That was a mature thing for me to do and a big step for my maturity just to be able to put my growth and development first and just see the long-term picture.

Certainly, Johnson impressed those around him by playing with the Skyhawks and working to improve his overall game. That experience should only help him prepare for Year 2 in the NBA as he attempts to carve out a larger role next season.

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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