This is the fifth installment of the 2012-13 Atlanta Hawks player profiles, and today we have John Jenkins, our second rookie in a row. Jenkins was the Hawks first-round pick in this year’s NBA draft, and was selected with the 23rd pick out of Vanderbilt.
Jenkins spent the last three years playing at Vanderbilt after a ridiculous senior season in high school where he averaged 42.3 points (30+ every game), and won the Gatorade Tennessee High School Player Of The Year Award. Jenkins was known for being one of the best pure-shooters in the NCAA during his three-year tenure at Vanderbilt, and was arguably the best shooter available in the 2012 NBA draft.
Jenkins led the SEC in scoring in back-to-back years as a sophomore and junior, including a 19.9 average last season while leading Vanderbilt to their third-straight NCAA tournament appearance.
While his role last year for Vanderbilt was much more important, he will have to adjust this season with the Hawks and take advantages of the shots that he does get. He averaged 8.7 three-point attempts per game last season, which allowed him to take his time to get into a rhythm if he wasn’t able to knock down his first few attempts, a luxury he will not have this season on a stocked Atlanta team.
High Point Of The 2011-2012 Season- After heading home from the tournament winless in 2010 and 2011, Jenkins was able to lead Vanderbilt to a first round victory over Harvard last season. Jenkins scored a game-high 27 points (on only 12 shots), and was able to get to the line 13 times as well. While Jenkins has been criticized for his inability to create his own shot or get to the line consistently (he had seven games last season with 30+ minutes and zero free throw attempts), he was able to play a complete game against Harvard and really opened some people’s eyes to his potential.
Low Point Of The 2011-2012 Season- Vanderbilt played again two days after their win against Harvard, and Jenkins was unable to duplicate his first-round success. In a second-round matchup against Wisconsin, Jenkins scored just 13 points, his second-lowest point total of the season, while shooting just 3-of-13 from the field and 2-of-9 from downtown. Wisconsin’s defense kept Jenkins from gaining separation nearly all game, forcing him to take contested shot after contested shot. Despite Jenkins struggles however, Vanderbilt stayed within reach the entire game. With less than five seconds left and trailing 59-57, Jenkins finally got the open shot that he had been waiting for all game, but missed a three that would have given Vanderbilt the lead. Wisconsin ended up winning 60-57, and Jenkins was forced to end his season, and career, on a missed opportunity.
3 Reasons Why Hawks Fans Should Be Happy-
1. Jenkins has the size to ensure that he can play shooting guard in the NBA, unlike the last shooting specialist the Hawks drafted, Salim Stoudamire. While some may remember Salim’s disappointing stint with the Hawks, Jenkins will not befall the same fate (veganism and the NBDL). While Salim had the size of the point guard but lacked the passing ability necessary to main the position, Jenkins has the height and weight to hold his own at the shooting guard position on offense. Now it is just a matter of using that size to make shots, which Jenkins has shown he has no trouble doing.
2. The Hawks have another JJ on the team, though this one will just cost about $17 million less this season. While Hawks fans will undoubtedly miss Joe Johnson (contract aside), the team has a new player to take over the initials and hopefully a bit of the scoring load. However, if Jenkins doesn’t pan out as expected, the Hawks don’t have many other options for a replacement-JJ. Let’s hope that Jenkins can live up to his potential, and the Hawks don’t have to resort to signing Jarrett Jack, Jared Jeffries, Jajuan Johnson, James Jones, Jonas Jerebko or Jerome Jordan anytime soon.
3. Due to the Joe Johnson trade and the wide-open battle at the shooting guard position, Jenkins will actually see the court. While in past seasons, Hawks coaches have elected to sit rookie players and let them gain experience from the bench (Teague really improved his point guard skills by passing out Gatorade), Jenkins shouldn’t face the same troubles. With the uncertainty surrounding the other shooting guard options on the roster, Jenkins will have a chance to win playing time from the very start. While Hawks fans shouldn’t go overboard expecting 25 minutes a night consistently, Jenkins should see plenty of action this year.
3b. It is highly unlikely that the Hawks trade THIS rookie guard for Kirk Hinrich just to get rid of Mike Bibby‘s contract.
Strengths- Jenkins is a shooter in every sense of the word. He has a beautiful release, and can shoot from anywhere on the court. He gets his shot off quickly which enables him to avoid being blocked and shoot directly off screens. He has a nice little mid-range game in addition to his three-point shot, and has shown that he can hit free throws consistently as well. He can heat up very quickly and start a mini-run all by himself.
Weakness- Jenkins is a shooter in every sense of the word. If his shot isn’t falling, he probably won’t be very useful on the court most game. His defense is sub-par, and he doesn’t have very quick feet. In summer league he looked good creating his own shot, but it will still need to be proven during the season that he doesn’t need to be set-up for every score. He definitely needs to improve his offensive game in transition instead of relying on a slowed-down pace to get his shot attempts.
2012-13 Season Outlook- It will be an interesting rookie season for Jenkins, as well as the Hawks as a whole. Without Joe Johnson as the go-to scorer anymore, it will be a tossup as to how the Hawks handle the shooting guard position. One thing is for sure, the Hawks made a point of improving their three-point shooting by drafting Jenkins and adding Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver. Jenkins has a chance to control his own destiny in terms of playing time, and it will be interesting to see who is getting the bulk of the minutes (and shots) at the end of the season between Jenkins and Morrow. It is tough to build confidence as a rookie, but it will be imperative that Jenkins start off well or he may say his opportunities dwindle as the season rolls on and Larry Drew goes with the more experienced players.
2012-13 Projected Role- Jenkins will come off the bench to start the season and will be used as a shooting specialist however the situation warrants it. While those who are expecting him to turn into Ray Allen may have to wait a season or two, Jenkins will definitely contribute to the Hawks this season. Whether that contribution will be consistent is the biggest question. His minutes will fluctuate depending on who Drew sees as the hot hand, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jenkins get a few spot starts during hot streaks during the year.
2012-13 Projected Stats- Somewhere between 10-15 minutes per game, a three-point percentage around 40%, and a handful of big buckets throughout the year.
Stay on the lookout for the rest of the 2012-13 Atlanta Hawks player profiles, as I will continue to go down the depth chart one by one until every player has been profiled. Below is my projected depth chart, though what the Hawks decide to do is anyone’s guess currently.
PG- Jeff Teague / Devin Harris
SG- Anthony Morrow / Louis Williams / John Jenkins
SF- Josh Smith / Kyle Korver / DeShawn Stevenson
PF- Al Horford / Ivan Johnson / Mike Scott
C- Zaza Pachulia / Johan Petro / Jordan Williams (Waived)
Up next is Ivan Johnson.