The Atlanta Hawks seem like they will be the five-seed in the Eastern Conference when the NBA Playoffs begin in six days. That’s obviously another solid season that the Hawks have submitted this year, led by the play of Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Lately, though, they’ve been getting sizeable contributions from some surprising players, namely Ivan Johnson.
For most of the year, Johnson’s role with the Hawks has been miniscule at best. In 67 games, he has averaged just 14.9 minutes per game. In that extremely limited role, he still performed solidly, averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the field this season.
Over the past few weeks, though, Atlanta has made the decision to increase Johnson’s role and give him significantly more playing time. In the six games that he’s played in April, he has averaged 22.4 minutes per game, an obvious increase from the just-under-15 that he has played for most of the season.
The impressive part is how much Johnson has improved since he’s been seeing the floor for more time per game. In April, he has averaged 10 points, five rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting a fantastic 55.8 percent from the field. Johnson comes onto the floor and floods over with effort and hustler, which spreads throughout the rest of his team.
As the Hawks go into the postseason trying to shed their reputation as a dud in the playoffs, they need to keep their effort and their energy high. Because of this, they need to keep Johnson’s role as it is right now. He’s undoubtedly a guy who elevates their energy level and a guy who does a lot of solid things for them. Though his role isn’t enormous and he’s not a star, Johnson is a difference-maker for the Hawks.