The Atlanta Hawks are getting set to close out the preseason with their second duel against the Miami Heat, this time at State Farm Arena. There have been many things to take away from the exhibition period. Some have been obvious, like injuries making it harder to build chemistry than they would like.
Others might be a little more nuanced, like how much stock to put in John Collins’ preseason performance.
One thing that may not be clear but needs to be said, they still need help at center
The Atlanta Hawks could do much worse than DeMarcus Cousins for a reserve center
DeMarcus Cousins was once one of the premier big men in the NBA. A unique blend of size (6-foot-11, 270 pounds) and skill made him a centerpiece for the Sacramento Kings and highly desired on the trade market. At his peak, he averaged 27.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in a 2017 season split between the Kings and New Orleans Pelicans.
The following season he ruptured his Achilles tendon.
That set off a chain reaction of injuries that also saw him tear his ACL while with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019.
He split last season between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, averaging 8.9 points, 6.4 boards, and 1.9 assists. Cousins played just 17.4 minutes per game, by far the fewest of his career.
Compare that with what the Hawks have gotten from their reserve center rotation of Gorgui Dieng and non-guaranteed guys Jahlil Okafor and Johnny Hamilton. Dieng has made a positive impression, even if it’s not the way that we expected. But Okafor and Hamilton have ceded playing time to rookie Jalen Johnson.
Head Coach Nate McMillan even entertained the idea of the 6-foot-8, 210-pound Johnson getting some minutes in the pivot this season.
While we are all for getting Johnson on the floor as much as possible, the Hawks need another real center behind Capela (assuming he returns for the regular season) and Dieng until Okongwu returns.
For anyone worried about Cousins in the locker room, when was the last time we heard anything of that sort coming out about him?
Atlanta currently has one open roster spot with 14 guaranteed contracts. They’ve said they are comfortable rolling into the season this way. But it would be much wiser for them to try strengthening their bench with Cousins.