Atlanta Hawks Prospect Watch: Isaia Cordinier in January

Our monthly prospect watches continue here at SDS with another check-up on the Hawks’ prospect, Isaia Cordinier. Let’s see how 2017 has begun for the French swingman?

Isaia Cordinier was a second-round pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2017 NBA Draft. He came into the league with a reputation as a good athlete and slasher, with a strong work ethic and decent range. As happens with many players out of Europe, though, Cordinier went back across the Atlantic to play in France this season, with his opportunities with the Hawks likely to be limited.

With the Antibes Sharks, Cordinier started strong in October. The French top league, the LNB Pro A, was a step up for him, especially after a summer disrupted by injury, but he did not seem overwhelmed. The first time we checked in, the French swingman had averages of five points, one rebound, 1.25 assists, and 1.25 steals. His efficiency was startling, shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from the arc. That was only after six games, though.

Entering 2017, things were very different for Cordinier; his stats and efficiency both fell dramatically from his bright start. His awesome three-point percentage dropped a startling amount to 31.6 percent and his field goal percentage was an unimpressive 27.9 percent. We established that Cordinier was not a primary scorer for the Antibes Sharks but his stats and efficiency were frankly far below what might have been expected. Cordinier, it seemed, was out of his depth in this league, struggling against the big fish. Get it? Big Fish. Antibes Sharks. Ah, forget it.

We once thought he was a good fit with Atlanta but has he improved since?

Per Game Averages as of 01/01/17: 3.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals.

Percentages as of 01/01/17: .279 FG%, .316 3P%, .562 FT%.

Current Per Game Averages: 3.4 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals.

Current Percentages: .313 FG%, .300 3P%, .632 FT%.

On the face of things, not much has changed in January. The Sharks played just twice in the LNB Pro A games in January so that is probably quite accurate. And yet his stats have improved. His points, rebounds, and assists have increased. Cordinier’s three-point percentage did continue to fall but his efficiency from the field has improved, which is a good sign for it shows that he can score inside and, if he can’t score from the arc, then he needs to be able to reliably score from inside.

Who knows if the slump is busted, though? His field goal percentage, 31.3 percent, is still far from good and those per game numbers are not impressive for a player averaging about 18 minutes. Cordinier’s struggles remain a concern, especially given the drop off statistically between the LNB Pro B and the LNB Pro A. And previous strengths, such as three-point shooting, have faded. None of that can impress the Atlanta scouts, who are keeping an eye on his development.

His playmaking and rebounding are also unimpressive, and that energy he possesses on the defensive end continues to get him into foul trouble, although those numbers are starting to fall.

The stats speak of a player out of form, unable to have a real contribution, but then again every player has a slump, and no player has developed in a straight rise.

But that’s not telling of what has happened this month. In those two LNB Pro A games, the Frenchman averaged 4.5 points, shooting .600 from the floor, as well as 2.5 rebounds and two assists. Those numbers might not leap out at you but they are an improvement, perhaps a sign that he might be starting to pull himself out of that slump.

Approximate translation: Tenth minute: 2/2 shots for Cordinier to open his account.

Development in athletes is rarely a simple thing and Cordinier is experiencing the difficulties of stepping up. His usage is still low, which his numbers reflect, but it is important to remember that he is still in a newer, better league and it will take some time to adapt and then thrive. He is playing against better players, bigger fish… wait, I already made that joke. But still it will take Cordinier time to develop and, his NBA prospects rely on him doing so, first adapting and rising to the challenge of the LNB Pro A and then to the NBA.

So, how is Isaia Cordinier doing in France? Well, he was struggling, and maybe he still is, but his performances have improved in January, as 2016 became 2017. His offense remains cold but is improving, and that is vital. His slump was genuinely worrying but he might be on the way out. There is  still time to improve his shot and he has still shown some promise in terms of energetic defense and playmaking from the two guard spot. There is still time for him to find his way in this LNB Pro A and thus the NBA.

All of that is critical to his future in the NBA and he is working hard to improve himself:

Approximate translation: Technical session coupled with some agility and specific muscle strengthening for Isaia Cordinier.

It is certainly not time to give up on Cordinier. He is a raw player but he still has potential. Bags of it. But, even after a better January, the 2016-17 season has been a struggle for the swingman. The Atlanta scouts will be watching. Cordinier needs to keep improving if he wants a part of the Hawks’ future.

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