NBL legend Derek Rucker has urged Jacob Jackomas to give NBA Draft hopefuls Lachlan Olbrich and AJ Johnson more time on the floor, while suggesting star import Justin Robinson would be better utilised from the bench as pressure mounts on the second-year Hawks coach.
Commenting on the league's NBL Now podcast on Wednesday, Rucker suggested the Hawks "season is wrecked" and suggested Jackomas' best course of action would be to help the likes of Olbrich and Johnson increase Draft stock.
Olbrich first put himself in the shopfront window with a standout showing at the NBL Blitz and has entered the top 100 in mock drafts, currently number 92 in renowned ESPN Draft expert Jonathan Givony's most recent list released on Tuesday.
Johnson was at 41 and was a projected first round pick when he de-committed from the University of Texas to sign a Next Stars deal with the Hawks, but is averaging just 5.8 minutes a game for two points and a rebound for Illawarra so far this season.
Olbrich is clocking 16 minutes a game for 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds, but Rucker says both young guns should be afforded more game-time as the Hawks flounder at 2-6 on the campaign heading in Saturday's road clash with Cairns.
"Illawarra's season is wrecked, go ahead, get him out there, start to make some changes," Rucker said.
"Lachlan Olbrich, I think he is an NBA body. I think he's got desire, I think he's got heart, he's got hustle and he can make an NBA team better down the line. I'd like to see him getting 20 minutes a game. I think he's a real talent and to see him enter that top 100, man that must fill him with great confidence.
"Move AJ up in the rotation, maybe he's not ready to start just yet, but let's get him more minutes. I haven't really seen anything in the regular season that has put me off of the guy. He's only a young kid, let him go out there and make some mistakes.
"It's really hard from the coach's point of view because you're trying to win games. This is where things get really tricky, but I think there's tremendous value, and we've talked to (Cairns coach) Adam Forde about this, there's tremendous value and honour in developing kids so that they can move on to a better position."
Jackomas is now 5-31 through his tenure since succeeding Brian Goorjian and forecast changes to his line-ups in the wake of a limp Indigenous Round showing against the Kings last week. He's since walked back those comments, saying "the worst thing we could do is panic" but Rucker called for a change in the back-court.
Skipper Tyler Harvey is averaging 14 points but it's come at a lowly 37 per cent from the field, while point-guard Justin Robinson is averaging 13 points and five assists at an even lower 35 per cent from the field. Rucker said Jackomas simply must make a change to his starting group.
"Olbrich's got to be in [with] Froling, [Gary] Clark and, this is tough because we hate seeing imports go to the bench, but something's got to give with that [back-court] pairing," Rucker said.
"Robinson and Harvey aren't getting it done and I don't know who's more to blame. I'm probably going to go with Harvey as my starter because of what he's done in the competition. He's got equity, we've seen him play on good teams and be productive under Brian Goorjian.
"Robinson, I think was supposed to be the catalyst, the real talent, the guy that took them to being a competitive play-in team and he just hasn't gotten it done. We don't like to have to be this harsh, but it might be time for a permanent change in that position."
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