Why Can’t We Win

Friday’s comeback win over Utah was electrifying and showed that perhaps the Hawks’ slump was over.

It wasn’t.

The Hawks fell to the lowly Wizards 93-83 on Saturday. Fueled by John Wall’s return, the Wiz out-played the Hawks in almost every statistical category. The lack of a consistent offense was a struggle all night, as the Hawks only had three players in double figures led by Teague’s 19 points. Thanks to a poora shooting night I began to question the rotation and started brainstorming how to make the team better. Lou Williams’ 3-12 performance combined with an absence of Devin Harris around the rim lead me to believe that perhaps they aren’t the sparkplugs this 1st unit needs.

Old Starting Five:

PG Teague

SG Harris

SF Korver

PF Smith

C Horford

My New Starting Fives:

Option 1:

PG Teague

SG Williams

SF Smith

PF Horford

C Pachulia

I believe Larry Drew has utilized this lineup before, but an increase in playing time for this lineup could have a positive result. Let’s face it, Korver’s team defense is solid, but the amount of open shots he’s been getting recently is crazy low. Other teams might be realizing that Teague and Mini-Lou are having limited success in driving to the basket. Replacing Kyle with Zaza should help mostly on the defensive end where Horford can play his more natural position at the 4. Smoove being at the 3 also should allow him to be able to move around more on defense and block more shots, as seen against Cleveland last week when Josh had 6 rejections.

Option 2:

PG Teague

SG Korver

SF Smith

PF Horford

C Pachulia

This lineup looks good to me. In it you have a guard who can pass or drive, a shooter, a duo who can run the high-low offense, and a big foreign guy who can make a contested layup on occasion. This allows Lou and Harris to come in off the bench along with Ivan the Terrible and provide endless energy. The least we could do is try this lineup against a team like Charlotte or Orlando.

Option 3:

Warning: Excessive excitement ahead

PG Teague/Harris

SG J3NKINS

SF Smith/Korver

PF Horford/Smith

C Pachulia/Horford

This lineup can be switched up to go big or small, depending on the opponent. Now after reading that you probably think I’m some sort John Jenkins super-fan. While that may be the case, his abilities could greatly help this squad on both ends. One of the biggest question marks going into this season was probably his defense, which was shaky to start but has improved after playing more. His total rebound percentage is higher than the other three guards (Teague, Harris, Williams) and his true shooting percentage is higher than anyone else on the team. Also, he is averaging 15.9 points per 36 minutes. Yes, I know that early in the year he played at the end of laughers where he was a focal point of the offense in a short amount of time so his average is probably a little skewed, but there’s no disputing his overall three point percentage of 48.4% and what he could provide for this offense.

If the Hawks continue to struggle then a change in the lineup is something the staff should look at. Hopefully they right the ship against Chicago on Monday.

Stats Used: http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/ATL/2013.html

What Went Wrong? I Have Solutions!

Following tonight’s loss to the Pistons, I pondered what could be the problem with the team tonight (Yes, I know they shot poorly and sometimes you get unlucky it that sense). Was it Josh Smith’s shot selection?  Sure, it could’ve been much better. Wait, that’s not it. Got it! It was the poor three-point shooting. Definitely, but sometimes nights like those happen. Alright I think I have it. The Hawks will be a dominant team in the Eastern Conference if two things happen over the next few months:

  1. Lou Williams and Jeff Teague combined get to the free throw line at least 6 times a game, thus resulting in about 12 attempts a game and them knocking down at least 9 or 10 of them.
  2. Larry Drew utilizes his rookie stud John Jenkins (he’s a stud, I promise!) and lets him spearhead the second unit, leading them to become one of the best benches in the league.

Criteria #1:

Mini-Lou (Do you like that nickname? It fits well with his lack of defensive prowess) and Jiffy Jeff (Made that one up too) have proven to be quality free throw shooters through 31 games this season. They have averages of 87.4% and 86.9%, respectively, and are far superior charity stripe shooters than their counterparts down low, ala Lil Tito and Smoove who hover around the 50% mark. Looking at some of the superior guards in the league, most of them shoot free throws at an astounding rate. James Harden leads the league in just over 10 attempts… per game! With a solid free throw shooter (Sorry, Dwight) that’s an easy 10 points on the board, compared to 5 possessions where Sweet Lou takes a fall-back three from 4 steps behind the three-point line. This increase in free throw attempts will get Atlanta more wins, more points for the guards, and a bigger smile on my face (Newsflash: 7th and 8th Grade Best Male Smile Recipient).

Criteria #2:

As I mentioned in my 30 games report, John Jenkins can be a standout on this team. From my observation, I believe he might have a common form of rookie-itis where he tries not to create shots for himself (I know he’s not great at shot creating, but he could at least try) and instead pass out once he realizes he doesn’t have an opportunity to score. Larry Drew should have a serious conversation with Jenkins informing him that the ball is supposed to go in the hoop and he is allowed to shoot. Once Devin Harris returns from injury, the Hawks could be in a position to have a second unit of Devin Harris, John Jenkins, Deshawn Stevenson, Ivan Johnson, and Zaza Pachulia. That group gives you the ability to drive (Harris), shoot from everywhere (Jenkins), shoot from deep (Stevenson), run a pick and pop (Ivan the Terrible), and run a pick and roll (Zaza). All of these options could prove to be satisfactory if Drew would realize what kind of talent he has running up and down the floor, but isn’t being used. The rookie is shooting roughly 63% from the field and 60% from deep over the last 6 games. It might be worth noting that I don’t think any of them were wide open stand still three’s. I might be wrong, but if not that’s pretty impressive for a rookie drafted 23rd overall.

Thoughts: 30 Games In

Through 30 games the Hawks are 20-10 and are competing for a top 3 spot in the weak Eastern Conference. Their performance has been somewhat of a surprise to many people around the league. Thanks to the fresh faces that have established themselves in the locker room, the squad has made its mark on several opponents and had some quality wins over Memphis, OKC, and the Clippers of LA. We’ve seen a few roles change over the course of these 2 months and some leaders have positioned themselves for a great rest of the season. Here are YOUR Atlanta Hawks and my thoughts on their play.

Josh Smith

16.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.3 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 44.7% FG, 38% 3P, 53% FT

J-Smoove is having a solid year so far even though his shooting has been downright dreadful. His love for shooting the deep two has faded (wait, maybe not) and his three point accuracy has improved enough to be 5th on the team in 3PT%. His work on the defensive end can’t be overlooked with just over 2 blocks and a steal a game. Working with Al Horford in the paint has proven to be successful a plethora of times this season and maybe, just maybe, Larry Drew will take notice and try to force it just a little more. Their combo of post proficiency and mid range accuracy makes me water at the mouth and it should allow more spacing, along with the sharpshooters from deep, for Jeff Teague and Lou Williams to drive the lane more often. Look for Smoove to bounce back from a mediocre start at the free throw lane and for some rim rollers to go his way.

Al Horford

16 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG, 58% FT

Little Tito has, like Josh, struggled from the floor this season. His lack of a go-to post move has hurt him so far this season and he relies on easy layups, dunks, and mid-range action to get him going. Recently he has gotten hot from the 18 foot range and formed a perfect pick-and-pop combo with Jeff Teague and Lou Williams. Using his quickness against the big guys at center, he has been able to slither between defenders and create for himself on fastbreaks and he has been more of a target for alley-oops than J-Smoove (let’s change that Teague, LouWill!). His performance for the rest of the season should depend on 3 things.

  1. His ability to rebound on the offensive end. This will give him easy putback attempts or a reset to the offense.
  2. Teague and LouWill’s dribble penetration and floater skills. If they can get hot and start driving the lane and floating the rock up and over big men, then eventually the big will have no choice but contest the guard, leaving Big Daddy Horford (that’s what his wife, former Miss Universe, calls him) wide open for an easy basket.
  3. Defenders double teaming Josh in the post. His excellent passing ability should get 1 of the other 4 players an open shot and Al is one of his favorite targets.

Lou Williams

14.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 42% FG, 35% 3P, 87% FT

Lou Williams has been hot since being promoted to start with the absence of Devin Harris. His recent performances have impressed me except for one thing. He loves to shoot the three-ball off the dribble. Usually its still early in the shot clock and I feel that he rushes to shoot from deep, sometimes deeper than deep. If he can focus on driving to the lane and actually drawing contact instead of fading away from defenders, he could put up even more points and help out this defense. His defense has been good enough so far, but he has struggled against larger opponents. Unfortunately, there’s not much for him to change there.

Jeff Teague

13.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 43% FG, 38% 3P, 87% FT

6.7 assists per game! Holy cow, Teague! Even though that’s not that many assists and not even enough to get him near the top of the league leaders, its great to see a point guard on this team take the initiative to pass the ball on a more consistent basis. Compared to around 4 or 5 assists last year, this is quite the improvement for the former Demon Deacon. But, alas, poor Jeff Teague gets probably the worst no-calls I’ve seen this year. He makes a solid effort to drive, get contact, and just throw the ball near the glass, but he gets very few calls. After he makes a few lucky ones and gets Ivan to talk to the ref during halftime (wouldn’t that be a great plot thickener?) he should start getting more chances to get to the stripe. His performances can make or break this team, particularly on the defensive end. He has the potential to score, I don’t know say 27 points with 8 assists (ala vs Cleveland 12/28) every game. If his floater is working then he provides numerous attempts for others through dribble penetration as I said in Horford’s section. Also, Teague is the only player to start in every game this season.

Kyle Korver

10.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 44% 3P

His defense has been better than anyone thought it would be at the 3, mainly because of his constant motor (he should give Smoove some lessons on that; make him a superstar!). Other than that, he shoots the three and makes the three at a high percentage.

Devin Harris

7.7 PPG, 2.5 APG, 44% FG, 32% 3P

Other than being a quick guard that can drive the lane when its wide open and knock down a wide, wide, wide, wide open trey, this veteran is basically just out there to pass to other players and keep up with speedy opponents. However, watching him run coast to coast for a layup is really fun.

Deshawn Stevenson

6.6 PPG, 41% 3P

Wait he can still defend? Oh well pal, just shoot the three…

Zaza Pachulia

6.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 47% FG

I love watching Zaza try to drive from the post because I think the reason he sometimes scores is because his defender is too busy asking the ref if its legal for him to be on the court. Such a scary dude, I love it.

Ivan Johnson

5.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 57% FG

Coach Drew has played Ivan the Terrible quite sparingly so far, possibly because he only grabs around 3 rebounds every 13 minutes (his average per game). I can understand several low rebounding performances because he can’t grab every ball, but c’mon man… Be Terrible!

Anthony Morrow

5.5 PPG, 43% FG, 37% 3P

This guy knows how to shoot and he’s proved that so far. He has a solid dribble pull-up or running floater that I don’t think he even knew he had and shocks defenders by using them. Just shoot man.

John Jenkins

This is the part where I get really excited!

Over the last 4 games: 17 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 68% FG, 75% 3P, 100% FT (you caught me he’s only 1-1)

This guy can flat out ball. John Jenkins is rapidly climbing up my favorite player list (Move over Terrence Ross) with each and every time he steps on the court. Larry Drew finally noticed that he can shoot last week and started playing him more thanks to Morrow and Harris’ injuries. And guess what? He’s gonna boot either Morrow or Harris out of the rotation if he keeps up this hot hand (*opening up ESPN Trade Machine)! I can see it now, a future with John Jenkins starting for the Atlanta Hawks at the 2. Just wait ‘til there’s a sweet billboard with him and either JT0 or LouWill standing side by side (Oh wait, they wouldn’t have one of those in Austin…). This kid has shown that he can shoot spot-up, in transition, after a stepback over a silly looking psycho defender (Did anyone else see him crumble Hansbrough?!), and even drive the lane and make a simple layup look exciting. Speaking of exciting, I better go order that custom Johnny J tshirt…

Mike Scott

I won’t even put up his stats considering he only plays in blowouts. He can shoot faceup when given the chance, but unfortunately he won’t be. I hope he starts to play more going into the dog days because I really want to see what he can do on a more consistent basis. That and because I’m hoping he grows corn rows again.

Johan Petro

Who?

Josh Smith Dilemma

For years now, there have been trade rumors flying around J-Smoove every time the deadline comes around. This year they will be more newsworthy than ever because he is in a contract year. There can be many pros to trading him and receiving young talent and picks, but there are many cons as well.
Pros:
Hawks get younger and start to rebuild.
More flexibility in the offseason to focus on signing other top players.
Get rid of player who seems to bring down the squad at occasions with his awful shot selection.
Cons:
Lose one of the team’s most important players and leaders.
Lack of interior defense and shot blocking.
Hawks allow a possible All-NBA player to walk away without utilizing him fully.

The Hawks need to sit down with Josh and have him understand his role on the team. He needs to stop shooting jumpers with his heels on the 3 point line… Why won’t LD make him realize this? That is a question I hope Danny Ferry thinks to himself all the time.

Hawks Draft Grades

The Hawks had a decent draft this year and I’m satisfied, but not ecstatic with newly hired GM Danny Ferry’s choices. They might be looked at as safe and both picks were pure need picks instead of choosing the best available.

Round 1, Pick 23

Hawks select John Jenkins

Grade: C+

Jenkins is the best shooter in the draft and should have a solid reserve role in the NBA. However, there were several other talented players left on the board, such as Jeffery Taylor, Tony Wroten Jr, and Arnett Moultrie. The idea that Jenkins could become the next Jamal Crawford for the Hawks might be a stretch, but he has the capability to provide a solid scoring threat off the bench that will help spread the floor.

Round 2, Pick 43

Hawks select Mike Scott.

Grade: C-

Scott had a great season last year at Virginia, but he’s a bit undersized and he had 2 ankle operations in college. He has a solid range for a big as seen in his draft workout. Should fit in nicely with the Hawks 2nd group.

Hawks Have Options in the Draft

With the draft coming up on Thursday, newly hired GM Danny Ferry and the rest of the Hawks front office have some decisions to be made. Here are my thoughts on what should be done during the draft.

Option A:

Round 1, Pick 23

Hawks select Jeffery Taylor from Vanderbilt. This 6’7 swingman shows incredible athleticism and tremendous upside. His defensive presence could provide an immediate impact on the team. Should be a solid replacement for Marvin Williams, as he has failed to live up to his #2 pick status.

Taylor is sure to make a splash in the NBA wherever he lands.

Round 2, Pick 43

Hawks select Jae Crowder from Marquette. He showed off his tremendous motor and athleticism in college and his style of play should transfer perfectly to the Atlanta Hawks.

Option B:

Round 1, Pick 23

Hawks select Fab Melo from Syracuse. This guy is a prototypical center prospect with tremendous size and strength. This move would allow Horford and Smoove to play at their natural offensive positions, while Pachulia could rotate in from the bench.

Round 2, Pick 43

Hawks select Kevin Murphy from Tennessee Tech. Murphy, who is from Atlanta, can flat out score. His scoring presence can help spread the floor and put pressure on Teague and Johnson to perform.

Option C: 

Round 1, Pick 23

Hawks select Jeffery Taylor from Vanderbilt. (see above)

Round 1, Pick 24

Hawks trade Marvin Williams to Cleveland in exchange for Luke Walton and Pick 24. Hawks select:

A: Tony Wroten from Washington. Wroten is exciting to watch and in the open court with (maybe) Taylor, Smoove, and Horford he would be incredible. Has the potential to be a quicker Rajon Rondo.

B: Fab Melo from Syracuse. (see above)

Round 2, Pick 43

Hawks select one of two players (according to above)

A: Kris Joseph from Syracuse. Very athletic player who could provide yet another fastbreak option. Safe 2nd round choice.

B: Scott Machado from Iona. Machado led the NCAA in assists last year and could help tremendously in the offense, as Teague is a natural pass-second point guard.

Danny Ferry is sure to put Atlanta in a place to succeed in the future and his first step into that process is showing everyone that he knows what he’s doing in the draft.

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