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.
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.
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.
- His ability to rebound on the offensive end. This will give him easy putback attempts or a reset to the offense.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6.6 PPG, 41% 3P
Wait he can still defend? Oh well pal, just shoot the three…
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.