Hawks Helped Nix Lottery Reform
According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti led a successful, last-minute effort to nix the NBA’s proposed lottery reform, which would have evened the odds for lottery teams to move up to a higher pick. The Hawks were among a group of franchises with ties to the Spurs (which includes Presti and OKC) that voted against reform and prevented it from receiving enough votes to pass.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained some of the rationale behind the proposed changes to ESPN.com:

I think we all recognize we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to, of course, win, and on the other hand allowing for appropriate rebuilding and the draft to work as it should in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.

Despite this stated purpose, the proposal would have increased the odds for the 48-win Phoenix Suns to move up in the draft by 400% compared to the old system, if the proposal had been in effect as of the last draft. The ESPN.com article explained the motivation for reform as follows:

Reform proposals were aimed at two elements: increasing the odds of the best teams in the lottery jumping up into the top three spots and also lowering the floor for the worst teams to drop.

And Lowe extrapolated as follows:

The league’s proposal would have injected more randomness into the process, undercutting the ability to plan and increasing the likelihood that a solid team near the bottom of the lottery lucks its way into a star.

That might deter tanking on some level, but it also raises the chances of a scenario in which a team wins multiple lotteries despite some on-court improvement. No one seemed to like it much when Cleveland won a third lottery in four years in May.

If Silver’s stated purpose is to discourage tanking and direct talent toward teams that need it, how could he possibly justify giving a 48-win team a 400% better chance at landing one of the top picks? How does such an incentive discourage a fringe playoff team from tanking out of a low playoff seed? The goals and methodology behind the proposed reform seem to work at cross purposes.

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The Hawks finally conquered the Hornets 117-114 after the game was needlessly extended in overtime.

The officials were atrocious at the end of regulation, but they were even worse in overtime. The Hawks’ final offensive possession in OT — which started with 5.5 seconds left — took over six seconds until Thabo Sefolosha was fouled. The game should have ended, but then the refs reviewed the play for about ten minutes before deciding to put 2.8 seconds back on the clock with Sefolosha at the free throw line. It was an enormous gaffe that led to the game lasting about 15 minutes longer than it should have. If the NBA is serious about trying to reduce the average length of games, maybe look into overly long official reviews and excessive end-of-game timeouts instead of tinkering with the long-time rules of the game.

If you can’t tell, the officials really put a bad ending on what was otherwise an interesting game. Both teams stuck with a mix of starters and rotation players for the duration of the game and some legitimately fun basketball was being played. My complaining and soapbox speaking aside, there are plenty of positives and negatives to discuss about the Hawks from their win. The biggest negative clearly being the team’s continued inability to hold on to leads that has been persistent since last season.

“We’re playing well in stretches,” said Coach Budenholzer in his post-game presser, “and we’re playing beneath our standards for significant stretches. All of us, we need to get better.”

After being outscored 35-23 in the fourth quarter against the Pistons on Saturday, the Hawks blew a 17 point halftime lead when Charlotte was able to force overtime. Continue Reading…

By now you’ve probably read Lakers coach Byron Scott’s comments about 3-pointers. Scott told ESPN.com that 3-pointers help teams make the playoffs but don’t win championships. The numbers show that the opposite is true. The majority of recent NBA champions had the most made 3-pointers in the playoffs, often after posting middle-of-the-pack numbers during the regular season.

The Hawks’ loss to the Pistons was a textbook example of the importance of the 3-pointer. Late in the fourth quarter the Hawks held a 10-point lead while shooting 44% from 3-point range. The Pistons, meanwhile, were shooting only 27% from distance. Brandon Jennings, one of the most infamous streak shooters in the NBA, got hot and hit three in a row. Suddenly the Pistons were shooting 38% from 3-point range and the Hawks’ lead was a distant memory.

The real story of this game, however, is that Andre Drummond is an absolute monster and force to be reckoned with. One coach who is well-acquainted with the importance of the 3-pointer is Stan Van Gundy, who brought in former Hawk Cartier Martin as part of an offseason scour for anyone who could hit a long ball. Van Gundy will shortly be in the unique position of coaching the best center of three successive generations after previously coaching Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Continue Reading…

The Bulls technically won this game 85-84 after Jimmy Butler hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Which is nice for Chicago fans. It’s nice to win games. The problem with this for me is that the Hawks gave away this preseason game long before Butler’s 20 point fourth quarter.

Why am I almost completely ignoring the fourth quarter? Because this is the preseason and Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and Pau Gasol leading a 20-point, fourth quarter comeback against John Jenkins, Jarell Eddie, and Adreian Payne doesn’t inspire much in terms of what we should expect from this Atlanta Hawks team. (besides that the Hawks clearly care more about resting their main players)

Here is what I did takeaway, though: Atlanta’s starters (sans Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap) and main bench players dominated Chicago’s rotation. The offense was not very efficient, but they were getting good looks, not turning the ball over, and scoring enough to overpower Chicago’s anemic offense.

Al Horford put up four points (2-for-6 shooting) in 16 minutes, but he also had six rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He looked like his usual great self on defense and was progressing the offense by immediately running defensive rebounds up the floor. His jumper is still a bit short, but that is something that should progress as he gets more meaningful minutes on the floor. Horford had a plus-12 rating for the game. Continue Reading…

When Reggie Miller and Rick Fox predicted on NBA TV that the Hawks would miss the playoffs this season, I chuckled. But when ESPN.com projected the Hawks as the 7th-best team in the East and Tom Haberstroh wrote that the Hawks’ depth is “shallow as a puddle,” it was time to break my silence on the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks. Please take a few moments and let’s talk about the deepest team in Atlanta Hawks history.

Here’s the full quote from Haberstroh from ESPN’s preseason power rankings:

Although the Hawks mostly struck out in free agency with tons of cap space at hand, they reeled in former Thunder 3-and-D specialist Thabo Sefolosha to add much-needed depth. However, the team’s bench is still as shallow as a puddle after they shed Lou Williams’ contract.

The Hawks’ trade of Williams and former first-round pick Lucas Nogueira for the partially-guaranteed contract of John Salmons will remain a topic of debate for years to come. The team traded a useful bench player (Williams) and a former pick with some promise for a $7 million contract with only $1 million guaranteed. If you’re still dumbfounded by this move, consider this: There’s a very strong possibility that the trade was part of Danny Ferry’s preparation for a sign-and-trade offer to the Pistons that would include a max contract offer for Greg Monroe.

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After 10 months on the sidelines due to a pectoral injury, Al Horford finally returned to action on Tuesday night for a preseason matchup with the Miami Heat.

But it was an inauspicious return for Al Horford, as Chris Bosh won the tip, scored a layup, made a jumper and recorded three rebounds in the first three minutes as the Heat opened on a 14-0 run. Bosh’s two baskets on Horford during that run looked effortless and Horford’s baseline turn-around was well short and unconvincing.

You can’t lay it all on Horford’s plate, however, as the entire starting unit played the first quarter in a listless and disinterested manner. Jeff Teague’s layup and free throw, a pair of threes from DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver and a short jumper and layup by Paul Millsap was all the offense the starters were able to muster in the 1st as the Heat built a 31-16 lead heading into the second quarter.

Horford showed signs of life in the second quarter, assisting Mike Scott on a dunk and hitting a 13-footer. However, James Ennis, a player whose rights Danny Ferry traded to the Hawks’ division rivals, made a dunk and hit a corner three to counteract Horford’s positive efforts. Continue Reading…

One thing we learned definitively from the Hawks’ pre-season loss to the Grizzlies: Memphis’ starters are better than the Hawks’ 3rd string. While Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap all played 14 or fewer minutes, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph all played 29+.

The extended shift for the Grizzlies’ front line, including a 4th-quarter stint, earned Memphis a 93-88 win and dropped the Hawks to 1-1 in the preseason. The good news for the Hawks? Johnny Cash is back. For the 2nd time in as many preseason games, John Jenkins led the Hawks with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field and 2-for-3 shooting from 3-point range. Dennis Schröder also had a nice game, following up his nine point, four assist performance in the opener against New Orleans with a 14 point, three assist showing against Memphis.

Despite Schröder’s strong game, Shelvin Mack appears on pace to maintain his status as Teague’s backup. The owner of the NBA’s 7th-best assist-to-turnover ratio last season contributed 11 points and eight assists on 4-for-7 shooting from the field (3-for-5 from three) and committed only two turnovers. Mike Scott rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points, but it took him 11 shots to get there. Continue Reading…

The Hawks opened the preseason on Monday night after a long month of off-court distractions from the front office. Taking on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, the Hawks controlled most of the game and won by a final score of 93-87.

Al Horford, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, Pero Antic, and Kent Bazemore sat out, but the Hawks coaching staff learned a lot about the depth they are going to have for the upcoming season.]

The most positive sign might have been from John Jenkins, who has finally overcome the injuries that plagued him for most of last season and during Las Vegas Summer League. Jenkins showed a wider range in his game and was doing more than just shooting; he was putting the ball on the floor, moving on offense, and playing with a lot of energy on defense. Continue Reading…

Not at his position. (which is center) Not in the division. Not in the East.

In the entire NBA.

CBS Sports once again did their Elite 100 players in the NBA and the three man crew placed Horford in the 13 spot among NBA players.

Here’s what the Eye on Basketball had to say about Horford:

The reality is that Horford in many ways is what Noah is billed as. He’s an all-around center. He’s able to score on his own out of the post, from mid-range, and even dabbled with the three-ball before the injury took him out last season. He’s a smart and commited defender, versatile and long. Horford’s passing is brutally underrated and he can create separation with his screens. Oh, and in any season where he’s played more than 30 games, he’s never averaged less than nine rebounds per 36 minutes.

That’s a lot of hype for the Hawks’ center, who missed the majority of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. Horford is usually criminally underrated in such rankings, so seeing him this high is somewhat surprising.

Joining Horford in their top 100 were Paul Millsap at 35, Kyle Korver at 52, and Jeff Teague at 63. Assuming those four players live up to these rankings, the Hawks should find themselves in contention come playoff time.

In Mike Budenholzer’s first year as Hawks coach, he installed an offense based on passing, tempo, and spacing, very similar to the one he ran as the head assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. A lot was expected of this system, as Budenholzer had been Gregg Popovich’s right hand man for over a decade.

A catastrophe of injuries derailed what was expected to be a successful offensive display. Al Horford missed 53 games. His primary backup, Pero Antic, missed 21 games after Horford’s pectoral tear. Antic’s backup, Gustavo Ayon, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury not long after Antic’s injury. The most important sharpshooter in the league, Kyle Korver, missed 11 games, over which the Hawks amassed a record of one win and ten losses. DeMarre Carroll, the team’s most important defender on the wing, missed nine games after Horford’s injury, of which the Hawks lost eight.

If all of that was not bad enough, Paul Millsap — an All-Star of the 2013-14 season — also missed some time. Millsap’s absence was amplified by occurring during the stretch where Horford, Antic, and Ayon were also out. Continue Reading…