For an NBA team, spacing is a helluva drug.
When the Hawks traded for Korver last July, it signaled the ultimate end of isolation plays. Sure, you could say that trading Joe Johnson did that, but this deal was more of the final nail in the coffin. You see, you can’t run an isolation offense when Korver is on your team; he’s simply too good at what he does to let you do that. (as evidenced by his 73-straight games with a three-pointer) With Korver on the roster, the Hawks quickly became one of the most flex-heavy offensive units in the entire league.
As I harped on all season, Korver was always near the lead for the Hawks in terms of on/off differential. His plus-8.0 rating was only behind Devin Harris’ plus-9.2 for the season. This stat goes to show how important Korver’s spacing was to the Hawks this season. Even if he wasn’t hitting shots, he had a profound impact on how opposing defenses matched up. The best evidence of this was a game against the Boston Celtics this season. No, not the game where Kyle hit a bazillion threes, but the contest after that: a 107-102 loss in overtime. You see, Doc Rivers didn’t forget about those eight threes that Korver hit in the previous game, and specifically set up his defense to deny Korver from getting open looks. The result? Jeff Teague had 26 points and nine assists, Josh Smith had 32 points, eight boards, and eight assists, and Al Horford put up 22 points, 13 rebounds, and five dimes. All that effort to stop Korver resulted in Atlanta’s “big three” each having a huge night. Barring a Josh Smith implosion in the last 5:30 of this game (four TOs, 1-for-3 shooting), the Hawks have a win.
Korver’s 63.7% true-shooting was good enough for 4th in the NBA, behind only Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. So, a center that only takes shots at the rim and the two best players in the game? Not bad company.
One number that’s not reflected in that stat box is Korver’s 60 starts on the season; it was the most starts he’s ever made in a season in his career. However, this isn’t something that really mattered to Kyle; as he told the media, “I like to finish games.”
And finish games he most certainly did. For the season, Korver shot 53% on three-pointers in the fourth quarter and had a true-shooting percentage of 72.5%. Considering that most shooting percentages usually dip in the fourth quarter, this is an absolutely astounding statistic and is one that will give opposing coaches a nightmare when they are drawing up a defensive set near the end of the game.
Of course, the knock on Korver usually has been that he’s a sieve on defense, which simply isn’t true. Sure, the images of Paul George being able to muscle Korver around may still be fresh in your mind, but the fact is that in most games this season, Korver was an asset on the defensive side of the floor. Atlanta’s defense was a point-and-half better when he was on the floor and Korver was often playing quarterback on defense, calling out switches and assignments as much as any other Hawk. To have fun with stats, Korver was one of only 13 players this season to record multiple 3-block/3-steal games. He was also third in block and fourth in steals for the Hawks this season.
Like most players on Atlanta’s roster this season, Korver will be a free agent this summer. It is of my understanding that the Hawks’ front office wants Korver back very much. However, it is unknown how much money Korver will command; he just had one of his best seasons at the age of 32 and possesses an elite skill that usually ages very well. I think he’s likely to end up with a similar deal to his previous one: three years and somewhere about $14-17 million. If that’s the case, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be in an Atlanta uniform next season.
BEST GAME: Was there any doubt? His 27-point game against the Celtics that saw him hit eight three-pointers in the second half. His 24 second half points where largely responsible for Atlanta’s comeback from a 27-point deficit.
BEST HIGHLIGHT: *see above*
Of course, the real highlight of that video is how excited Anthony Tolliver is compared to Kyle’s complete lack of expression.
AVERAGE GAME GRADE: 5.7/10
SEASON GRADE: 8/10