Archives For May 2013

Keeping Drew?

Bo Churney —  May 16, 2013

It has been almost two weeks since the Hawks’ season ended… and Larry Drew is still under contract. To me, this is a huge surprise.

Now, I think Drew is a good coach, but with his contract coming to an end, I figured the Hawks would have gotten rid of him already. It seemed like GM Danny Ferry would want to hire his own guy and would have sent Drew on his way by now. However, Drew is still under contract, even though the Hawks are looking at other candidates. To be fair, the Hawks have allowed Drew to interview for any job he may want.

I still don’t think Larry will be back in Atlanta next year, but his odds have increased (to me, at least) purely from the fact that he’s still around. And to be honest, if Josh Smith is gone, I think Drew could work for this team. The two clearly can’t seem to agree on shot selection, meaning that they would probably be better off in different cities next season.

The Hawks have talked with Nate McMillan. Two words: bad idea? McMillan has the same M.O. as Mike Woodson: isolation offense and is supposedly a great defensive coach, despite team defensive efficiency not being reflective of that. Now, McMillan may have learned some things since he was fired from the Trail Blazers, but hiring an isolation-heavy playcaller when you don’t have a dominant wing player would leave me scratching my head. I’d rather have Drew, regardless of the Josh Smith situation.

Of course, I still believe Stan Van Gundy is the best option as coach. He’s a proven winner and has a system that is fun to watch. The Hawks should do everything they can to get him or Brian Shaw, who is probably the best assistant coach in the Association right now.

I understand your skepticism.

Josh Smith comes to mind immediately. The screams of “NOOOOO!” from a harassed Philips Arena crowd are probably still ringing through your ears. Why on earth would the Hawks want another “mid-range shawty” jacking up three-pointers?

Because Horford needs to start shooting threes.

Al’s a good shooter; there’s no denying that. This season, he shot 45% on long-twos longer than 15 feet. The two seasons before that (excluding the injury shortened 2011-12 season), Horford shot 48% (!) and 53% (!!!) from that distance.

Recently, it seems that Horford has been working to expand his shooting range. He took six threes this season, the most of his career, and a few of those weren’t just late-clock situations; they were plays specifically set up for Horford to shoot the three. In his pre-game warmups, part of his routine was hitting a three from five spots on the floor. He always ended his warmups by hitting a corner three.

Horford expressed to the media earlier this year that the three-ball is something that he wants to add to his repertoire. While it is still a work in progress, coach Larry Drew did have plays drawn up that had Al set up behind the arc. Continue Reading…

Kyle Korver will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is likely to be a player that many teams are going to go after. His play was invaluable to the Hawks this season thanks to his three-point shooting and his ability to move off the ball. It would be a very bad move by the Hawks to not at least try to bring him back, as shown by Bo Churney’s top ten free agents for the Hawks to pursue.

One of the best statistical indicators of Korver’s ability? He finished fourth in the NBA in true-shooting percentage, only behind Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James.

Korver Shot chart (HotShotCharts)

(Chart used from HotShotCharts.com)

Look at how dominant Korver is from the wings and corners. This season, Korver shot 50% from the left corner, 43% from the left wing, 48% from the right wing, and 45% from the right corner. Continue Reading…

According to a report from Yahoo Sports, the Atlanta Hawks have an interest in former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy replacing Larry Drew as head coach of the Hawks. The report states that Van Gundy is one of the Hawks top targets.

“General manager Danny Ferry has made Van Gundy his top target to replace Larry Drew, sources said. There has been contact between Ferry and Van Gundy, but the two sides have yet to meet in person.”

As many people know, current Lakers center Dwight Howard will be a free agent this offseason and Atlanta is the big man’s hometown. Howard’s coach back when he used to play for Orlando was Van Gundy. It is possible that bringing in SVG could help increase Howard’s interest in returning to play for his hometown. Despite Dwight’s scuffles with Van Gundy last season, sources around Howard say that this season helped Dwight realize the brilliance of the coach he had in Orlando.

I think that Van Gundy is a great option and definitely should be the top target for the Hawks this offseason. When Van Gundy was the coach in Orlando, he was one of the best coaches in the NBA and his time in Miami before that saw him reach the eastern conference finals. Van Gundy has shown he knows how to coach defense, turning the Magic into a top three defensive team in 2009, and an offense with the barrage of three-pointers the Magic would shoot when he was coach.

The great thing about Van Gundy is his great basketball mind. The three-point shooting offense he ran in Orlando was designed around the fact that they had the gigantic Dwight Howard in the middle. He knew that the best thing to surround him with would be a bunch of 3 point shooters so he designed the offense around it. I would love to see Van Gundy work with an offense being ran by the speedy Jeff Teague. Van Gundy has also shown the ability to develop players, turning JJ Redick from purely a three-point shooter into an all-around player.

In their first round loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Atlanta Hawks disappointed across the board. A stagnated offense and a Swiss cheese defense doomed Atlanta in the first two contests, but after a change in head coach Larry Drew’s strategy, hopes for a Hawks upset rose in two straight home victories. Eventually, they collapsed and the team inevitably fumbled early into their postseason. Plenty of the team’s failures can be placed on individual players, and one of the most appalling of disappearances in this first round defeat was of Jeff Teague, the starting point guard of the Hawks.

Although he’s yet to make himself a big name in the league, (an infuriating trend for talented Hawks players) Teague’s performance in these playoffs was far less than desired or expected. Teague’s season has shown improvement in his facilitating game when compared to previous exhibitions, yet when the playoffs started, Jeff floundered. This comes as a shock to any of Teague’s followers, as he’s been known to enter “Playoff Teague” mode once the regular season ends. This essentially means he takes on an increasingly aggressive role, upping his game to new heights.

This wasn’t the case here in 2013, partly due to Indiana’s strong defense, but also to Teague’s reluctance to attack the paint. Indiana ranks 11th in the league in fewest points allowed by opposing point guards, and fifth in lowest opposing point guard FG%. This strong point guard Continue Reading…

The Hawks could have anywhere from $30-40 million in cap space this summer. While this class doesn’t exactly have the strength of the 2014 class (ahem, the LeBron class), there are some good pickups the Hawks could make to become a contender.

Here’s the top ten potential free agents in order of priority I would have if I was general manager Danny Ferry.

1. Chris Paul
In my opinion, the best free agent of the class by far. Paul finished third this season in win shares (per Basketball-Reference) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER), behind only LeBron and Kevin Durant in both. CP3’s season is already over after the Clippers lost to Memphis in the first round, which slightly piqued my interest in how available he may be to leave Los Angeles. However, I still believe that the Clippers are going to give him too much power in pure roster decisions and too much money for the Hawks to be able to match. Atlanta will be able to offer around four years, $80 million, which is almost $30 million less than what the Clippers can give. In the end, it will likely come down to which team Paul feels has a better chance at winning a title.

2. Dwight Howard
I don’t think there is a chance that Dwight comes to Atlanta, but Ferry might as well try, right? Despite playing all season with a myriad of injuries, Dwight still managed to average 17.1 points and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game. For the entire season, he wasn’t the defender that we all remember him being, but he did start to look like his former self towards the end of the year. The number one issue most Hawks fans would have with this would be Dwight’s enigmatic personality, but for me, it is more of an issue of cap space; the Hawks would likely have to re-sign Josh Smith to have Howard sign here, which would likely use all of the team’s cap. As strong as a Smith-Horford-Howard frontcourt would be, they would still need some money to fill out the roster with capable players in order to challenge Miami.

3. Andre Iguodala, ETO
Iggy has an opt-out with the Nuggets, which is something that most believe he will exercise; Continue Reading…

FINAL
Pacers win series, 4-2

IND(4-2) 81 – 73 (2-4)ATL

Key Performers:
G. Hill (IND): 21 pts, 2 reb, 7 ast
A. Horford (ATL): 15 pts, 7 reb, 3 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Robby’s last grades started with “that was pitiful”, and I really wanted to keep that as the first sentence. The Hawks looked like they had given up at one point, going 1-for-15 in what was probably the ugliest quarter of basketball that I’ve ever seen. They ended up rallying back behind the cheers of the fans, but the team wasn’t able to overcome the Josh Smith jumper frenzy.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: He was the leader of the rally at the end, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter. However, he was pretty awful before that point. He couldn’t get post position, was missing open jumpers, and at times was completely out of offensive sets. That’s not really his fault, but I think he needs to assert himself more to the next head coach of this team so something like that doesn’t happen. 6/10

Josh Smith: This was the ultimate Josh Smith game. He was taking silly jumpers, throwing extremely risky passes, and making a habit out of unnecessary dribbles. He did make all of his free throws, though! The conclusion to the Smoove era in Atlanta was scripted beautifully, though. Down five with about 40 seconds left, Smith took matters into his own hands. Instead of going with the play Larry Drew had drawn up, Smith hoisted a contested 3-pointer, which was blocked by David West. Atlanta wasn’t able to recover. With Smoove’s history of shot selection, this ending was just too perfect. 2/10

Johan Petro: Hibbert was getting position on him all night, which really opened up the floor for George Hill to operate. On offense, he was awful, unless you count him hitting one of the most awkward looking floaters you’ll ever see as a “success”. 3/10

Jeff Teague: As bad as Josh has been this series, at least he plays defense. Jeff, though? Not so much. He was as passive as ever, and really played the role of Josh Smith’s enabler by constantly passing the ball to Smoove out on the perimeter. Teague looked like he had no intentions of attacking at all tonight, meaning that Atlanta was left without a fastbreak point until the second half. Would have been cool if Jeff had decided to show up for games 2-6 this series; the Hawks probably could have won under those circumstances. 2/10

Devin Harris: With Jeff essentially doing nothing out there, Devin tried to take some of that responsibility. He wasn’t exactly successful at it, but hell, at least he was trying. That’s worth something. 4/10 Continue Reading…

The Hawks had a chance. The series was tied at two games each and it looked like Larry Drew made an adjustment in the lineup that the Pacers might not be able to counter.

That chance was clanked away.

Losing game five was a blow to the Hawks, but one the team could have managed. The whole series had been determined by homecourt to that point, and it was thought that the Hawks would continue to hold serve and force a game seven. However, the Hawks didn’t get to seven; neither in number of games, nor in second quarter shooting percentage. (6.7%)

The Pacers, to their credit, played extremely strong defense. George Hill took the task of keeping the Atlanta ball handlers out of the paint, and even with they got through, Roy Hibbert and David West proved more than capable of cleaning up the mess. Indy’s offensive game was weak and Paul George was limited to four points, but the efforts of Hill (21 points on 14 shots) and Hibbert (17 points on 14 shots) were enough to help the Pacers climb into the second round of the playoffs.

This loss isn’t new ground for the Hawks; they’ve failed to win a game in the second round for the fifth time in the last six years, despite making the playoffs each season. However, this defeat is unique in that the future is now an unknown. Only three players (Horford, Williams, and Jenkins) have guaranteed contracts next season. Josh Smith appears to be heading out the door and not coming back, and Danny Ferry will have over $33 million in cap space to work with in creating a new team.

Even with how poorly this game played out, we still have a positive thought to take from this 2012-13 season. With the odds against them all season, these Hawks never quit. After losing Zaza Pachulia and Lou Williams to season-ending injuries, the Hawks still managed to grab the sixth seed. Despite falling 2-0 in the series, they fought back to even it up and give themselves an opportunity. And even after being down 17 points in the fourth quarter facing elimination, the crowd was electric, cheering on their team, who managed to cut the Pacer lead to three.

Yes, the Hawks lost, but as Al Horford noted in his postgame presser, the team didn’t quit like they have in the past. Moral victories aren’t always the greatest, but at least we know that Larry Drew left the players of this team with an attitude that they will always have a chance to win.

With Horford likely playing the role of franchise player for the next three, hopefully that persona continues to exist in Philips Arena atmosphere for the coming seasons.

FINAL
Pacers lead series, 3-2

IND(3-2) 106 – 83 (2-3)ATL   

Key Performers:
P. George (IND): 21 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast
A. Horford (ATL): 14 pts, 9 reb, 2 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

That was pitiful. The Hawks had a one-point lead after the first quarter, before they remembered where they were and that they aren’t allowed to keep it close in Indiana. The Pacers followed the lead of David West (24 points) and Paul George (21 points and 11 rebounds), as they dominated the final three quarters. The Pacers out-rebounded the Hawks 51-28 (!!!!) and shot 50.7% from the field compared to Atlanta’s 33.3%. In the immortal words of Charles Barkley, the Hawks were turrible.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: Al had his worst game of the series in game five. Horford got bullied on the defensive end by David West, who dropped 24 on Al, and that seemed to carry over into offensive frustration for Horford. Al shot 5-of-14 from the field for 14 points along with nine rebounds and missed a number of mid-range shots that are normally automatic for him. Horford, who was the aggressor in Games 3 and 4, was outmuscled and physically dominated by West on both ends of the floor and struggled to respond. This was a disappointing effort from Horford, but I expect him to be much sharper and more aggressive in game six. 2/10

Josh Smith: Smoove got in foul trouble early on and was unable to shake it off throughout. Smith stopped attacking the basket and shot 5-of-16 from the field (3-of-7 from the free throw line) in just 26 minutes of play for 14 points and five rebounds. Smith has to find a way to get the refs out of his head and pull himself together by Friday because he will need to return to form, especially defending Paul George, for the Hawks to have a chance to even the series back up. 2/10

Johan Petro: Petro was the only Hawk to shoot over 50% from the field. So…that’s not a recipe for success. Johan’s 2-of-3 shooting night came in 19 minutes as he tallied five points and two boards. He got abused on the glass and in the post, as was the theme of the night for the whole team, which is about par for the course for a Johan Petro game. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Awful. That’s the word to describe Teague’s masterful disappearing act in game five. Jeff was 3-of-16 from the field for seven points, had just five assists, and continuously lost George Hill on defense. Teague looked disinterested throughout and was unable to jumpstart the Hawks offense when they needed him to pick them up. He, like Smoove, needs to get his act together after that awful tech he picked up in the third quarter for elbowing Paul George as we walked to the bench. Jeff will have to find some inspiration to play harder in game six Friday if the Hawks are to force a game seven. 1/10

Devin Harris: Devin took some head-scratching shots, but he was the only ATL starter that appeared engaged for the entire game. He tried guarding Paul George, and was effective at times, but George’s physical skill set proved too much. Harris was also one of three Hawks to receive a technical foul on the night. 4/10 Continue Reading…