A different perspective can always present a nice change-of-pace, right? Well, I recently asked a couple of bloggers from other teams what they thought of the Hawks so far this season. (you can click the red links below to check out their Twitter pages) Here are the answers they gave:
1. What do you think of the start of Atlanta’s season?
Chris Barnewall: Confuddled. The Hawks being 8-4 isn’t the most surprising thing in the world. They had a bit of a slow start, but this winning streak shows that they seem to have figured out some of those problems they were having. However, they’re still doing things that confuse me like not using Al Horford (Usage% of 21.1) more and using a struggling Josh Smith (Usage% of 26.5) way too much.
Dakota Schmidt: You have to be impressed with how this Hawks squad is doing right? This team hasn’t even lost a step after trading “the face of their franchise” Joe Johnson. While the team is currently struggling offensively, they’ve turned into a defensive power-house that’s currently #1 in all of the NBA in defensive rating.
Raj Prashad: Atlanta’s start might be the most surprising of any team not named the Charlotte Bobcats. Their only four losses on the early season have all but one come by single digits (their lone double-digit loss was to a Los Angeles Clippers team that they dismantled Saturday in Atlanta). They’ve won five-straight and the inclusion of Kyle Korver has made them one of top run-and-gun teams in the league.
2) How do you think the Hawks can improve?
Barnewall: Use Josh Smith less on offense. Currently the guy getting the most amount of touches is Josh Smith. He has an offensive win share of -0.6, a PER of 13.4, and is averaging 16 points for every 16 attempts per 36 minutes. Yes, this is a small sample size and he’s not going to play like this all season, but he needs to realize where to take his shots. If you don’t believe me here’s a stat for you: 49% of Smith’s shots have been jumpers (the most type of shot he’s taken according to 82games.com) and the result is .271 eFG%. Compare this to his 43% of shots close to the rim where he has an eFG% of .534 (the rest of the shots are tip ins and dunks so only 51% of his shots have been taken at the rim.) This means if they want to revive Josh Smith’s offense they need to be having Jeff Teague create ways for Smith to get closer to the basket so he can score.
Schmidt: While their defense is leading them to their current 8-4 record, they have the 23rd best offense in the league. Besides Korver, they really don’t have a stand-out outside shooting threat which could their downfall in the playoffs. With that said, as an outsider I really have no clue who this team goes to in the closing minutes of the game? Horford is a good offensive player, but is more of a post scorer and Josh Smith is more of a slasher then a straight up shooter.
Prashad: Josh Smith has to play in the paint. He’s attempting barely more shots at the rim per game (4.9) than he is from 16-23 feet (4.6) according to HoopData. The difference? He’s shooting 70 percent at the rim and 26 percent from 16-23 feet, the worst of his career. If he plays with the type of intensity he did against the Clippers on Saturday, the sky is truly the limit for this Hawks squad.
3) Where you do think the Hawks will finish in the East?
Barnewall: 6 seed, 1st round exit. I’m not sold on the Hawks yet. They have the ability to finish as a 3 seed and get to the 2nd round of the playoffs, (with some luck maybe even the conference finals) but I don’t trust Larry Drew as a head coach and I don’t trust Josh Smith to buy into the offense and not take long 2’s. Ask me again midway through January, though, as this is a team that we should definitely be watching.
Schmidt: I know Hawks fans will hate this but I think they’re still going to be stuck in that same 4th or 5th seed they’ve been used to for the past 5 seasons. They look like one of the best defensive teams in the league, but they’ll have to find more of an offensive leader. It’s a little too early to actually pick what round they’ll end up because the East is still shaking out, but I can see the Hawks being a team that’ll be a tough 2nd round opponent to Boston, Miami or the Knicks.
Prashad: Looking at the roster, and the small sample size, it would be uneducated to say they will finish anywhere outside of the top four teams in the East, so I’ll say third. My estimation is that they’ll do just enough to ensure Larry Drew doesn’t come back as head coach though, so they’ll get knocked out in the second round… again.