Archives For Bo Churney

Without question, Al Horford is one of the best 25 players in the NBA. He can score efficiently, defend all over the floor, rebound on both ends, and pass and handle the ball like a guard. He does all of these things at such an exceptional level that he is a mismatch against nearly every team in the NBA.

Despite that versatility, many veteran basketball watchers still want to pigeon-hole the 6-foot-10 Horford as a power forward instead of a center because of his size. “Power forward is his natural position” is what is often said in this argument.

One that thing often gets buried in that argument is the type of center that people would put next to Horford. “Horford would be great with a rim-protecting type of center” is among sentiments that are heard a lot.

And that line of thought is not necessarily wrong. Horford would be GREAT playing next to a center like Marc Gasol or Roy Hibbert. These players possess unique talent and Horford is a good enough talent that is assumed that he would be great next to these guys.

However, a lot of Horford’s success at center comes from the disadvantages he forces on his opponents; Horford is quick, he runs the floor well, he’s strong, and he’s exceptional at spacing the floor. Because of these attributes, a team can put any type of power forward next to him and the team will likely be better off because of it. For example, both Josh Smith and Paul Millsap have excelled as Horford’s pair because of the space he provides. Continue Reading…

The Hawks’ run is over in Las Vegas as the team lost their quarterfinal matchup to Houston, 78-71. The biggest issue for Atlanta was their horrendous shooting, as the team only connected on three of their 28 3-point attempts. Otherwise, the team did a lot of things well; they got the line (18-for-26), controlled the ball (only 14 turnovers, which is excellent for Summer League), and a nice effort on the offensive glass. (11 offensive boards)

Here’s how things broke down for individual players:

  • Dennis Schröder was fantastic and his box score doesn’t quite reflect how well he played. “Slashing Schröder” had several nice takes to the basket and he was tied as the team’s leading scorer with 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting. He was only credited with four assists, but he should have had many, many more; the team’s 25-for-71 overall shooting tanked what was a great passing and offensive performance from the young German.
  • Mike Muscala was again the most consistent Atlanta player on the floor. He is not going to be the catch to run the highlight reel, but that is not what really matters; Muscala has shown a lot of growth this summer from last summer. He is more skilled off of the dribble, is more refined in the post, and has quite a keen knowledge of the NBA’s verticality rules. He doesn’t always get stops, but at the very least, he is avoiding fouls that most young players commit. He and Dennis also showed some nice chemistry on the floor.
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In contrast to signing him with the team’s cap space, the Hawks have completed a sign-and-trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Thabo Sefolosha, the team announced today.

“Thabo is an unselfish, competitive and playoff-tested player, and does many things well on both sides of the ball,” general manager Danny Ferry said in the team’s press release. “He also fills a need, giving us more size and depth at the wing position. He’s been a part of winning programs and will fit our culture well.”

The Hawks also acquired the draft rights to Giorgos Printezis, trading away the rights to 2003 draft pick Sofoklis Schortsanitis. Oklahoma City will also receive a trade exception out of the deal.

Sefolosha is known for his defense, but he is also a capable shooter; he shot 39% on 3-pointers over the last three seasons, hitting a high mark of 43% in the 2011-12 season when the Thunder made the NBA Finals.

The Hawks dropped to 0-3 in Summer League play with a 91-76 loss to the Trail Blazers, mostly thanks to the hot shooting of Portland’s CJ McCollum and Will Barton. Of course, we’re not interested in what happened on the Portland side. Here’s what I saw from the Hawks’ best prospects:

  • Dennis Schröder again looked confident in trying to score, even if he did not have quite the success of Sunday’s 30 point game. He did not attempt a 3-pointer, but his takes to the basket were decisive and well-finished. I liked most of his passing, but he did end up with six turnovers thanks to some old-fashioned, Summer League sloppiness. However, he did have this nice alley-oop pass to Mike Muscala in the second half.
  • John Jenkins did not play in the second half in what was likely after-effects of his back-injury from the past year. Jenkins only played eight minutes in the first half, scoring no points and accumulating three fouls. Jenkins’ future status with the team is becoming less and less concrete as time passes. It may seems harsh since he is coming off of a back injury, but I see no reason why the team should pick up his option for next season.
  • Mike Muscala was probably the team’s best player in this game, putting up 13 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. Despite the team having trouble on defense as a unit, I liked what Muscala was doing for most the game; he still has some learning to do, but he length helps a lot when he just tries to get vertical in defending shots. Muscala was also 1-for-2 on 3-point attempts and he has commented that he is making a concerted effort to improve that aspect of his game. Being a big that can shoot 3s is an easy way to get playing time in Mike Budenholzer’s offense.
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Grantland’s Zach Lowe released his winners and losers from NBA free agency. Among the losers were the Atlanta Hawks, but not because of the deals of Thabo Sefelosha and Kent Bazemore. Instead, Lowe penned this on how the Hawks’ front office is having trouble even meeting with free agents:  

No one will take Atlanta’s money, despite a good core of players, a very good coaching staff, and an innovative style of play Mike Budenholzer has only just begun installing. Some stars won’t even meet with them. I almost wanted to hug Budenholzer when I saw him in Vegas. The most common theory among insiders for Atlanta’s lack of appeal is that players see the Hawks as a dull franchise with a dead crowd and a limited postseason history that almost always involves NBA TV.

That will turn around at some point, but just about everyone Atlanta has approached so far rebuffed the Hawks’ invitation to get in on the ground floor.

I have always been an ardent defender of the Hawks’ turnout for the other reason that Lowe mentions: the Atlanta version of the Hawks franchise has never really won anything of significance; no titles, no appearances in the Finals, hell, not even an appearance in the Conference Finals for the Atlanta faithful to hang their hats on.

The Hawks have four “championship” banners hanging up in Philips Arena. All four celebrate a division championship, which I don’t think is an accomplishment you should scoff at, as it is a nice accolade. It usually means that your team is in the top four in the conference and that they have some sort of chance of making it to the Conference Finals. Continue Reading…

The Las Vegas version of the NBA’s Summer League will start tomorrow. For the second consecutive year, there is a lot to watch for with the young Atlanta Hawks roster.

While rookies Dennis Schröder and Lucas Nogueira stole the show last season, one of the biggest developments was Mike Scott’s expanded shooting.

Scott shot 46% over five games, displaying a refined shooting touch from mid-range, as well as an extension of his game to the 3-point line. Scott only shot 2-for-8 from 3 while in Vegas, but it was more about seeing where Scott wanted to go with improving his game. The improvement translated to the regular season, where Scott attempted 200 3-pointers during the season. Scott only shot 31% on those shots, but the expansion in his game added greater space on offense for himself and the entire team.

Will we see that kind of improvement from a player on this year’s Summer League roster?

Of the players in Vegas for the Hawks, three of them — Mike Muscala, John Jenkins, and Schröder — saw time during the regular season with the team. 2014 draft picks Adreian Payne, Edy Taveres, and Lamar Patterson will also see their first NBA related playing time. Eric Dawson, who played for last year’s Summer League team and was a training camp invite, is on the roster as well. Continue Reading…

With the 15th pick in the 2014 draft, the Hawks have selected Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne.

As a senior, Payne averaged 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds last season with the Spartans. One of Payne’s biggest attributes is his shooting, as he shot 43% on 3s during the year.

“We want to play with pace and space,” said Hawk GM Danny Ferry after the selection. “Adreian is a guy who can do both.”

“I’m very excited that I can continue to play my game,” said Payne, “and stretch the floor and play inside and out.”

Ferry went on to praise the Michigan State program: “Michigan State guys are guys that we like. They play with a high level of competitiveness… Michigan State is a program we really respect. Playing for four years for Tom Izzo can only be a good thing.”

Payne expanded on that in his presser, saying “From Michigan State, we have a toughness, the players leave there, and I’m going to just bring toughness, hard work, and I’m going to play hard every game and in practice.”

Iman Shumpert Available?

Bo Churney —  June 23, 2014 — 4 Comments

Late last night, ESPN’s Marc Stein had this to say about New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert:



With the Hawks desperately needing a third player that can play defense on the perimeter, this news definitely piqued my interest. Shumpert can effectively play defense on both guard positions, plus he can occasionally guard the 3-position on teams that are small. Shumpert’s offense has been extremely inconsistent over his three NBA seasons, but there is one factor that was in New York that makes me think this can easily be fixed on a team like Atlanta: former Knicks head coach, Mike Woodson. Continue Reading…

“I played 42 minutes once, so I’ll give myself a [team MVP] vote.”

That quote really sums up Elton Brand’s season with the Hawks. In the season’s first month, Brand did not play in eight of Atlanta’s first 15 games. However, or the rest of the season, Brand would become a huge part of the Hawks’ rotation as the team dealt with devastating injuries to its frontcourt.

Brand came to the Hawks on a cheap contract — one year, $4 million — expecting to play any role that the Hawks would need from him: veteran leader in the locker room, guy off the bench when needed, etc. What he likely did not expect, however, was to end up starting 15 games, including a seven game stretch in February where the 15-year vet was playing over 34 minutes per game and was nearly averaging a double-double (9.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) along with two assists and two blocks.

Defense is where Brand made much of his impact during the 2013-14 season. After Al Horford went down with his pectoral injury, Brand became the de facto defensive anchor on a number of nights and became the team’s best rim protector. Brand had a career-best block percentage with 4.9% (via Basketball-Reference) and kept opponents to just 50.2% shooting at the rim. The league average for defending the rim was around 53%, which of course does not include attempts such as breakaways that have no defender at the rim. (via NBA.com) Continue Reading…

Lance Stephenson?

Bo Churney —  June 10, 2014 — 2 Comments

In Zach Lowe’s super article today on Lance Stephenson, Lowe mentioned the Hawks as a potential landing spot for the unrestricted free agent.

This is not too surprising. After Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll, the Hawks have very little useful depth on the wing. This lack of depth led to Shelvin Mack and Lou Williams playing time at small forward, which represents a huge defensive liability for the Hawks.

Stephenson is a talented player. He can create offense for himself, has decent vision when it comes to play making, plus he possesses the athleticism and body size to be a defensive plus on the wing. Other positives with Stephenson are that he is only 23 and he has yet to play in an offensive system that even comes close to matching the dynamic offense run by Mike Budenholzer and the Hawks.

Of course, the question with Stephenson is not his talent, but his attitude and how much he should be paid. The Hawks could have around $10 million in cap space, which is within the possible range that Stephenson is expected to be paid this summer.

Would the Hawks front office, which models itself after the San Antonio Spurs, be willing to invest that amount of money in an enigmatic player? This front office let Josh Smith and Ivan Johnson, both somewhat volatile players, walk out in free agency. However, Smith and Johnson both filled a position that was not a completely dire need to the Hawks at the time. That is not the case at the wing with Stephenson. Because of Stephenson’s talent and super need on the wing, the Hawks should at least take a cursory glance toward the Pacer shooting guard during the offseason.