Archives For Analysis

It’s taken a couple of days for me to wrap my head around what has happened to my beloved Atlanta Hawks, a team I’ve followed since the old days at the Omni. If you’ve read this, then you already know where I stand on race relations. Since the civil rights community is already addressing that aspect with the Hawks organization, no further comment from me is needed. What I’d like to do instead is challenge the validity of the statements that ignited this controversy.

First of all, let’s briefly summarize the sad state of the Hawks during the team’s history in Atlanta. This will predate Danny Ferry and Bruce Levenson’s involvement but it’s necessary for background. The Hawks have never reached the conference finals since moving to Atlanta from St. Louis. The Hawks have had one superstar player, Dominique Wilkins, since moving to Atlanta.

Dating back to the Dominique era, starting with the drafting of Kevin Willis in 1984 and ending with the drafting of Josh Smith in 2004, the Hawks went through a 21-year period in which, during the 19 intervening NBA drafts, the Hawks selected and retained only one player who averaged double digit scoring for his career (Jason Terry). Nineteen drafts. One career double digit scorer. Continue Reading…

After hyping Zoran Dragić in my previous piece, I was alarmed to see him go 1-for-8 from three over his next two games against weak competition (Korea and Angola). Dragić may have slipped a bit from his hot start but, as explained below, he remains one of the players to watch in the FIBA World Cup.

Below is an analysis of a number of players I have been tracking throughout the tournament. Most are players I believe Danny Ferry should consider for the Hawks’ 15th and final roster spot. Two of the players, Dario Šarić and Bojan Bogdanović, are draftees of other teams whom the Hawks have little hope of obtaining, but are analyzed here for purposes of comparison to the other emerging talent.

The players are listed in order of their “efficiency” rating, as listed on FIBA.com. Keep in mind that this tournament features a record 45 players currently under contract with NBA teams, and another 23 players with previous NBA experience. For these players to rank this high is truly impressive.

Gustavo Ayón (11th in efficiency out of 261 players ranked)

Goose has been phenomenal, although Mexico have been disappointing. Their only wins came against group bottom feeders Korea and Angola, and they have yet to beat a good team (although they gave Australia a good challenge). I think it’s fair to say Ayón’s numbers have been slightly inflated by his high workload, resulting from his team’s lack of another standout performer.

Continue Reading…

After three days of group play at the FIBA World Cup, several players have emerged as potential NBA talent. Among them is Slovenian shooting guard Zoran Dragić, the younger brother of Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragić.

The younger Dragić is averaging 16 PPG, 18th in the tournament. However, his performance becomes more impressive if you look at the “efficiency” statistic on FIBA.com’s stats page. This statistic combines a player’s total points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and drawn fouls, then subtracts the total of the player’s missed field goals and free throws, turnovers, shots blocked and personal fouls.

As mentioned previously, the tournament features a record 45 players under contract in the NBA, combined with 23 players with NBA experience and 17 draftees who have yet to play in the league. With that depth of talent, it’s not surprising that nine of the top 10 players in efficiency are NBA players. Zoran Dragić is tied for 11th while also leading the tournament in 3-point shooting (6-for-7, 86%). The 6-5 guard also commits a microscopic .5 turnovers per game, although he produces only one assist per game. Continue Reading…

There’s a common debate among bloggers, fans, media, and even in some front office circles. When should a young player be given more playing time? Many out there feel that a young player, once they show any kind of promise, should be given a lot of minutes; let them work out the kinks in a trial by fire setting. Only then will we know their worth. Others want them to earn every single minute they play. If they want to play then they have to beat out that guy in front of them no matter the skill level. Obviously both of these feel like extremes. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

During the 2013 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Dennis Schröder. This pick excited Hawks fans. Those not happy with Jeff Teague’s play, so far in his career, claimed Schröder could be the point guard of the future in three years. After a strong summer league, this only got fans even more excited. To make things even better, Schröder had a strong beginning to the season. Unfortunately for him, that strong play didn’t continue.

As Schröder’s play faltered, another player rose. Journeyman Shelvin Mack began to outplay Schröder on a nightly basis. Mack never turned the ball over and was a consistent player, something the Hawks lacked. This left the team with a decision, do they go with trial by fire for the young rookie, or the consistent veteran where they had an idea of what they would be getting, production wise? Continue Reading…

On July 27th, Paul Millsap was added to Team USA’s provisional roster due to players like Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, and LaMarcus Aldridge deciding to forgo participation in the FIBA World Cup this summer.

Little more than a week later, Millsap was announced as one of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s first round of cuts, along with Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal. Among those selected over Millsap were Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee.

At the time, there was not too much of a problem with this. Even with Paul George’s gruesome injury, the lynchpin for Team USA seemed to be one thing: they still had Kevin Durant. The problem with this thinking today is that the team no longer has Durant to rely on.

It was announced on Thursday that Durant would withdraw from Team USA participation, citing mental and physical exhaustion. While there is some speculation that this might have something to do with Durant being offered a $300+ million endorsement deal with Under Armour, there is plenty of merit for Durant needing some time off. Continue Reading…

L.A. Times and Basketball Insiders writer (and HawksHoop go-to fact checker) Eric Pincus tweeted yesterday that the Hawks still have up to $9.4 million in potential cap space since contracts for Shelvin Mack, Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore have been agreed to but not finalized:

Pincus further elaborated that if the Hawks sign a player into the $9.4 million in available cap space, the team could then exceed the cap to sign Mack and Scott, since Atlanta holds their “early” Bird rights. The Hawks would then be able to further exceed the cap by signing Bazemore using the “room” exception. Pincus said this is not only what the Hawks can do, it’s what the team should do:

“They’re best signing all three after using their cap room,” Pincus tweeted. Continue Reading…

With various frontcourt stars withdrawing their names from consideration for the USA national basketball team, Atlanta Hawks all-star Paul Millsap has gotten his name put up as a candidate for a roster spot in the FIBA World Cup.

“Paul has prior experience at the National Team level having participated in the 2009 National Team mini-camp and offers us veteran inside player who possesses attributes that can be beneficial for us,” said USA National Basketball team director Jerry Colangelo.

Millsap, 29, is not the only member of the Hawks getting looked at for a spot on the roster. Teammate Kyle Korver is also receiving consideration.

Neither Millsap, nor Korver were seen as potential members of team USA. Both lacking “star power” and usual athleticism that Team USA necessitates, they were seen as surplus in NBA fans minds, but Team USA knows what they are doing. Continue Reading…

During the NBA Draft, if you knew which writers to follow on Twitter you saw most of the picks leaked minutes before they were announced on the live TV broadcast. Then came the Hawks’ pick at 15:

*crickets*

This has become Danny Ferry’s modus operandi for conducting business. I’ve joked about it in the past, comparing the levels of secrecy in the Hawks’ front office to the CIA. For contrast, think back to the rumor that the Knicks might be willing to trade Carmelo Anthony to the L.A. Clippers for Blake Griffin. This is what’s known as a “trial balloon.” You float a rumor out there to see how people react to it, but maintain deniability that you were the source of the rumor.

Doc Rivers, the coach and GM of the Clippers, who would have final say, called the idea that he would trade Griffin “ridiculous.” Within hours, Anthony was quoted parroting Rivers, likewise labeling the prevailing trade rumors “ridiculous.” Hmm, let’s see. Anthony is a Creative Artists Agency client. Knicks GM Steve Mills is a CAA client. Before Mike Woodson took the Knicks job, he fired his longtime agent so that he could become a CAA client. Where do you think the Carmelo-for-Blake rumor came from? But Carmelo denies such “ridiculous” rumors came from his camp. Riiight. Continue Reading…

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…

Grantland’s Zach Lowe has declared the Atlanta Hawks among the losers in this year’s off-season, citing the team’s inability to attract a major piece despite plenty of available cap space:

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.

Contrarian that I am, I disagree with Lowe and almost everybody else about Atlanta’s off-season. Before I explain, I feel compelled to point out that the Hawks might have a completely different set of problems if Budenholzer had done what I suggested prior to Game 6 of the Indiana series and increased Shelvin Mack’s minutes at the expense of Lou Williams. Before the series, I noted that Williams (minus-15) and Elton Brand (minus-26) had the worst aggregate plus-minus against the Pacers during the regular season. In my playoff postmortem, I noted that Brand again had the worst aggregate plus-minus for the series (minus-32) while Williams was only 4th-worst at minus-21. Continue Reading…