Archives For Analysis

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…

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…

After Atlanta Journal-Constitution Hawks beat writer Chris Vivlamore posted his story announcing the signing of guard Thabo Sefolosha, formerly with Oklahoma City, to a 3-year, 12 million contract, he was so surprised by the number of negative comments that he posted this in the comments section:

Wow, have to admit I’m a little shocked by the reaction to the signing. I like it, for what it is. A player to come off bench, step in if Korver or Carroll go down, who can move the ball, shoot the occasional 3 (I like his stroke) and play defense. Plus, comes from winning organization. That will help. Not the over-the-top piece everybody is looking for but a start.

The AJC.com Hawks blog community, which I’ve been part of since around 2005, is known for its negative comments. For C-Viv to express shock at the reaction to Sefolosha’s signing indicates that this went beyond normal forum trolling. Why so much negativity directed toward a free agent signing that addresses the obvious need for improved wing defense?

To answer that, I need to first give an overview of the Hawks’ cap situation. Below are the 13 players the Hawks have under contract and their respective salaries. Also included is $1 million that must be paid to John Salmons, assuming the Hawks cut him by the negotiated deadline of July 10th. If cut by the Hawks, the $1 million will be deducted from the team’s cap space for this season. Continue Reading…

NOTE: The following piece was written prior to the announcement of the Hawks’ signing of Thabo Sefolosha for three years and $12 million, reducing the Atlanta’s available cap space to around $13 million. I will have a piece up later today on why I feel the Sefolosha signing fails to move the needle. 

With two of the big-name free agents, Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry, opting to remain with their current teams, options are drying up. This is even the case for the Miami Heat, which obtained flexibility after the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opted out of their contracts. The Heat, like all other NBA teams with available cap space, are watching the free agent options dwindle rapidly.

Last summer I wrote about 10 free agents I considered realistic options for the Hawks. Of those players, seven signed multi-year contracts with other teams, one is a league pariah whom I still like (Ivan Johnson) and two played on 1-year deals and are free agents again (Anthony Tolliver and Al-Farouq Aminu). The latter two are mentioned as possible veteran-minimum signees for the Heat in an analysis by Tom Haberstroh for ESPN Insider.

Anthony Tolliver

After shooting 34% from 3-point range in his single season with the Hawks, Tolliver went into video game mode in the playoffs, shooting 64%. Haberstroh notes that Tolliver shot 41.3% from 3-point range for the Bobcats this season and feels he would be perfect for Eric Spoelstra’s system. Tolliver played only 21 minutes in the playoffs against the Heat and made one of two attempts, so there was no opportunity for another post-season breakout. Continue Reading…

I’m still in a daze. What just happened?

*shakes out cob-webs*

Ah, I can see clearly now!

This is one of those trades that we can’t really grade until each moving piece evolves over time. This is a trade could impact the Hawks in a few different ways.

Scenario #1:

Hawks dive into free agency head-first ready to make a huge splash. However, they come out of it looking like the Boys Chess Team captain asking out the Homecoming Queen. (Heck, even if you’re on the girls chess team you probably say no, am I right?)

Hawks watch as Lucas Nogueira turns Toronto into his playground, sending back opposing shots as if he were Rob Ford. With Bebe, considering how high his ceiling is as an imposing defensive specialist, this part of Scenario #1 is quite possible if his knees stay functioning. Continue Reading…

Did you see Danny Green’s defense on Kevin Durant during the Western Conference Finals? Durant has been criticized for his inability to exploit a size advantage when guarded by smaller players. I believe this criticism undervalues Green, who was occasionally called upon to guard LeBron James in isolation during last year’s NBA Finals.

I’ve scoured various mock drafts looking for the next Green or Kawhi Leonard, players Danny Ferry and Mike Budenholzer had a hand in bringing to the Spurs who will now start in their second consecutive NBA Finals. Last year at this time I was doing the same, looking for 3-and-D wings or what Zach Lowe referred to as “new age Shane Battiers,” players who can hit the three and also guard both wing positions. Presently, I’m not finding such a player in this draft.

Shooting guard Gary Harris from Michigan State looks like a knockdown shooter and plus defender, but due to size (6-foot-2.5 without shoes) he may have to guard point guards in the NBA. Clemson’s KJ McDaniels gets compared to Tony Allen, which is apt since he’s a lockdown defender who can’t shoot. He’s also 6-foot-4.5 without shoes.

Continue Reading…

Danny Ferry is about to become a victim of his own success. This time last year, Ferry was considering which holdovers from the previous Hawks regime to retain. This time, thanks to Ferry’s penchant for finding undervalued players (Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Pero Antic), the Hawks’ GM will be faced with too many options and too few roster spots. The first victim of that roster crunch could very well be my favorite Hawk, Gustavo Ayon.

To judge by Twitter and various Hawks message boards, one could easily be convinced that Ayon was a waste of a roster spot. My opinion has been unwaiveringly contrary. Although his season was cut short, we get an idea of Ayon’s potential from the stretch of games from Jan. 24th to Feb. 12th during which Ayon started and averaged 23 minutes. Ayon was an aggregate plus-22 over that 10-game stretch and nearly averaged a double-double per 36 minutes (10.8 points, 9.7 rebounds).

Those per-36 numbers compare favorably with Zaza Pachulia’s for the season (11.1 points, 9.0 rebounds). This is unsurprising since, as Bo Churney pointed out when the Hawks claimed Ayon off waivers, his career per-36 numbers (10.2, 9.4) compare favorably to those of Pachulia (11.9, 9.6). When you consider that Pachulia was signed to a 3-year contract at $5 million per season by the Milwaukee Bucks while Ayon played last season for $1.5 million, that makes Ayon a comparative value.

Continue Reading…

Adam Silver is on fire, NBA Jam style. After decisively addressing the ownership situation for the Los Angeles Clippers, Silver has moved just as quickly to address another mess the retiring David Stern left behind: the ongoing controversy surrounding the league’s officiating. As tweeted by Ira Winderman, the South Florida SunSentinel’s Heat beat writer (and hat tip to SI.com’s Ben Golliver for pointing it out here), the league has confirmed that a proposed, centralized instant replay center will go into operation starting next season.

While Silver’s efforts to force the sale of the Clippers will likely garner the larger headlines, I personally feel that the officiating controversy is just as big a story. As Oregonian columnist John Canzano has detailed in a 5-part series, public confidence in the integrity of the NBA product has been eroded by the inability to get calls right and an apparent lack of accountability for the league’s referees. The centralized review system, which Silver described to reporters during All-Star Weekend, will enable the league to greatly expand the use of instant replay without further slowing the games. Continue Reading…