Archives For Analysis

On Monday, ESPN Insider Bradford Doolittle agreed with ESPN’s Summer Forecast that the Hawks will win 50 games in 2015-16. Wrote Doolittle:

The 50-win summer forecast might seem like a steep descent. After all, as good as [DeMarre] Carroll might be, he’s not worth 10 wins, and Atlanta did add Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr. during the summer. Yet the forecast and my system agree that while Atlanta remains a force, last season was an outlier.

Prior to last season I took exception with low expectations from national NBA analysts, including Reggie Miller and Rick Fox, who predicted that the Hawks would miss the playoffs. In contrast to those who believed the Hawks would struggle to secure the eighth seed, I wrote that the Hawks could and should compete for the conference’s top seed:

Assuming Al Horford is able to fully recover from his most recent injury and have a healthy season, I believe the Hawks should be aiming for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

My argument was that, since the Hawks took the Pacers to seven games (and should have put them away) and the Pacers took the Heat to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks should be competitive with the top teams in the East in 2014-15:

Keep in mind that the Hawks pushed the Pacers to seven games, a team that may have been better than any team in the Eastern Conference this season.

If Paul George didn’t break his leg during a Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas, the Pacers would have been the favorites in the East last season. Indiana would have retained continuity while LeBron James worked to build chemistry in Cleveland and the Heat dealt with his departure. If the Hawks took those Pacers to the brink of elimination, what would Atlanta be capable of with a healthy Al Horford? Last season, we got the answer: 60 wins. Continue Reading…

For a franchise that got so many things right over the last 12 months, the Atlanta Hawks simply cannot catch a break in the public relations game. After the Hawks hired the lead assistant of the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in May of 2013, Mike Budenholzer was arrested for DUI exactly three months later. In July of the next year, Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson put the team up for sale after self-reporting an email in which he made racially-insensitive remarks about fans and game operations. It was later revealed that Levenson’s email came to light during an internal investigation that was launched after GM Danny Ferry made racially-insensitive comments regarding free agent Luol Deng during a conference call with ownership.

As a team, the Hawks’ players and coaches turned to each other to block out the outside noise resulting from the controversy. The team was determined to be defined by its performance on a basketball court and not by what had taken place in offices and conference rooms over the summer. The results were more than anyone could have predicted. Budenholzer won Coach of the Year in only his second season as head coach while the Hawks won a franchise-record 60 games, completed the first undefeated month in NBA history, sent a franchise-record four players to the All-Star game and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since moving to Atlanta.

But just when everything was going perfectly, Pero Antić and Thabo Sefolosha were arrested outside a New York nightclub hours after the team flew into town to face the Brooklyn Nets in one of the regular season’s final games. During the arrest, Sefolosha suffered a broken fibula and ligament damage and was lost for the season. A trial is set for Sept. 9 for the misdemeanor charges pending against Sefolosha and Antić. Continue Reading…

In the apparent culmination of what has been an underwhelming offseason, the Hawks signed former Warriors shooting guard Justin Holiday, the brother of Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans’ former All-Star point guard. That’s not to say that Holiday’s signing is underwhelming … it has sneaky-good value addition written all over it. But taken in aggregate, Mike Budenholzer’s first offseason as President of Basketball Operations and Wes Wilcox’ as GM has not been nearly as impressive as it needs to be.

The AJC’s Mark Bradley does a great job of summing up the stakes. Could the recently-concluded 60-win season and run to the Eastern Conference Finals be as close as the current iteration will come to championship contention? Prior to losing DeMarre Carroll in free agency, it was possible to imagine the Hawks salary dumping enough of its under-performing bench to keep the starting five intact and give it another run. With Carroll, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver under contract, the Hawks might have entered the summer of 2016 with max cap space and the ability to re-sign Al Horford with Bird rights after spending it.

And that’s why this offseason needed to be more impressive than it has been. In 2016, almost every NBA team will have max space as the cap jumps by an estimated $20 million. There will be more teams with max space than there will be free agents worth spending it on. When every team has the same money to spend, what differentiates one destination from another? For these Hawks, the answer needs to be sustained contention, something that became much harder when Carroll bolted for Toronto. Continue Reading…

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit of unusual size named Frodo Gasol. His birthright was a ring of great power, but King James of Angmar and other fell Ringwraiths sought to steal it from him. To secure the ring, he knew he must venture forth from Memphis-shire and seek powerful allies to defeat the Nazgûl. Herein, noble readers, lies the recounting of his epic quest.

On May 30th, Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype posted a partial translation of an interview with Marc Gasol by Spanish basketball site Marca.com:

I’m not Frodo [from Lord of the Rings] but still I’m obsessed with it [winning the NBA ring].

Very well, he denies being Frodo. But we will speak of his quest nonetheless. On Friday we discussed another Gasol interview with a Spanish radio station in which he named San Antonio, Los Angeles and Atlanta as appealing destinations. In discussing the cap ramifications of adding Gasol, I stated that it would be extremely difficult to sign him without parting ways with both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll. But could the Hawks sign Gasol and still retain one of them? Continue Reading…

Prior to the Eastern Conference Finals and in its immediate aftermath, former TrueHoop Hawks blogger Bret LaGree broke his silence at Hoopinionblog.com with a series preview and look ahead to a critical offseason. HawksHoop.com enlisted LaGree’s aid in compiling a postmortem for the greatest season in Atlanta Hawks history.

HawksHoop.com: It’s fascinating to look at the playoff on/off numbers and sort them by opponent to see how various Hawks performed in each series. The Hawks might not have made it past the Wizards if not for Dennis Schröder’s performance in the second half of that series. What the hell happened to him in the Cavaliers series?

Bret LaGree: Schröder improved a remarkable amount this season. In no way dismissing his ability to beat defenses, the next step forward for him will be demonstrating he can read defenses. The Cavs walled off the paint, so he rarely got that clear path to the basket, or an obvious pass to a roll man exploiting help defense. Plus, he was not immune to the team-wide inability to make open shots, or commit to a sound defensive gameplan. Continue Reading…

With the season barely concluded, the sharp minds of the Hawks blogosphere, probably much like the organization itself, immediately turned their attention to next steps for the franchise. HawksHoop editor Bo Churney surveyed this summer’s free agency marketplace. Additionally, veteran Hawks voice Bret LaGree of Hoopinionblog.com took a deep dive into the treacherous waters of the coming offseason. Here’s a sample:

Because of all the wasted resources during the Atlanta Spirit Group’s ownership — trading away first-round picks, making bad draft picks, losing good first-round picks without compensation — maintaining a 50-win team with an annual chance to win a title will require the basketball side to make consistent good decisions, and that those good decisions work out. The Hawks aren’t in as good a place as they are today without the two trades Danny Ferry made on July 11, 2012. They were massively important deals, but they weren’t a solution. They solved one problem and created opportunity, but they did not add assets.

Bret gave me my first shot at writing for TrueHoop Network before he retired his blog. I was more fortunate still when Bo found enough marginal entertainment value in my paranoid ramblings to allow me to continue when HawksHoop became the new TrueHoop Hawks blog. In blog retirement, Bret has covered the PGA for Masters.com and been featured on ESPN.com. He’s one of my favorite writers in any genre ever, and I’m glad to see him pick up the pen again.

Within moments of the conclusion of the Hawks’ Game 2 loss, Hawks PR was churning out excuses and essentially conceding the series.

The Cavaliers have suffered injuries as well, but I doubt Cavs PR would be packing it in two games into the series. HawksHoop editor Bo Churney referred to the Hawks’ effort in Game 2 as “laughable.” In the most important game of their careers, Al Horford was minus-27, Paul Millsap scored four points on eight shots and Jeff Teague was humiliated by Matthew Dellavedova. Continue Reading…

The Hawks were praised for their depth throughout the regular season, with Coach Budenholzer having the personnel to run his offense almost no matter which players were on the court. The combination of size and outside shooting off the Hawks’ bench allowed Budenholzer flexibility in his lineups, something that he’s clearly rolled over into the playoffs. Budenholzer mostly stuck with a nine-man rotation in the second-round series against the Wizards, but some of the lineups have infuriated fans of the team. As the Hawks move on to the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s going to become time for Budenholzer to cash in on all the rest he’s afforded his starters over the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs.

Budenholzer has regularly rolled out lineups with three of the Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore, Mike Muscala, and Pero Antic bench brigade in these playoffs, and they have regularly gotten killed while out there. The three-man combination of Schröder, Bazemore, and Antic has played 75 minutes in the postseason, posting a ghastly -10.2 net rating, per nbawowy.com, and lineups featuring Schröder, Bazemore, and Muscala have fared even worse with a -11.1 net rating in 25 minutes. It’s understandable that Budenholzer wants to spell his starters, but he needs to avoid these lineups that takes too many of them off the court at a time.

Continue Reading…

It’s no secret that the Atlanta Hawks have struggled shooting the ball in the post-season. Playoff teams generally rank above average defensively, and defenses are highly-motivated with the season on the line. But the Hawks’ shooting struggles can’t entirely be written off as the result of playoff defense. The Hawks are generating 20.6 wide-open shots (defined by NBA.com as a shot taken with no defender within six feet), by far the most of any playoff team, but have seen a drop in shooting percentage even on these shots.

During the regular season, Atlanta shot 46.1% from the field and 39.4% from 3-point range on wide-open shots. In the playoffs, those numbers have dropped to 41.7% from the field and 37.3% from three. As a result, while the Hawks generated 23.7 points per game via wide-open shots during the regular season, Atlanta is generating only 22 points per game in the playoffs.

Atlanta has seen a decrease of only about 1% in wide-open shot opportunities in the post-season. Thus, even when you account for decreased opportunities, Atlanta is still leaving about a point and a half per game on the table on wide-open attempts. When you consider how many close games the Hawks have played in the post-season, losing close to a full basket on open shots is significant. Continue Reading…

When Al Horford snatched Nenê’s lunch money and calmly deposited the layup that won Game 5, it brought national attention to a fact Hawks fans have been aware of for some time: Al Horford is a clutch player.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Horford is the best clutch shooter in the playoffs for the last five seasons by a wide margin (minimum 20 field goals attempted). During that time, Horford has shot 61.3% in the clutch, defined as in the last five minutes of a game with the score within five points. Horford’s closest competitor is Paul Pierce, whose 51.7% is almost 10% less than Horford.

We’ve long known that Horford was a clutch performer in the playoffs. In the 2012 playoffs, Horford returned from a pectoral injury and scored a combined nine fourth quarter baskets in Games 5 and 6 against the Celtics. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith totaled nine baskets in nine fourth quarter appearances between them for the series. Continue Reading…