Archives For Analysis

There might be only one reason why Greg Monroe is not playing for the Atlanta Hawks. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the summer that the Hawks were one of three teams that discussed trade proposals involving Monroe with the Pistons. Monroe’s agent said two teams offered him a max contract as part of those discussions. Of the teams mentioned by Wojnarowski, the Hawks and Phoenix Suns had the most cap flexibility.

Shams Charania reported on Real GM that Van Gundy scuttled trade talks by demanding All-Star talent in return. Thus, the most likely reason Monroe isn’t a Hawk is because Van Gundy thought he could make the mismatched trio of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Monroe work. Van Gundy was wrong.

The Pistons have been an unmitigated disaster. A quarter of the way through the season, Detroit is tied with the league-worst 76ers in the loss column. Monroe took a huge financial risk by signing the qualifying offer. If Monroe gets injured, he doesn’t have the security of a long-term deal and it could reduce his career earnings. Even if Monroe hasn’t “checked out” on the Pistons, how could it fail to impact the team’s chemistry, knowing that he’s gone at season’s end?

Continue Reading…

Jeff Teague has always been one of the more underrated players in the league. In a league full of athletic and talented point guards, Teague quietly puts up solid numbers on a perennial playoff team and the majority of causal NBA fans have no idea.

Much like Atlanta sports teams, Teague shows flashes of greatness, but at times has struggled with consistency. Last season, he started off strong and it had many wondering if this was his all-star year. Through the month of December last season, Teague was averaging over 19 points and eight assists per game, prompting Hawks’ fans and writers to believe in the point guard.

A bomb went off in December though, as Al Horford went down with a torn pectoral, and Teague had a tough test ahead of him. Through the month of January, he averaged just 13.6 points and 4.6 assists on 37 percent shooting from the field. He also posted an ugly 16 percent clip from three-point range.

So where did the All-Star Jeff Teague go?

Though he rebounded from a terrible month of January, Teague never got back to the level he showed in the early months of the season. That is, until the playoffs rolled around. Continue Reading…

With the Hawks sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference after Sunday’s win over the visiting Denver Nuggets, those who predicted a strong season for Atlanta might be tempted to pat themselves on the back. However, in light of the fact that the Hawks have played by far the easiest schedule to this point, it might be time to pump the brakes. While the Hawks are having an amazing season offensively, the team is among the league’s worst in rebounding and opponents’ at-rim FG%.

What follows is an overview of what the Hawks are doing well and what areas need improvement. First, the good news. If you go through NBA.com’s player tracking data, you will see that the Hawks are at or near the top in almost every offensive category. The Hawks lead the NBA in catch-and-shoot effective FG% (57.2) and points per game (34.3), are eighth in PPG off drives (31.4), are second only to the Warriors in PPG created via assist (59.8) and are fourth in the league in overall effective FG% (53.1).

Interestingly, the Hawks are ranked eighth in effective FG% on pull-up shots (43.7) despite the fact that the Hawks attempt the second-fewest pull up shots per game. This indicates that the Hawks are shooting well from the perimeter regardless of shot type, but have made a systemic decision to eschew pull-up attempts in favor of shots created via assist. That the Hawks are effectively 13.5% better on catch-and-shoot attempts (compared to pull-ups) illustrates why this decision was a good one. Continue Reading…

The Hawks won on Tuesday night by defeating the Boston Celtics by a score of 109-105. The Hawks won despite trailing by 23 points at one point, and Kyle Korver was a big reason why the Hawks were able to comeback. However, Boston’s Evan Turner lobbed some unkind words in Korver’s direction after the game.

Strong words from a player whose team just gave up 109 points in a loss.

Let’s just make this clear. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks remain difficult to draw conclusions about in the early part of the season. Entering Saturday ranked 25th in defensive efficiency and giving up a bloated 106.6 points per 100 possessions (the Hawks currently rank 21st), and playing a fourth game in five nights, the Hawks were stellar defensively for the second night in a row. After holding the Pelicans to 28 first-half points Friday, the Hawks’ best defensive first half of the season, the team repeated the feat against the Hornets.

Much was made (by me) about the Hawks’ playoff defensive performance against the Pacers. After ranking a mediocre 14th in defensive efficiency for the 2013-14 regular season, the Hawks held the Pacers to 101.6 points per 100 posessions and ranked third among 16 playoff teams. Some chalked up the Pacers’ poor offensive showing to internal strife, a theory that is looking good after the Hornets’ implosion since acquiring Lance Stephenson.

I theorized that the Hawks’ playoff performance was evidence of defensive progression under Mike Budenholzer. Then this season happened. Despite playing Paul Millsap at center frequently while Pero Antic recovered from a stress fracture in his foot, the Hawks had a strong defensive series against Indiana. This season opened with a healthy roster featuring the return of Al Horford, a technically-sound defender with quick feet, able to guard centers and switch onto opposing perimeter players. Despite relative good health, the Hawks were giving up 2.5 more points per 100 possessions compared to last season. Continue Reading…

The season is young, but the next four games represent a critical part of the Hawks’ schedule. The Hawks will face two assured playoff teams (Washington and Toronto), another playoff contender who happens to have the best player in basketball so far this season (New Orleans and Anthony Davis), and a divisional rival that the Hawks have already played this season and lost to on fluke circumstances. (Charlotte, a terrible offensive foul call, and a banked-in Lance Stephenson 30-footer)

Luckily for the Hawks, they will host three of these four games in Philips Arena. In short, they need to capitalize on that.

The Hawks have lost some close games this season and could easily be 8-3. But as Buddy Grizzard pointed out, that record wouldn’t really matter; the Hawks have played like a mediocre team so far this season. Has part of that been because of DeMarre Carroll’s injury at the hands of JR Smith? Sure, but if the Hawks want to prove that they are good and not just average, these next four games give them the chance to do that.

Here are some things that I want to see from the Hawks this week that I think will improve the team’s chances against a schedule that is about to toughen up.

  • MORE HORFORD (MOREFORD?)
    Horford has been solid in his return from his pectoral injury last season. However, his presence within the team’s offense and his minutes have been reflective of a player that suffered a season-ending injury the year before. But I think around now is when Coach Budenholzer and the Hawks should start to ramp up Horford’s involvement in the offense. As of now, 40% of Horford’s shots are long 2s. He is shooting an other-worldly 55% on those shots, but Horford has the ability to operate as a play-maker and scorer off the dribble and in the post. He can give more than what the Hawks’ offense is having him do at this point. Continue Reading…

If not for questionable referee decisions in three of the Hawks’ first 10 games, the Hawks could easily be 8-2 right now and within striking distance of the top seed in the East. If such were the case, it pains me to report that it would vastly overstate where the Hawks are as a team. The Hawks are presently 23rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions, and look nothing like a contender. What follows is a look at where the Hawks are, speculation on where the franchise is headed and what role exiled general manager Danny Ferry might play.

The Hawks’ five worst shooters thus far have been Kent Bazemore (26%), Pero Antic (37%), Thabo Sefolosha (38%), Shelvin Mack (41%) and Mike Scott (44%). In spite of the early shooting struggles, these five players combined to take 38 shots against the Lakers, making only 11 (29%). Al Horford, who is second on the team in field goal percentage among players with at least six games played (54%), took only eight shots against the Lakers, making seven (88%). Why did Mike Budenholzer allow his worst shooters to chuck with reckless abandon when Horford was on fire? Could it be that Atlanta’s coaching staff is concerned about placing too great an offensive burden on Horford, in light of his injury history?

I spent most of the summer pleading with the Hawks to add a difference maker in the front court. I stated the case for Greg Monroe before Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that the Hawks had in fact engaged the Pistons in trade discussions. I argued for Aron Baynes. The Hawks have been out-rebounded by eight of ten opponents this season. Horford is an undersized center who has been asking for help in the front court for years. Paul Millsap is an undersized power forward. The Hawks are currently getting nothing from reserve big men Elton Brand, Mike Muscala and rookie Adreian Payne, none of whom are the rim protector the Hawks need. Gorgui Dieng, presently tied with Al Jefferson for the 6th-best PER among centers (20.83), ahead of notables Roy Hibbert (9th), Dwight Howard (11th) and Horford (14th), could have been that player. But Ferry passed on him, not once, but twice in the 2013 NBA Draft. Continue Reading…

As you might have read by now, Dennis Schröder is leading the NBA with a 36.76 PER. He’s enjoying the best stretch of his young career. Meanwhile Thabo Sefolosha, a career 44% shooter from the field (34.6% from three), who shot better than 40% from 3-point range in two of the preceding three seasons, is shooting 22% from the field and has missed all six of his 3-point attempts this season.

Early-season statistical anomalies are always a source of talking points until the new season ages enough to spot real trends. In this case, however, the early contrast between Schröder and Sefolosha gives me an opportunity to point out why I place so much emphasis on plus-minus. For the season, despite his horrid shooting, Sefolosha is an aggregate plus-6 (click the “team” column and the Hawks will be sorted at the top). Despite spectacular per-minute numbers that currently have Schröder sitting atop the PER rankings, looking down on players such as Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry, the Hawks have been outscored by a total of nine points during his time on the floor.

For me, this confirms the eye test. My eyes tell me that, even though Sefolosha will turn 31 in May, he’s still a well-above-average on-ball defender. When Sefolosha’s shooting numbers start to regress back toward his career averages, I expect the value of his minutes to increase dramatically. The Hawks appear to be a perfect situation for Sefolosha, a willing passer who has labored in Oklahoma City’s isolation-heavy system for years. Continue Reading…

A bit under five minutes remained in the first quarter of the Hawks’ season opener in Toronto. Waiting at the scorer’s table was Mike Budenholzer’s first perimeter player substitute.

It wasn’t Shelvin Mack, who had been revitalized the season before and is a stout backup point guard with a new three-year contract. It wasn’t Dennis Schröder, a young German prospect who is still trying to translate his sneaky athleticism and unique body type into the NBA game. Nor was it Thabo Sefolosha, the veteran defensive presence who had been a major part of Oklahoma City’s rotation during a run of major success for the Thunder.

No, none of those players were waiting to check into the game at the scorer’s table. Instead, coming in to replace one of the best shooters in NBA history in Kyle Korver was former Old Dominion product Kent Bazemore.

In the eyes of some, Bazemore wasn’t supposed to be here. Undrafted out of Old Dominion, Bazemore eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors in July of 2012 and essentially became a team mascot. Bazemore played in 62 games in his rookie season, but at a comically low 4.4 minutes per game. Because his playing time was left to garbage time when no one was watching, Bazemore gained notoriety as the league’s favorite benchwarmer, catching the viewers’ eyes with his celebrations of Golden State’s highlight plays.

Of course, Bazemore was in the NBA to be a basketball player, not a comedy act. Unfortunately for Bazemore, that is all the Warriors and then head coach Mark Jackson were going to let him be. The 2013-14 season rolled around and Bazemore was still playing an embarrassing low (6.1) amount of minutes per contest. Again, when Bazemore did get in the game, it was rarely ever in a meaningful spot.

Eventually, Bazemore’s salvation came in a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. He and teammate MarShon Brooks were sent to Los Angeles for point guard Steve Blake. The Lakers, reeling after the departure of Dwight Howard to Houston and injuries to Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, finally gave Bazemore a place where he could find consistent minutes. More importantly, then coach Mike D’Antoni gave Bazemore a system.

An offensive system can be extremely important to a player. In Golden State, Bazemore — like many other Warriors — was left to figure things out in isolation inside of having specific plays ran for his benefit. That changed for Bazemore when he arrived in Los Angeles, as Mark D’Antoni gave him a simple offensive system that complemented Bazemore’s talents and allowed him to shine. Continue Reading…

Another Chance for Al Horford

Cole Patty —  October 31, 2014 — 3 Comments

Most people are familiar with Murphy’s Law or at least the current version of “whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” Commonly said in situations by the Average Joe on one of the days where the bad luck comes in bunches; it’s almost as if the forces of the universe just won’t let something nice happen to them, no matter how much good karma they may have built up.

Al Horford may be a two-time All-Star, but his career also feels like the embodiment of this law. Every time Horford gets a bit of momentum going towards finally becoming the superstar he plays like, something bad seems to happen. On top of that, he is mostly overlooked in the “best center in the East” discussions, he wasn’t named an All-Star during a great 2012-13 campaign, and was constantly overshadowed during his career by the more bombastic Josh Smith. In fact, most of the mainstream media coverage on Horford is about why he should be playing power forward instead of mentioning that he is a matchup nightmare for his larger stone footed counterparts.

As for Murphy’s Law, Horford’s injuries have stifled his growth towards becoming a superstar. When Atlanta powered on to the 5-seed in the strike shortened 2011-12 seasons, Continue Reading…