Archives For Analysis

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…

Since I referred to Atlanta’s bench in the Game 3 preview as “a liability in the post-season,” here’s what they’ve done: In Game 3, five of seven reserves posted a positive plus-minus, including double digits for Shelvin Mack (plus-16), Mike Scott (plus-15) and Mike Muscala (plus-10). In Game 4, three of four reserves posted a positive plus-minus.

I like the fact that coach Mike Budenholzer took the performance of Scott and Mack from Game 3 and put it in his pocket for Game 4. In last year’s Game 5 win over the Pacers, the pair combined for 37 points, including 7-for-10 shooting from 3-point range. However, in the 10 intervening playoff games between Game 5 of the Pacers series and Game 3 of the Wizards series, Scott shot a combined 18-for-53 (34%) from the field and 5-for-26 (19%) from 3-point range. Although Scott and Mack have made an annual tradition of going off for one playoff game, the pair remain the lowest performers in net rating (the difference between what the Hawks score per 100 possessions with a player on the floor and what opponents score).

By contrast, Muscala has burst onto the scene with the best defensive rating (93.9 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) and net rating (plus-11.3) of any Hawk with at least four playoff appearances. His offensive rating is fourth behind Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague in this group. It’s an extremely limited 37-minute sample, but the returns have been so positive that Muscala has surely earned more minutes. Continue Reading…

With the news that John Wall suffered multiple non-displaced fractures to his non-shooting hand and wrist in Game 1, the complexion of the Hawks-Wizards second-round playoff series has changed dramatically. However, Wall’s backup Ramon Sessions has the third-best net differential in the playoffs for the Wizards. Washington is outscoring opponents by 13.1 points per 100 possessions with Sessions on the floor, trailing only Wall (plus-15.6) and Otto Porter (plus-16.1). Thus, the Hawks’ chances of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in its 47-year Atlanta history continue to weigh disproportionately on the shoulders of one player: Jeff Teague.

Before I talk about times in the past when Teague has tried to be a hero for the Hawks and fallen short, let’s discuss how he became Atlanta’s key to the post-season on the heels of the greatest regular season in franchise history. In the pre-season, while NBA TV analysts Reggie Miller and Rick Fox were predicting that the Hawks would miss the playoffs, I wrote that this was the deepest team in Atlanta Hawks history.

When I wrote that piece, I wasn’t expecting Dennis Schröder to have a break-out season. The Hawks appeared headed for the playoffs with a full roster when Thabo Sefolosha returned March 25 after missing 23 games with a strained calf. Then, as they so often do, things went wrong for the Hawks. Paul Millsap suffered a bruised shoulder against the Nets April 4. Prior to an April 8 road game in Brooklyn, Sefolosha suffered a broken leg while being arrested by NYPD. Then, in the second-to-last game of the season, Hawks sharpshooter Mike Scott suffered a bruised back against the Knicks. The Hawks once again headed into the playoffs with injuries looming over their season. Continue Reading…

Please click through to Truth About It, the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog covering the Washington Wizards. TAI’s Adam Rubin and I preview tonight’s Game 2. Here’s a snippet:

During the season, the Hawks led the NBA in effective field goal percentage in catch-and-shoot situations (55.7%). The Hawks were middle-of-the pack in effective field goal percentage on pull-up shots (41.6%, 11th). Thus, any time the Hawks shot a jumper that did not result from a pass, it effectively trimmed their field goal percentage by 14 percent. Taking step-back jumpers in isolation is not Atlanta Hawks basketball.