Archives For Analysis

Another Chance for Al Horford

Cole Patty —  October 31, 2014 — 2 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…

With the new-look Cavaliers unproven, the Heat missing the game’s best player, the Pacers decimated by injury (Paul George) and defection (Lance Stephenson) and the Wizards replacing defensive ace Trevor Ariza with the aging Paul Pierce, the Eastern Conference is as wide-open as it has been in recent memory. As such, I believe the Hawks should be setting lofty goals. 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.

I expect the Pacers to join the Knicks, Bucks, Celtics, Magic and 76ers in missing the playoffs this season. I believe the Heat, Pistons, Hornets and Nets will compete for a playoff spot but not home court advantage. That leaves the Cavaliers, Bulls, Wizards and Raptors among teams I expect to compete with the Hawks for home court advantage in the first round. The Raptors are a danger because of their continuity. The Wizards may start slow due to Bradley Beal’s injury. The Cavaliers have unproven depth and chemistry. The Bulls face question marks concerning Derrick Rose’s health.

Of all those teams, the two I’d least like to see the Hawks face in the second round are the Bulls and Cavaliers. Thus, for the Hawks to finally break through to the Eastern Conference Finals, a level the franchise has never achieved since moving to Atlanta, I believe the Hawks should make it a team goal to avoid playing the second or third seed in the second round by securing the top seed. If the Hawks are able to secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, I’ll take my chances in the second round against the team that wins the four-five match-up in the first round. Continue Reading…

Hawks Helped Nix Lottery Reform
According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti led a successful, last-minute effort to nix the NBA’s proposed lottery reform, which would have evened the odds for lottery teams to move up to a higher pick. The Hawks were among a group of franchises with ties to the Spurs (which includes Presti and OKC) that voted against reform and prevented it from receiving enough votes to pass.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained some of the rationale behind the proposed changes to ESPN.com:

I think we all recognize we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to, of course, win, and on the other hand allowing for appropriate rebuilding and the draft to work as it should in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.

Despite this stated purpose, the proposal would have increased the odds for the 48-win Phoenix Suns to move up in the draft by 400% compared to the old system, if the proposal had been in effect as of the last draft. The ESPN.com article explained the motivation for reform as follows:

Reform proposals were aimed at two elements: increasing the odds of the best teams in the lottery jumping up into the top three spots and also lowering the floor for the worst teams to drop.

And Lowe extrapolated as follows:

The league’s proposal would have injected more randomness into the process, undercutting the ability to plan and increasing the likelihood that a solid team near the bottom of the lottery lucks its way into a star.

That might deter tanking on some level, but it also raises the chances of a scenario in which a team wins multiple lotteries despite some on-court improvement. No one seemed to like it much when Cleveland won a third lottery in four years in May.

If Silver’s stated purpose is to discourage tanking and direct talent toward teams that need it, how could he possibly justify giving a 48-win team a 400% better chance at landing one of the top picks? How does such an incentive discourage a fringe playoff team from tanking out of a low playoff seed? The goals and methodology behind the proposed reform seem to work at cross purposes.

Continue Reading…

When Reggie Miller and Rick Fox predicted on NBA TV that the Hawks would miss the playoffs this season, I chuckled. But when ESPN.com projected the Hawks as the 7th-best team in the East and Tom Haberstroh wrote that the Hawks’ depth is “shallow as a puddle,” it was time to break my silence on the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks. Please take a few moments and let’s talk about the deepest team in Atlanta Hawks history.

Here’s the full quote from Haberstroh from ESPN’s preseason power rankings:

Although the Hawks mostly struck out in free agency with tons of cap space at hand, they reeled in former Thunder 3-and-D specialist Thabo Sefolosha to add much-needed depth. However, the team’s bench is still as shallow as a puddle after they shed Lou Williams’ contract.

The Hawks’ trade of Williams and former first-round pick Lucas Nogueira for the partially-guaranteed contract of John Salmons will remain a topic of debate for years to come. The team traded a useful bench player (Williams) and a former pick with some promise for a $7 million contract with only $1 million guaranteed. If you’re still dumbfounded by this move, consider this: There’s a very strong possibility that the trade was part of Danny Ferry’s preparation for a sign-and-trade offer to the Pistons that would include a max contract offer for Greg Monroe.

Continue Reading…

Every NBA player can be useful with the right coaching staff, system, or organization. Defense can be taught to just about any player. I’ve held these beliefs ever since I started to get deeply into the NBA and I truly believe it.

So when the Hawks signed Kent Bazemore to a new contract, I got excited. Bazemore was a young player that never really got a chance in Golden State, and was allowed to run free in Los Angeles. Despite the solid numbers he put up in Los Angeles, Bazemore was seen as nothing more than end of the rotation roster filler. He might be able to make a few three pointers every once in awhile, but for the most part, he’s just kind of there.

It’s unlikely that Bazemore is going to be turned into an all star player in Atlanta; or even a starting caliber player for that matter. He’s 25 and players with high level talent rarely go unnoticed by coaches. If he was really something special, he would have played in Golden State. But there’s no reason to think that he can’t be a highly useful rotation weapon in the Atlanta system. Continue Reading…

Aron Baynes is the most underrated basketball player alive. ESPN.com just rated him 368th out of 500 players in #NBARank. Among the flotsam ranked ahead of him, just on that same page, were Jeff Withey, Meyers Leonard and Greg Stiemsma.

Last year there was another criminally-underrated player. He was rated 499th in #NBARank and started writing the number on his shoes as motivation. While he was languishing on the Golden State Warriors’ bench behind one of the deepest wing rotations in the league, I wrote on the AJC.com Hawks blog that the Hawks should pursue him. I was laughed at. Why should the Hawks go after a scrub who can’t get playing time, I was asked.

That player got traded to the Lakers and averaged 13.1 PPG on 45% shooting from the field and 37% shooting from 3-point range over the last 23 games of the season. That player, now an Atlanta Hawk, is Kent Bazemore. Continue Reading…

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…