Hawks Notes is an occasionally subjective, always stream-of-consciousness rambling on the state of the NBA in the ATL.
Teague continues to out-perform his man
We mentioned back at mid-month that Jeff Teague had a string of comparatively-strong performances against some of the game’s best point guards. Since then, Teague’s numbers compared to the opposing team’s starting point guard have only gotten better.
Teague followed up the previously-mentioned run by limiting John Wall to 13 points on 22 shots in a Hawks win. For December, Teague is averaging 14.1 PPG and 7.9 APG on 42% shooting from the field and 41% shooting from 3-point range. During the same stretch, the opposing team’s starting point guard is averaging 10.8 PPG and 6.9 APG on 36% shooting from the field and 26% shooting from 3-point range. As I mentioned on Twitter, Teague’s defense is becoming a thing.
Eric Spoelstra’s praise of Coach Bud not just coach speak
I went on a bit of a Twitter rant earlier today about superstar officiating (you can see the timeline for @BuddyGrizzard to view it in all its glory). It may be my personal opinion that the league’s referees handed Miami both the conference and NBA titles last season, but this does not diminish my respect for Eric Spoelstra. The only reason the Conference Finals were close enough for the officiating to make a difference was that Spoelstra clearly out-coached Frank Vogel.
As such, when Spoelstra was effusive in his praise for Mike Budenholzer and the speed with which the Hawks have bought into and implemented his systems, I don’t think it amounted to generic platitudes. Spoelstra, in my opinion, has only one peer in the NBA coaching fraternity: Greg Popovich. When Spoelstra holds forth at length, citing specific examples of positive signs for an opposing ball club, one does not simply dismiss it as coach speak.
A final thought on Omer Asik
The Hawks entered last night’s contest with Miami having won six of the previous eight, including three in a row by a margin of 14 points or greater. Combine that with a strong showing against the defending world champions and it’s possible to be optimistic about the team’s prospects for the balance of the season.
That’s an optimism I wouldn’t necessarily share, given the brutal upcoming schedule in January. I will be shocked if the Hawks emerge from January better than the two games above .500 where the team currently sits. As such, I have no problem standing by my opinion that the Hawks should trade for Omer Asik (although my editor, Bo Churney, apparently disagrees).
Bill Reiter with Fox Sports recently opined that the acquisition of Robin Lopez was a major factor in Portland’s emergence as one of the top teams in the West. Reiter believes that Lopez’ ability to clog up the middle has freed Aldridge to focus more on his offensive game, especially the mid-range. Asik could have a similar impact on the Hawks and Al Horford, but it’s fair to question if adding another one-dimensional player would improve the team. By contrast, Portland has two-way players on the wing in Nicholas Batum and Wesley Matthews. The Hawks have no such luxury.
It’s also fair to question if a straight-up Asik-for-Paul Millsap swap would be a good value for the Hawks. Millsap is clearly the superior NBA player, and he’s on a more favorable contract. Houston likely failed to receive the offer it was seeking due to the $15 million balloon payment in the last year of Asik’s contract.
Next season both Asik and Millsap will have expiring contracts. However, Millsap’s cap hit and money owed will be a straight $9.5 million, a figure his production more than warrants. As such, Millsap will become more and more valuable as the trade deadline approaches next season. Asik’s contract won’t be attractive until around next year’s trade deadline, by which time Houston will have paid off a pro-rated portion of that $15 million balloon payment. Look for trade rumors to heat up regarding both players by this time next season if nothing happens in the interim.