We knew going into this season that one of our franchise players was leaving for the Motor City. We knew that letting him walk was a move that improved our outlook on the future. We knew that we were losing one of the most dynamic forwards in the game.
We knew that bringing in Paul Millsap on a
cheap cost-effective STEAL of a contract would help replace him. What we didn’t know, was that some parts of his game would be magically duplicated in different Hawks players this year.
So there’s that. And then there’s the fact that we also miss him deeply in many aspects of the game. It’s tough to replicate Josh Smith’s production, but these Hawks players are doing their best do make us forget about him.
Two is Better Than One
Danny Ferry, in a way, signed two players from Utah who, when combined, show Smoove-like abilities. Millsap has the inside play, DeMarre Carroll has the energy and (sometimes) solid defense (Not at Smoove’s level, but good). Both of them can shoot well from outside, too. Compared to Smoove’s 26% mark from beyond the arc this season, Trillsap and the Junk Yard Dog are shooting 41% and 32%, respectively. Both considerably better than the hometown stud.
Along with this, they both know how to play within their abilities. Sure, DeMarre goes through stretches where he may shoot a little too frequently, but at least they’re relatively open looks and that’s what he was signed in the offseason to do, anyway.
In Paul’s case, he’s a very “smoove” player. Much like Joe Johnson, he seems to be very calm and collected on the court, all while doing what he wishes with the ball in his hands. You don’t see him jawing with refs and getting techs left and right. He plays hard and he plays smart: two things that Danny Ferry wants from every member of the ballclub.
This part of Smoove’s game was likely the most attractive to frequent visitors of Philips Arena. As the Slam Dunk Champion as a rookie, we were given plenty of chances to watch Josh do great things. But, wait! Did you know Paul Millsap could dunk?!
Not only the dunks, but his overall game is just as fun to watch. Even his post moves are exciting. This game against the Clippers has been one of his finest.
One of my biggest worries going into this season was that the Hawks weren’t going to have enough defensive help in the paint. I guess Al Horford reads season previews because his work on the defensive end has been outstanding this season. When you compare his defensive stats to Smith’s, they’re nearly identical (Keep in mind that Smoove plays 3.3 more minutes per game). Take a look at their in-depth defensive numbers, courtesy of SportVu. (Click on the picture to take a look)
Lil’ Tito averages just as many blocks per game and his opposing field goal percentage at the rim is very similar. One thought I’ve had (and many others as well) on the subject: Is it possible Horford’s been a solid rim protector his entire career but never needed to showcase it. (SportVu was placed in all 29 arenas before this season, so we don’t have the detailed looks at his entire career) He’s never averaged more than 1.4 blocks per game, sitting at 1.5 as of now. More important than the blocks is his presence in the paint, which, whilst not quite at “Hibbertian” levels, has a big impact on opponent’s shots.
Happy Holidays, Hawks fans!