Archives For Al Horford

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…

During the NBA Draft, if you knew which writers to follow on Twitter you saw most of the picks leaked minutes before they were announced on the live TV broadcast. Then came the Hawks’ pick at 15:

*crickets*

This has become Danny Ferry’s modus operandi for conducting business. I’ve joked about it in the past, comparing the levels of secrecy in the Hawks’ front office to the CIA. For contrast, think back to the rumor that the Knicks might be willing to trade Carmelo Anthony to the L.A. Clippers for Blake Griffin. This is what’s known as a “trial balloon.” You float a rumor out there to see how people react to it, but maintain deniability that you were the source of the rumor.

Doc Rivers, the coach and GM of the Clippers, who would have final say, called the idea that he would trade Griffin “ridiculous.” Within hours, Anthony was quoted parroting Rivers, likewise labeling the prevailing trade rumors “ridiculous.” Hmm, let’s see. Anthony is a Creative Artists Agency client. Knicks GM Steve Mills is a CAA client. Before Mike Woodson took the Knicks job, he fired his longtime agent so that he could become a CAA client. Where do you think the Carmelo-for-Blake rumor came from? But Carmelo denies such “ridiculous” rumors came from his camp. Riiight. Continue Reading…

Without question, Al Horford is one of the best 25 players in the NBA. He can score efficiently, defend all over the floor, rebound on both ends, and pass and handle the ball like a guard. He does all of these things at such an exceptional level that he is a mismatch against nearly every team in the NBA.

Despite that versatility, many veteran basketball watchers still want to pigeon-hole the 6-foot-10 Horford as a power forward instead of a center because of his size. “Power forward is his natural position” is what is often said in this argument.

One that thing often gets buried in that argument is the type of center that people would put next to Horford. “Horford would be great with a rim-protecting type of center” is among sentiments that are heard a lot.

And that line of thought is not necessarily wrong. Horford would be GREAT playing next to a center like Marc Gasol or Roy Hibbert. These players possess unique talent and Horford is a good enough talent that is assumed that he would be great next to these guys.

However, a lot of Horford’s success at center comes from the disadvantages he forces on his opponents; Horford is quick, he runs the floor well, he’s strong, and he’s exceptional at spacing the floor. Because of these attributes, a team can put any type of power forward next to him and the team will likely be better off because of it. For example, both Josh Smith and Paul Millsap have excelled as Horford’s pair because of the space he provides. Continue Reading…

2014 Review: Jeff Teague

Bo Churney —  May 30, 2014 — 1 Comment

I have a love/hate relationship with Jeff Teague.

After Dennis Schröder’s performance at Las Vegas Summer League, there were several questions about how long Jeff Teague would be in an Atlanta uniform. Teague’s contract that he just signed — $8 million per year for four years — appeared to be a bit of a bargain, making Jeff a soon-to-be “trade asset” in the minds of many. I was one of those people, thinking that Jeff probably had two more years in Atlanta before the reins would be handed over to Schröder.

Now I’m not so sure about that and my thought process leans more towards Teague being the point guard for the future of this Atlanta franchise.

Early in the season, I was singing high praises of Jeff. Teague looked invigorated and was playing like an All-Star point guard. He was undergoing a bit of a shooting slump at the time, but his play looked well improved from the previous season. Continue Reading…

Next level of flight

Bo Churney —  May 28, 2014 — 3 Comments

When the Hawks’ season ended, I did not want to write a “review piece” immediately. The way the team ended the season — blowing a very good opportunity to upset the 1-seed in the playoffs — sort of left a bad taste in the mouths of Hawks fans.

Now, almost three weeks later, I think I can give an appropriate view of what this season (on and off the court) meant and what to expect from future versions of the Hawks.

The Hawks were the 8-seed and they lost in the first round of the playoffs, but I see this season as a success. Despite a new head coach and a myriad of injuries that nearly sank the team, what the Hawks showed this season is that they really have an identity and a positive one at that. GM Danny Ferry started forging this identity last season, but with what is now mostly “his personnel”, the fans started to notice more of a team forming instead of just the “collection of individuals” that past squads resembled. Continue Reading…

The Hawks and RPM

Bo Churney —  April 9, 2014 — 2 Comments

Last week, ESPN released a new stat called Real Plus-Minus (or RPM) as a new perspective into gauging the impact a player has on the court. For ESPN’s intoduction of the stat, click here.

In a nutshell, adjusted plus-minus stats work by taking your regular plus-minus figures and attempting to set a value to each player’s situation based on their teammates, their opponents, and even coaching. It then tries to put those numbers together and assign a “real plus-minus” as a figure of a player’s overall value. RPM is measured in net-point differential per 100 possessions. (100 possessions is about the length of your average game)

As with all stats, I don’t think you can just take one and use it to end an argument. With that said, RPM should provide an interesting new tool to look at when trying to confirm the impact of a certain player(s). Continue Reading…

Hawks-Bulls Preview

Bo Churney —  April 2, 2014 — 6 Comments

At this point, with the way the season is gone, I have no preference on the Hawks making the playoffs. If they miss out and get a lotto pick, I think that is good for the team. If they happen to make the playoffs, I think it is good for the team.

However, if the team really does want to make the playoffs, they will want to put a competitive effort up against the visiting Chicago Bulls. The Hawks have usually had trouble with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and the Bulls, meaning that this game could quickly turn into a bloodbath.

So what are the keys for the Hawks to win this game?

First, the Hawks will want to try and get Joakim Noah out of the lane as much as possible. This means no more 1-for-8 performances from the field, Pero Antic. Of course, consistently pulling Noah out of the lane is harder than it sounds; Noah can move with great quickness and can easily recover back into the positions that Coach Thibodeau’s defense requires from him. It’s why the Bulls are second in the league in defensive efficiency. Continue Reading…

A bit of an aside from basketball, but Al Horford is appearing in a video campaign by NBA Cares and WildAid called “No Hype”, which is a new message to reduce demand for ivory and rhino horn.

The message includes five other NBA players as well: Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, Serge Ibaka, and Thabo Sefolosha of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. Throughout the message the players hold iconic images of elephants and rhinos from photographer Nick Brandt.

The message will air during TNT’s doubleheader today, March 13 beginning at 7 p.m. ET when the Houston Rockets take on the Chicago Bulls and again when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Oklahoma City Thunder at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Here is the video:

With Horford out for the season due to a pectoral tear, it is nice to see him doing something that seems to be productive and beneficial for the world.

After what has felt like an eternity, the Hawks appear to finally be returning to health. Hawks forward Paul Millsap will return to action tonight against the Warriors according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

Before his injury Millsap was averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds a game with a PER of 19.8. Millsap had a True Shooting percentage of 54% and was a huge part of keeping the Hawks afloat when Horford went down for the season. Millsap stepped into his new role as the #1 scoring option and played at an all star level. This was recognized by coaches earning him a spot in this year’s all star game.

This is fantastic news for a Hawks team that has been suffering with injuries to their front court throughout February. Hawks forward Pero Antic returned to action the other night against the Blazers and now the Hawks, while not at full strength are a little better off than they were previously. While there is sadly no hope of getting centers Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon back, no longer should we have to see Elton Brand playing 40 minute nights. This will also take a little pressure off of 10 day contract signings like Mike Muscala who has been asked to do a lot more than usually expected of a 10 day contract signing due to these injuries

The injured Hawks started their west coast road trip with a loss against the Phoenix Suns. While losing to the Suns is not a bad thing these days, it’s the overall picture that makes it a rough loss. The Hawks have lost 11 of their last 12 largely due to injuries and tired legs. February and March is a rough time for any NBA team. Throw in injuries and you’re gonna have some problems. That’s why this upcoming road trip is so huge for the Hawks. They don’t have to win every single game, but a single win over the next three could go a long way.

It won’t be an easy road with the Hawks playing in Portland tonight to take on the Blazers. While Portland has appeared to have fallen back down to earth a bit, they are still one of the better teams in the NBA using an arsenal of – point shooters. They use LaMarcus Aldridge and his mid-range shooting ability to space the floor for their 3-point shooters. The Blazers problem is their defense is far from good and their bench isn’t that great.

Were the Hawks at full strength I’d say they had a really good chance at winning and possibly even be the favorites. However, no Horford, Millsap likely out, no Antic, and no Ayon, leaves them in a tight spot. They finally have three big men on the roster, but they’ve gone from having two all stars, a serviceable vet in Elton Brand, and a serviceable rookie to playing the vet major minutes while trying to scrape by on big men that were at the end of the bench earlier in the season. That is not an ideal situation for any team. Continue Reading…