Archives For defense

There are a lot of pains on both ends of the game by adding a new coach with a completely new system. Terminology, roles, sets, and various other things can be so vastly different that even the most intelligent players can look out of sorts. For Atlanta’s offense, the transition has been much smoother than we expected. Usually that is the first place that people like to look for stuggles with a new coach, as typically it is assumed offense is more complex than defense. However, when you have bell-cows down low such as Paul Millsap and Al Horford who can consistently score the ball at the high level that they are, the growing pains are dramatically lessened.

The defensive cramps that come from change have been much more than cramps though. Atlanta’s defensive rating through six games is 103.7, which is poor enough to be tied for the 7th worst mark in the league. The main cause of this low mark has been opponents shooting the ball from deep often and effectively. The Hawks are giving up 9.8 threes a game, which is second most in the league, and they are also giving up a 40.7% 3PT% to the other team, which is the fourth worst mark. This combination is extremely deadly and is accentuated by teams like the Denver Nuggets going 14-for-25 this past Thursday night. Denver isn’t known as a team that is trying to beat their competition by shooting threes and shouldn’t have that kind of mark against anyone.

Let’s take a look at the shot chart on opponent’s three-pointers against the Hawks. Continue Reading…

joshsmith alhorford

Do you remember, before the season started, when I said that the Hawks defense would take a bit of a step back and they would be mainly reliant on the offense to get wins? Yeah, forget that.

Thirteen games into the season, the Hawks are first in the NBA in defensive rating (points given up per 100 possessions) at 98.5, first in forcing turnovers (by percentage), and second in opponent’s field goal percentage. Considering that the offense has been a bit below average so far, the team’s 9-4 record is largely a reflection of the team’s defensive efforts.

Last season, Atlanta was 6th in defensive rating mostly without Al Horford, so it’s not like they were supposed to fall off of a cliff with Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams (both plus defenders) leaving town. It just seemed like they would tumble a little closer to the league average.

Well, Horford, with the help of Josh Smith, said no to that theory.

Looking at the numbers, Horford and Smith have been absolutely dominate defensively when they are on the floor together. According to, when the two are on the court, the Hawks have a D-Rtg of 93.7, which is five points better than the team’s overall, league-leading D-Rtg. Individually, Josh has been a terror upon opponents, holding opposing power forwards to a PER of 11.7, and opposing small forwards to a PER of 3.1. (!!!)

However, the two’s biggest contribution to the Hawks’ defense is their abilities to switch.

Started under Mike Woodson, and perhaps perfected by Larry Drew, the Hawks have always been a team that will constantly switch on screens. Josh and Al are probably two of the best bigs in the NBA when it comes to this, and they essentially offset the pick-and-roll threat of most teams. Continue Reading…