The Hawks’ first summer league game was rather interesting. I watched it live on my computer, and it was definitely worth taking the time to do. For those who missed it, I don’t know if it is, or will be playing on NBATV later, but if you get a chance to watch any of these games, I don’t think you’ll come away disappointed. No, it’s not regular season NBA basketball. But it is a first glimpse at what the Hawks are going to be doing differently this season, and as AJC Hawks beat writer Michael Cunningham’s first hand account shows, there is something to look forward to. At any rate, here are my observations of the game.
Jeff Teague looked pretty comfortable all game, but he still looked like he was deferring at times. Maybe it was just him giving the ball up quicker than I thought he should here and there, or maybe it was what he was supposed to do in the offensive set. At the same time, he wasn’t tentative, cutting into the teeth of the defense at will, and dishing off to his frontcourt teammates quite a bit. Of course, a lot of what we saw last season happened: Teague would make an excellent feed to a teammate who would bungle the ball and lose the opportunity. With the exception of a costly turnover late in the game (the Hawks had rallied from a halftime deficit of about 16 points and tied the game at 83), he played under control, despite having the speed edge on just about everybody. His shot looked a bit better, and he hit more than he missed, including a beautiful jab step, step-back move that ended in a 3 pointer over a bewildered defender. Perhaps most impressive (besides his passing and driving) was Teague’s defense on OJ Mayo. For the most part, Mayo needed screen after screen to separate himself from Teague. If Jeff continues to drive and dish, and learn to create space for himself for perimeter shots, he’ll be more than fine. He’ll be dangerous. But it’s still early, and he still has work to do.
Pape Sy can “D” it up, plain and simple. Every now and then he will get swallowed up by a good screen, but he also shows a propensity for fighting through those. His length and quickness bother opposing players, and he doesn’t give up on a play easily. On offense, he can turn the corner quickly. However, he has to learn to wait for a big man to get his feet set before using the screen. Also, he seemed to struggle a little when he couldn’t get the separation he wanted to get his shot off. This caused him to pass the ball off more, but the good news is that he did drive more than he tried shooting from the outside. It will be good to see him after another year of seasoning in the European leagues. I think his defense and fairly good ball-handling will serve him well. If he works on his shot, we could have quite a steal on our hands.
Jordan Crawford’s game should have no problems translating to the next level, and I think we will see even more out of him in following summer league games. Others may disagree, but I’d argue that his play was as good as Teague’s, and perhaps better. As Teague himself commented, the kid can pass the ball pretty well. His court vision and awareness is higher than I thought it would be. He didn’t try to hog the ball, but he also was completely fearless when it came to taking shots. His first couple of bombs from long range were nothing but net, and he looked comfortable almost all of the time. I know it’s only one summer league game, and the competition isn’t the stiffest by far. Yet, I’ve seen several other summer league games and there have been higher ranked prospects that didn’t look as good. Crawford will take some ill-advised shots every now and again, but I think that’s something a person with a scorer’s mentality has to learn and overcome. There is NO doubt he has a scorer’s mentality. But a ball hog he is not. Again, he’s a much more willing and effective passer than anticipated. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him. Defensively, he can get it done better than I thought, but he has quite a ways to go. His lateral quickness and quick hands will be an asset, but he has to work on his fundamentals and stay locked in. I have no doubts though, that assistant coach Conner will be all over that.
Sergei Gladyr can really shoot it, and he gives some effort on defense (though it usually resulted in a foul). However, he’ll need to visit a weight room frequently, and might want to start having meals with Jason Collins. The kid is too weak physically to do much in the league right now. He might be a full two years away from contributing to the Hawks, but in the meantime, he’ll have to fill that frame out.
Luke Jackson is going to have a rough time getting back into the league, especially with many teams possibly deciding to carry closer to 13 players, rather than 15. He can hit the 3 ball when open, but isn’t showing himself to be any more of a sure threat than Gladyr was. When forced to put the ball on the floor, he ended up passing it or turning it over. I’ll give him an “A” for effort on defense, but the difference between him and Gladyr in that segment was Jackson was able to deliver harder fouls. I wish him the best, and he’s clearly a team player, but I can’t see him contributing much on this team. He needs to show that he’s rock solid in one or two categories, or he’s going to have a hard time winning a job anywhere. Then again, this is just one game. And he WAS part of the rally the Hawks put up last night.
I’ll put this bluntly – Randolph Morris looked like an undrafted prospect who was hoping to catch on and get sent to somebody’s D-League affiliate. From getting called for a charge, to hacking at some little-known prospect, he couldn’t stay on the court long enough to show much of anything other than the ability to get a rebound or two. I don’t know what this guy’s deal is. He has skills, to some extent. Unfortunately, the ability to collect mindless fouls is the foremost “skill” he has.
James Augustine is a hustler, but he doesn’t play as under control as you’d like. All the same, his willingness to bang and defend are admirable. He’ll find a spot at the end of somebody’s bench, or maybe get a starter’s role in the D-League while waiting to be called up when somebody gets injured. He actually looked better than Morris did, but I don’t know if that’s even a compliment. If he can play a little less wildly, he’s worth a 14th spot, I reckon.
Alade Aminu reminded me a little of Solomon Jones. Slender, with some hops, and he gets buckets when he’s close to the rim. As a big man, however, you have to be able to do more than just run the floor and finish (unless you’re an exceptional finisher). Aminu could develop into a decent rebounder if he adds some bulk and uses his quick hops to his advantage. Another guy who looks more deserving of the “end of the bench” spot than Morris. Yes, I’m that annoyed with how Morris “played”, if you can call it that.
Finally there was Richard Hendrix, a Sheldon Williams type (big, soft hands, slightly undersized with some bulk and a nice wingspan), as bad as that reference may be. He bears some paying attention to, but the Hawks may not grab any of these guys when it’s all said and done. I think Aminu and Hendrix have the best shots so far, but both guys will have to show that they can come into a game and contribute right away. When your minutes are going to be few and far between, you need to show the ability to make an impact when you step on the court. Struggling through a first half and coming back in a second half isn’t going to cut it.
If this is any indication of things to come, you’re going to like the Hawks’ new offensive gameplan. Ball movement, screens, personnel movement….it’s all there. At the same time, a bit of perspective is needed. Summer league players (even the NBA sophomore types) are more likely to do what they’re taught in practices. NBA veterans are a different lot. Habits are harder to break, and you have to get them to buy into what you’re doing. Having said that, if you apply the talent of the rotation players to the offensive scheme, I think you’ll like what you see.
For those who saw the game, please add your thoughts and perspectives to the pot!