Will the Hawks get what they paid for?

Let me start things off by getting one thing out of the way. This is NOT about Joe Johnson and his contract. Okay? I promise you, it’s not.

Whatever you may think about Joe Johnson’s contract, you already know what you’ll get out of Joe. He’ll score upwards of 20 points, gather in 4 or 5 rebounds, and dish out 4 or 5 assists. And he’ll do that just about every game. What’s more, he’ll give the Hawks some of the stingiest defense on a shooting guard or small forward you can stand, more often than we tend to give him credit for it.

But this isn’t about Joe. It’s about a lot of other guys. I know it’s just the preseason. I also know that I just typed one of the most cliched sentences in the history of sports. However, might there be some indicators in the preseason that point towards what we might see in the future? Are the Hawks going to get what paid for? Let’s take an ultra-early look at some guys that the Hawks have either re-signed to contracts a year ago, recently, or signed as “new” free agents.

ZAZA PACHULIA

The Contract: Reportedly 4 years, $19 million, signed a year ago.

The Offseason: The young center (24 yrs going on 25) from the Republic of Georgia spent time in the boxing ring to toughen up, get into better shape, and enhance his footwork. He’s also been quoted as saying that he feels better about his role with the team under Larry Drew, and has his mind on all the right things.

What We See So Far: Zaza seems to be rebounding well, and by most reports, looks pretty fluid on offense. And, he’s showing plenty of signs of mental and physical toughness already. But how is his defense? Will he earn the most time in the pivot if/when Al Horford moves over to the power forward spot for stretches during the game? Or will he lose time to Jason Collins or Etan Thomas?

MIKE BIBBY

The Contract: Reportedly 3 years, $18 million, signed a year ago.

The Offseason: Not much has been reported or said about Mike Bibby during the offseason. He’s a veteran player, so it’s expected that he will be ready to go when the lights come on. Besides, what would a guy his age work on?

What We See So Far : Bibby showed major signs of slowing down on both ends of the court as last season wore down, and even into the playoffs. While it’s probably unwise to assume much from early preseason results, his play so far is fairly uninspiring by most reports. Will Mike Bibby be able to survive in a defensive scheme that calls for more man-to-man coverage? Can he maintain his status as a low turnover point guard with a deadly outside shot, or will he find himself giving the Hawks less than 20 mpg?

MARVIN WILLIAMS

The Contract: Reportedly 5 years, $37 million, signed a year ago.

The Offseason: He went to school, as I recall. As for work on the hardwood, not much was mentioned in too many circles, but if you have a link, feel free to post it.

What We See So Far: Following a disappointing performance last season, Marvin has only played one preseason game so far, but he looked as good as he ever has in that single game. More to the point, he feels good about his role…. so far. But what happens on nights when his scoring isn’t needed as much? Will he use his size and athleticism to provide the rebounding and defense that the Hawks so sorely need, or will he continue to confound and aggravate fans (and maybe teammates as well), making people wish for another true small forward? If Marvin can produce effectively and consistently, then he justifies both his salary and his status as a starter. If not, well….

JASON COLLINS

The Contract: 1 year, veteran minimum

The Offseason: Collins spent some time overseas doing who knows what. The important thing is that he came back with less baggage. On his body, that is. Collins shed weight and now looks a lot more like the promising young big man he once was.

What We See So Far: At this point, Collins has recorded 6 points and 3 fouls in one game, in which he played 7 minutes. The good news? He hit all three shots that he took. This is far too small of a sample size, but 3 fouls in 7 minutes is Randolph Morris-esque. Rebounds and defense is all the Hawks really need from Jason, but like half the roster, he has to get healthy before he can contribute anything of note. Until then, the Hawks won’t really know if they have anything different this year in Collins than they did last year (which wasn’t much at all). Can he steal any minutes from Zaza Pachulia?

ETAN THOMAS

The Contract: 1 year, veteran minimum

The Offseason: Etan likely spent most of his season trying to get into NBA basketball shape and getting past his health issues, so that he could show NBA teams that he’s still worthy of a job.

What We See So Far: Thomas is tough and physical, and that helps in practice. But does it help on the floor in games? To this point, the center/power forward has compiled averages of 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, in just under 12 minutes per game. His turnovers and fouls are comparatively low. Can Thomas stay healthy? Is he a part of the solution to the soft Hawks defense, or part of the problem that they’ve been experiencing so far this preseason? Can he debunk the idea that cheap veteran contracts aren’t going to cut it, or will he make fans even more bitter towards the Hawks’ decision-makers, who haven’t succeeded in bringing more popular names?

Josh Powell

The Contract: 1 year, veteran minimum

The Offseason: Powell spent his offseason polishing his second L.A. Lakers NBA Championship ring, and mulling his options. He decided he wanted more playing time than the Lakers were giving him (or so he says), so he headed East and ended up in Atlanta. So the story goes.

What We See So Far : Josh is producing 8.7 points on 55% shooting, along with 3 rebounds in just under 23 minutes per game. Reviews on him have been mixed so far, and it’s understandable. Powell is part of a bench squad that is routinely getting torched on defense, and his rebounding is not very impressive. To make matters worse, he is contributing an unhealthy 3 turnovers per game to a squad that is struggling in this category thus far. Powell won’t play this many minutes during the regular season unless Josh Smith is injured, so he will have to play better than this in the minutes that he does get. His health and youth should allow him to play more than Joe Smith did last year. But will he provide more? Or less? A team that struggles with rebounding has little use for a power forward off the bench who doesn’t provide much of it….unless he’s a dynamic defender.

Pape Sy

Normally, I’d say draft picks don’t count. But perhaps we have to consider that the Hawks put some money up to buy the kid’s contract out from his European team Le Havre. Does that count, or is it irrelevant? As it is, Sy hasn’t played or practiced much (that we know of) after encountering back problems, so he is missing all sorts of valuable playing time experience. Would it have mattered anyway?

Jamal Crawford

This walking, talking, hot-shot dribbling X-factor has managed to get on the back burner of the stove, yet keep the burner hot. Having more or less demanded a contract extension or a trade, Jamal has also stayed out of the mix with an “injury.” As with Joe Johnson, you know what you get when you put Crawford on the floor. But what do the Hawks get with him overall? As Crawford waits silently in the corner, his rookie namesake is lighting up the opposition, the court, and the headlines. Might the Hawks end up getting a useful player (or players) at another position in place of Jamal before it’s all said and done? Is Jamal’s head on right for the season, or will he be a distraction and chemistry issue? The Hawks know what they got for their approximately $10 million investment last year: 18 ppg and a Sixth Man of the Year. What do they get for their money THIS season, though?

The Hawks paid for what they got. But are they going to get what they paid for, and what precisely will that mean? Is it still way too early to be thinking about any of this?

93 comments Add your comment

mike

October 13th, 2010
10:52 pm

Do you think Jordan Crawford’s preseason performance is making Jamal’s salary demands irrelevant? I love Jordan Crawford but all I can think about is how many games Jamal won for us last yr.. not only the game winners but all the times Joe got doubled or Joe and everyone else went cold and Jamal was still lights out in the 4th..

Big Ray

October 13th, 2010
11:40 pm

Mike ,

How many games Jamal won for us has been the subject of some fairly hot debate around here. As for how he was in the 4th quarter, I’m sure somebody can find the stats (and post them) from 82games.com or another stat site.

Perhaps the question isn’t just what Jamal does for us. Does he do the same in Drew’s motion offense? Can we make up for some of his scoring in other ways (Teague, JC1, Marvin, Al, etc)? And, what could Jamal get us in trade, that we could us more ? Lots of questions.

I don’t think JC1’s scoring by itself makes Jamal’s contract demands irrelevant. Not at all. Because Jamal has shown what he can (and can’t) do during the regular season, and in the playoffs. Jordan however, has yet to play a single minute in an NBA regular season game. And a thousand wonderful preseason performances can never compare…

Yet…his performances are food for thought…

N.D.T.K.A.

October 13th, 2010
11:47 pm

I like Jordan Crawford’s game. I am a little concerned at the lack of discipline on the defensive end. Of course with guy’s out it may be difficult too keep up the intensity.

These guys have to play “disciplined” basketball in my opinion. Josh looked like he was up to the task early with his hustle. But as a team there is not enough commitment on the defensive end of the floor. L.D. and Connor are going to have to get serious with the guys on a commitment to defending and out hustling opponents.

With Jordan Crawford’s game please trade Jamal if he is going to be a distraction for a solid piece to the puzzle.

N.D.T.K.A.

October 14th, 2010
12:06 am

Now to get on the soap box!!! I still don’t understand the scrub crew at backup PF and C. I know you guys have heard this before, but look at Jordan Crawford the energy the rookie brings. Why not put guys that are rookies who can improve like, again I know I have said this before, but Hassan Whiteside, who we past overin the draft or Solomon Alabi or some of these other kids who might actually listen to coaching and get better. As opposed to bringing in “character-guys” like lazy twin or Etan who is probably done or even J. Powell who hasn’t looked great. It would not have cost a penny more to draft some nice young talent. I just don’t understand the Hawks or management.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jackie Nelson, Michael Cunningham. Michael Cunningham said: AJC's fan blog: Will the Hawks get what they paid for? http://bit.ly/cAC6VB [...]

Astro Joe

October 14th, 2010
12:32 am

I wouldn’t trade Jamal because of a little pre-season success by Jordan. However, if I knew that Drew could depend on both Mo Evans and Jordan to contrinute behind Joe, then I would pull the trigger. Sorry, I’m not yet ready to assume that Jordan can be our version of Marcus Thornton (although that would be oh so nice).

nire, from the previous blog, you had to go back a ways to find that, huh? Sure, I can avoid those kind of posts, although that one had very little to do with you. That one was purely about my frustrations with Sund/ASG and their summer of sameness. A more recent example of twisting words could have been found in the way you took my words about defending well when Bibby is on the floor and then your assertion that elite teams don’t have awful defenders in the starting line-up. I struggle to see how one has anything to do with another, but I suspect that you will continue to opt not to address that and continue to focus on beef. Deflect the wrong that you do by perpetuating the role of victim. Kind of like flopping in the lane.

swatguy

October 14th, 2010
12:49 am

Astro Joe, Elite teams add talent not trade talents. The Hawks should welcome Jordan and fit him not replace Jamal. Trading Jamal because Jordan is a baller is ridiculous. This thinking would have the Hawks as mediocre even with 50 wins. Incorporate Jordan while retaining the talent.
Also, if thr rook is better than Jeff, Start the rook.

JeJe

October 14th, 2010
1:12 am

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

JeJe

October 14th, 2010
1:13 am

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! exactly. Bib and Duck did NOTHING this offseason. Couldn’t have guessed that one.

Bibby is again lethargic, out of shape, and overweight

Duck has no heart and did not improve at all

JeJe

October 14th, 2010
1:15 am

How are the contracts “reportedly?” Are they a rumor? No. They are OFFICIAL

FIRE WOODY

James

October 14th, 2010
1:33 am

The Hawks are in deep trouble they won’t be very good this season. They should have traded Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to Denver for Carmelo Anthony and Nene.

Hawks

October 14th, 2010
1:39 am

The Hawks need a true center and move Al to PF.

Trade Jamal, Zaza, and bibby for a center.

Sope Creek

October 14th, 2010
5:29 am

When I saw the headline I figured the article might be about Coach Drew, given the outcomes of the preseason games so far . . . and yes, it would have been a bit too early for that.

I was wrong about what the article was about . . . and because it’s too early to assess Drew and how he’s put these players together as a team, I think it’s too early to ask the questions posed . . . but then, there isn’t anything else to write about either.

Big Ray

October 14th, 2010
5:49 am

JeJe ,

I wrote “reportedly” because I never looked up the offical contracts, and the numbers I wrote were what was reported (and that I read). In other words, I haven’t looked up and stated the exact figures, and how they break down from year to year. Um…just a curiousity, but why are you saying “Fire Woody?”

Big Ray

October 14th, 2010
5:53 am

Sope Creek ,

Sorry, I know it’s repetitive. But if fans can’t talk about these things, since we’re not involved in the decision making process, then what should we talk about? Funny thing is, 5 real games into the season will still be “too early” to tell much.

N.D.T.K.A. ,

That has been questioned time and again, and it will be a question all season long, if you ask me. Unfortunately, it’s always going to be hindsight-fueled speculation and nothing more. On the flip side of the coin, if the veteran minimum types that we acquired help out a good bit and do better than expected, it ceases to be much of a question. 5 bucks on which way this one goes…your guess is as good as mine. :)

Big Ray

October 14th, 2010
5:55 am

AJ ,

I wouldn’t either, and for the same reasons. Unless of course, as stated in earlier blogs, a rather beneficial trade opportunity drops into Sund’s lap. Such an opportunity came with the acquisition of Jamal. Who is to say that lightning won’t strike again? Ehhh…I won’t hold my breath. And I’d advise Jamal to do the same.

Big Ray

October 14th, 2010
5:57 am

James ,

Does Denver go for that deal? It takes away their best pivot player and replaces him with a redundancy at power forward (though an upgrade over anything they have, really).

Tha Real Hawk

October 14th, 2010
6:55 am

Anyone who thinks Marvin is the answee or just AN answer is fooling themselves.
School is fine but you’re paid to be a BB player.
Zaza playing defense an not a pinata is a jole.

O'Brien

October 14th, 2010
8:04 am

I dont have the numbers in front of me, but if I’m not mistaken, Jamal’s fourth quarter numbers were not that great (northcyde or vava might have them).

His biggest asset to us was in the late first quarter to late third quarter, when he would extend our lead or keep it close. Our offense, as a whole, struggled in the fourth.

I think Sund missed the boat on trading Jamal after we drafted Jordan. And now he is hurt, and unable to get the game reps needed to get used to the motion offense. And he is unhappy, so we have no idea what to expect from him chemistry wise, or on the court.

wordsmithtom

October 14th, 2010
8:15 am

O’Brien, we don’t know just how “hurt” JC1 really is. Could be hurt like Arenas….just sittin’. Could be management just keeping him from getting hurt while he’s shopped. We can speculate, but we will never know for sure. Gun to head: LD knows what to expect from JC1, why run him early when he does not yet know what he has in JC2. Give the rook reps in early going where it’s meaningless since he won’t have minutes to evaluate him when the real season starts. But, I’m just speculating myself.

Otherwise, still too early to evaluate most of the talent / changes since so many guys have nagging injuries and a lot of energy is being wasted on guys who won’t be here 2 weeks down the road. I do like the look of the High/Low post action in halfcourt. With Horf’s excellent midrange, this should be an option against Orlando IF Twin and Etan can hold some ground against Superman. Too early to tell, but the design seems to work. Heck, even a few reps with JS at center. He’s not afraid of Howard….and that’s no joke. And less anyone laugh, he’s as big as Barkley who played a lot of center.

wordsmithtom

October 14th, 2010
8:24 am

FWIW, I’ve been yelling for more H/L action for two years. I’ve suggested putting MW on the high post, with Horf down low. That works, since MW is a high FT %. But, occasionally running JS down low gives a shot blocking threat near the basket that passes well. If we can get enough quality bench minutes, we can afford to use some of Joshes time at center. Heck, even use MW in the low post occasionally….if we pick up another 3 for JC1. Even if Mo were ready, we’re weak at 3, so using MW flexibly probably less of an option, though he could do it if asked.

…and if asked, I believe MW would step up and do it.

vava74

October 14th, 2010
8:39 am

back on popular demand:

http://www.82games.com/0910/CSORT11.HTM

Clutch stats for last year (last 5 minutes of regulation plus overtime)

Jamal WAS NOT productive in the 4th quarter for us last year and was a MAJOR defensive liability to close games.

Astro Joe

October 14th, 2010
9:45 am

I’m on record as not being a Jamal fan, but I wouldn’t question his professionalism… if he says he’s hurt, I believe him. Had Sund moved Jamal much earlier in the summer, he could have assumed Evans as the back-up SG and then tried to sign someone like Antoine Wright to be the bench SF. Minimum wage wing players are relative easy to find, but one has to decide to look.

The ASG is runing a radio campaign about the Heat pre-season game next week. I don’t recall ever hearing radio advertising for a specific pre-season game before.

niremetal

October 14th, 2010
10:03 am

AJ,

Ok, I’m satisfied.

As for Bibby and defense, I simply don’t agree that it’s reasonable to expect Drew or Conner to be able to devise a scheme that makes us anything more than a mediocre defensive team when Bibby is on the floor. The reason I brought up Bibby being a starter is that right now, he is, in fact, the starter. There’s no reason to think yet that Teague or one of the Crawfords is ready to replace him as the starting point guard, so odds are that he’ll remain our starter through at least the first part of the season. If that’s the case, then we’re going to have a tough time defensively for ~25 minutes per game.

Unlike on offense, it’s tough to make yourself useful on defense if you simply don’t have the speed, height, and/or strength necessary to cover at least one man on the floor straight up. On offense, a player who doesn’t have those skills can set screens (like Big Ben), crash the glass (again, Big Ben), or spread the floor (Shane Battier). Coaches can therefore come up with schemes that allow a poor offensive player to remain useful. There is no comparable things that you can do on defense to make a weak defensive player less of a weakness. Any strategies that you take up must be aimed at “hiding” weak defensive players, not at making them useful. And even those “hiding” strategies are easy to exploit. Switching on screens can work in spurts, but really, all you’re doing is transferring the mismatch from one player to another and creating an additional mismatch. To use an example we saw repeatedly during the Bucks series, Bibby would start off on Jennings and Horford on Thomas. They have a mismatch with Jennings because Bibby can’t keep up with him. Thomas sets a screen for Jennings, and now the Bucks have two mismatches (Horford trying to cover Jennings on the perimeter, Bibby trying to cover Thomas in the post) instead of one (Bibby trying to cover Jennings on the perimeter). Zone defenses can also work in spurts, but the high skill level of NBA players make those schemes break down quickly because of the number of open perimeter shots and offensive rebounds that opposing teams get (which is why you rarely see zone at the NBA level).

Despite having one of the NBA’s best defensive minds running the Suns defense (Iavaroni), they never could overcome Nash’s defensive uselessness. At their best, they were mediocre defensively. Coach after coach tried to find a way to “hide” Mark Jackson as he got older. Larry Bird managed to do well by installing a trap-off-screens scheme in his first season coaching the Pacers (when Jackson actually showed up for the season in shape), but when Jackson came back after the lockout slower than ever, the Pacers quickly devolved into one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

Fortunately, we won’t be relying on Bibby to play quite as many minutes as Nash or even Jackson. But I still can’t think of any examples of a team with a heavy rotation player (as Bibby likely will be) who is just plain awful defensively (as it sounds like Bibby has become) that managed to stay “elite.” Can you?

Astro Joe

October 14th, 2010
11:18 am

nire, the fact remains that between Bibby and Jamal, we have two awful defenders who bring enough skill to other facets of the game that (unless there is a roster move) they HAVE to play. They may not get the close to 50 minutes they combined to play last season, but they will be on the floor for more than token minutes. Because playing them together would likely result in an avalanche of points for the opposition, Drew needs to “design” a way to utilize them without the resulting disaster. Do you start Bibby and then bring in Jamal? Is Teague ready to close tight games when we need a better defender at PG? All of those are questions that the head coach of a team that wants to contend must manage. Rather that coach is Larry Drew or Larry Brown.

And this absolutely goes back to my beef with the summer of sameness. Did we not know that Bibby and Jamal would be defensive disasters as players a year older? Did we not know that Teague (who evidently was 3rd amongst PGs in fouls per minute) would not enter this season ready to become Joe Dumars? My frustration is FAR more pointed at Sund and/or the ASG than Drew. IMO, Drew will be yet another victim to a “almost ready for prime-time” roster. Too many players with size and limited skill, or skill and limited size, too many guys who are above average on one side of the floor and below average on the other side. It combines into a team with diverse parts… which is why 50 wins is achievable. But it fails when you need 5-6 “complete” players to ride in the playoffs and you have 2-3 at best.

Astro Joe

October 14th, 2010
11:25 am

nire, I recall that Derek Fisher sturggled mightily last season (I recall questions about his defense during the Thunder series). Since I haven’t watched Bibby play this month, I can’t compare… but I think it is at least fair to say that Fisher would not be considered a defensive jewel in the backcourt. But he brings other facets to the game that forced Phil to play him (that and Farmar was too inconsistent). I can’t speak for the defensive prowess of every 50 win team and their rotational players. But if there are six 50-win teams across the NBA, it is hard to imagine that the 42 players that comprise those teams top 7 guys are all average or better defenders. Surely the Hawks aren’t the only team with 2 skunks in the bunch.

vava74

October 14th, 2010
11:44 am

Even if Teague progresses defensively – which I think has already happened – we should have brought in a defensive PG to plug that hole.

This, unless Drew is really convinced that Sy can be the perimeter defender PG > SF.

niremetal

October 14th, 2010
12:35 pm

Astro,

Fisher was light years ahead of Bibby and Jamal defensively last year. Granted, that’s in part because the refs let him get away with mugging his man (Bruce Bowen style) because of his reputation and teammates, but he also is stronger and savvier and more of a hustle guy than Bibby or Crawford. Certainly, I don’t think you could find anyone who would rate Crawford or Bibby ahead of Fisher defensively. Fisher was once a great defensive PG. Now he is average. He certainly wasn’t below-average last season. Bibby at his defensive peak was about at the level Fisher was last year (minus the effort). He was and remains several notches below.

Astro Joe

October 14th, 2010
12:49 pm

vava, I could see Drew thinking that over time, Sy could become a good perimeter defender. But given his background, that seems like a super-optimistic expectation of him in his rookie season. I suspect that just like we saw Joe matched up against guys like Derrick Rose at crucial points in the game last season, we will likely see the same this season.

JeJe

October 14th, 2010
12:55 pm

“Um…just a curiousity, but why are you saying “Fire Woody?””

FIRE WOODY

O'Brien

October 14th, 2010
1:00 pm

vava,

Is Earl Watson still available? I dont think he would sign for the vet minimum though, so that would automatically put him out of our price range.

AJ,

Is Damien Wilkins still available? Another guy I liked was Rodney Carney. He could play some G/F.

I just dont like Mo Evans at SF.

Astro Joe

October 14th, 2010
1:39 pm

OB, Watson is Deron’s back-up in Utah. Not sure about those other guys you mentioned.

niremetal

October 14th, 2010
4:31 pm

Ray,

Blog monster struck again…see if you can rescue it…

rusty

October 14th, 2010
8:26 pm

i dont care what any one says we have to give teague & jc2 significent minutes this year. bibby cant cut it defensibly & i think his days of doing it on offense are over. if we have to rely on moe for anything we are doomed.

Big Ray

October 15th, 2010
3:23 am

Nire ,

Post rescued.

Astro Joe ,

That’s something I don’t want to see. But unless Teague plays major minutes and gets the job done…we’re going to see it. And we’ll see Joe’s frustration as well. Unless of course, Sund makes a good move. Pape Sy doesn’t even figure into the situation (IMO) for at least a year, if not two or three, though I thought he could provide defense in year 2 if he displays an accelerated learning curve.

As it is, I have a feeling that his back issues are perhaps less about pre-existing conditions in the way of injury, and much more about not being used to this level of conditioning and competition. Drew said JC2 was cramping up something fierce on the flights back from those two road games, wherein he averaged well over 40 minutes per game. Might we expect the same or more severe issues with a guy who was only playing roughly 14 mpg in a much weaker basketball atmosphere?

Or….I could be dead wrong.

vava74

October 15th, 2010
6:36 am

Hi Ray,

I think we should not completely overrule the learning Sy got playing PRO ball in the french league.

Technically the french league is more advanced than college basketball in which the vast majority of the teams present a level of play which is very rudimentary (hence the difficulties which virtually all college coaches feel when trying the jump to the pros).

The main difference if the physical talent available in the two leagues, so my guess is that Sy will suffer more with the difference in speed, rather than with the fact that he may be raw.

(in general, PRO ball in Europe is from a fundamentals point of view more sound)

However, this leads us to A FACT: LD saw Sy playing against top college talent in the workouts and he HELD HIS OWN drawing huge praises.

Me thinks that he will be physically and technically effective from day 1 as a defender.

I am not talking about being an Artest or a Battier right now, but I expect him to be a spidery defensive presence capable of giving us short spurts of solid D.

Astro Joe

October 15th, 2010
9:43 am

nire, I thought the debate was are there bad defenders on other elite teams, which is different than are there worse defenders than Bibby and Jamal. Maybe I misunderstood the orignal supposition.

50-win teams have bad defenders in their rotations… they have to overcome those bad defenders. Jamal and Bibby may not be much worse than they were last season… maybe Bibby’s issues are magnified because of the new defensive scheme being employed. I don’t think we know since we haven’t seen much (or any) game footage. Bottom line, I struggle to see how Bibby (or Jamal) drops out of our rotation, unless again, Sund changes the roster.

O'Brien

October 15th, 2010
9:55 am

AJ,

So Utah has Deron and Watson? Wow. I sure hope Bibby and Teague can get the job done at PG, because if one of them gets hurt or struggles, we will be back to our SGs helping to run the offense (although from what I’ve read, the motion offense does not require a traditional PG).

LD said he wants the Hawks to be a top 10 defensive team. Realistically, with the players we have, can we get there? I think the wild card is Teague. If he earns the starting job, and is able to play smart and consistent defense, apply pressure on the perimeter etc, then we have a chance.

But if Teague struggles, and we have to play Bibby major minutes, we will be in trouble defensively.

niremetal

October 15th, 2010
11:02 am

AJ,

This is a complex issue. There is not any one point of “debate.” I made a number of points, so there is no single “original supposition” to counter. There are a number of related suppositions and points that I made.

Re: Fisher and “bad” defense. Like I said in my post, I disagree with the premise that Fisher is a bad defender. As I said, I think he is average, and I’ll clarify further and say that I think that he is average at worst. He has trouble staying in front of the quickest PGs, but he compensates for that by playing very physical D (and getting away with it) and pushing his man around Bruce Bowen-style, and by being one of the savviest defenders in the game. If you’re arguing that Fisher is “bad,” you’re seriously the first person I’ve ever heard say that.

Moreover, even if I were to accept your premise that Fisher is a “bad” defender, Bibby is still much worse. I don’t think we can impose an arbitrary cutoff for “bad” and say that it doesn’t matter how much below the “bad” threshold a player is. As with all things in life, it’s a matter of degree. The worse a defender is, the more the team has to compensate in other ways in order to be successful. So Bibby being worse in defense than Fisher means that the Hawks have to be even better than the Lakers in other facets of the game to make up for it – which is tough to do since the Lakers are significantly better than us in terms of overall roster talent.

You say that 50-win teams have bad defenders in their rotation. Well, if 50 wins is your sole criterion for “elite,” then I agree. But I don’t think 50 wins, in and of itself, makes a team elite, or else 12 out of 30 NBA teams were elite last year. I think you need to be a threat to win your conference before you can considered elite. And the only recent team I can think of that has played in the conference Finals recently that had a truly “bad” defender was the Suns with Nash. Of course, the Suns have another superstar player on their roster in Amare, and rely almost exclusively on their offense (led by the best offensive PG in the NBA, which allowed them to compensate for Nash’s bad D in ways that no player(s) on our roster can) to get their wins – a style which, as every talking head says, has always prevented them from getting past the conference finals. And the Suns aside, I can’t think of any teams that have played in the conference finals that have had a truly bad (not just middling) defender in their rotation – and certainly not any that had one who played 25+ mpg, as Bibby did last year, nor anyone as truly horrific defensively as it sounds like Bibby is this year.

At some point, a player can be bad enough defensively that there’s no way to scheme around him. It sounds like we may have reached that point with Bibby. If his D is now as bad as reported, we still might be able to coast through the regular season in one piece despite Bibby’s defense, but there sure as hell is no way we’d be able to do the same in the playoffs. And if you think it’s up to Drew to figure out a way to take us deep in the playoffs despite such D from Bibby, which is what it sounds like you’re arguing, then you’re asking him to do something that no coach I know of has pulled off in recent years.

niremetal

October 15th, 2010
11:25 am

Slightly off-topic, but Bibby has not aged as gracefully as Nash. Nash has always been a bad defender, but he’s not much worse now than he was 5 years ago. Bibby, on the other hand, used to be an average defender in his Sac-town prime, but has gotten progressively worse over the years. I’d say he and Nash were on about the same level at the beginning of last year, and that Bibby was actually worse by the end. I suspect it has to do with Nash’s fanatical conditioning, versus Bibby’s rather variable conditioning…

Astro Joe

October 15th, 2010
11:50 am

nire, valid points. But what we don’t know is if Bibby has taken incremental steps backwards because of “natural causes” or because of the new scheme. If the design is more “man-to-man” defense, did anyone on the planet think that Bibby’s defense would look better than last year? Now, if the TEAM defense is better because Al and Josh stay closer to the paint to defend the rim, then who cares about Bibby’s individual defense, as long as he can funnel his man to the waiting big defenders. If he can’t even influence rather his man goes right or left, then should Drew concede a 5 on 4 advantage when Bibby is in the game or does Bibby manicure his nails on the bench for 45 minutes a night? Given the roster, I hold to my original statement, the coaching staff needs to figure out how to make it work with Bibby playing… and the same is true of Jamal. I just don’t see anyway around it (short of conceding a defensive disadvantage). If, you’re saying, that there are no schemes to overcome that kind of horrific defense, I would simply say that I can’t/won’t buy that concession from the coaching staff during the pre-season. It’s much too early to throw in the towel and live with 5 on 4 as an 82 game way of life.

Astro Joe

October 15th, 2010
11:52 am

OB, it’s less about Teague starting and more about Teague being able to play 30+ minutes a game. He could “start” and play 20 minutes a game because of foul trouble every game. Likewise, he could come off the bench and provide above average defense (so that Bibby & Jamal aren’t playing too many minutes together).

niremetal

October 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

Astro,

I agree we shouldn’t concede it in the preseason, which is why my posts were filled with caveats like “if Bibby’s defense is as bad as it sounds” and “it sounds like we may have reached that point.” I’ll wait until I see Bibby with my own eyes. Last year, he was still laterally quick enough (usually) to at least be able to funnel his man towards the help D. That’s the key point for me, because that frankly is the way the vast majority of perimeter defenders play D – they move their feet and force their man in a direction. If Bibby can’t do that anymore, then I don’t see how he can be made useful on D.

vava74

October 15th, 2010
12:57 pm

Nire/Astro,

My view is that Bibby’s lack or diminished D can be offset more effectively by benching him and pairing him with less dangerous foes than to keep him as a starter (except when the sub PG he would face happens to be faster than the starter, like for instance the Boykins and the Bobby Browns of the NBA).

Why make him face Wall, Rose, Paul, Parker?

I would use him against the subs who typically make poorer decisions exploiting other players’ shortcomings and in many occasions are worse athletes.

O'Brien

October 15th, 2010
1:15 pm

vava,

The issue, as nire points out, is that we might be able to get away with it in the regular season (pairing him with less dangerous foes), but in the playoffs, it will be magnified.

I know nobody expected Bibby to decline so quickly, but was there any reason to give him a third year guaranteed on his contract? If this was his last year, we could have shopped him around.

And then to make it worse, Rick has not made a move for a third PG, so if Bibby continues his decline, or if Teague is not able to earn 30 mpg, we might be in trouble.

Astro Joe

October 15th, 2010
1:23 pm

vava, but doesn’t that mean that Bibby and Jamal are paired together? Egads!!!!

Thus my constant rant about the Summer of Sameness and the Sacred Core! Just poor roster management… especially the Jamal angle. I get that finding a taker for Bibby would have been hard, but the reigning SMOY with an expiring contract? Seriously, the one and only reasonable theory is that Sund was convinced that Drew & staff would fix it… which is what I said yesterday… the coach needs to figure out how to defend with at least one inferior defender on the floor. But I’m not buying any theory that someone forecasted more from Bibby defensively than what he may be currently showing (in a man-to-man scheme)… even if he is running an under-7 minute mile.

Astro Joe

October 15th, 2010
1:28 pm

Lastly, we’re focused on what Bibby CAN’T do… which is defend. He hasn’t shown much of a shooting appetite, so we don’t yet know if he is still that almost 40% 3-point shooter. We also haven’t had the chance to watch him facilitate the motion offense. So I wouldn’t put him in the “walking retired” category until we see ALL of what he may (or may not) have to offer this team.

Big Ray

October 15th, 2010
1:44 pm

Vava ,

I won’t deny the typically fundamental basis of European basketball, and I also noted that Drew was impressed with Sy’s ability to hang with some of the higher college prospects. It’s not his skills that I’m talking about, it’s his physical condition. I’m searching for reasons that he is having back problems, and the only half-optimistic theory I can come up with is that he’s not used to the physicality of League games and practices. There is absolutely no update on his injury status, so I figure it’s either that, or he has back problems. Either way, I’m not a medical expert by any stretch of the imagination, so I have no clue, really.

He’ll be alright when he gets to play…. when he gets to play ….right now JC2 is getting great experience and playing time. Sy is well behind the curve. But, we didn’t bring him over to make a contribution right away anyhow…right?

Big Ray

October 15th, 2010
1:45 pm

Bibby looks to be coasting through the preseason. What bugs me more than what he can or can’t do is Teague being out with injury. Game one showed some promise, but I wanted to see if the kid would be consistent. Now he’s behind the curve as well, and we don’t know what we’ve got, simply because he isn’t playing, and Bibby is coasting. No wonder we’re all on edge about it.

Astro Joe

October 15th, 2010
2:29 pm

Ray, the disturbing thing about your “Bibby is coasting” comment is that dude knows that he is competing for a starting job. Didn’t MC write an article that suggested that Bibby wasn’t ready to hand over the starting role to Teague? Obviously, coming out and gunning the ball like he’s Jamal Crawford would not have been prudent, but neither is “coasting”. Maybe he is a walking retired player… not so much because of a lack of physical tools but maybe he has lost some of his “dog”. Obviously, I’m speculating here. But it all seems strange to watch him on cruise control while in a position battle.