Hawks look for that first credible win

The Indiana Pacers are no longer a pushover, but until they become a playoff team, the Hawks are going to have to settle for having another game with an asterisk beside it. On Friday night, they get another chance to prove that they can beat the good teams, too. The good news is that the Hawks will be at home, and the Dallas Mavericks will be coming off of what will likely be a hard fought game against the Chicago Bulls. Well, that should be good news. If the Hawks win, would this one come with another asterisk?

 

Offense Switches Gears

The offensive game plan that Larry Drew instituted has coincided with the growth of some of the Hawks’ younger players, while changing the game of others. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford finds himself in a different position from last year. Oh sure, he’s still the top offensive sub off the bench, but no longer is he second on the team in scoring and shot attempts. Fact is, Jamal is now fourth in both categories, giving way to big men Josh Smith and Al Horford. Things are a little different for Joe Johnson as well, what with his scoring average dipping to just over 19 points per game, though arguably his struggles from the field are a major factor. Still, what once seemed like the only sword Atlanta could live or die by, has become a strong point that finally has adequate support. Remember the days when we talked about having credible offensive threats alongside Joe Johnson? Well, it seems those days are here.

Al Horford has vaulted to the position of second leading scorer for the team, averaging exactly one bucket less per contest than Joe Johnson. It’s not just the increased shot attempts that has brought this about. It’s also the way Horford has worked on his game. Still lacking a couple of sure-fire post moves, Horford has enough in his arsenal to get some baskets on the block, but it’s his perimeter shot that does so much damage these days. Not only can Al hit it on occasion, he can hit it several times in a row before ducking back in for a running baby hook or a baseline turnaround shot. The best part? How about a 63.7 field goal percentage? All of that in just a tad over 31 minutes a game, and you have to wonder what this guy will do if he gets to play 35 per night.

Josh Smith’s game has also taken on a transformation. While he may still have maddening moments where he tries to do too much, Smith has managed to improve areas that seemed all but lost last season. Believe it or not, the man’s shooting stroke has improved, even if we still think we’re daydreaming after 12 games. The unexpected prowess from beyond the arc notwithstanding, Josh looks like he actually worked hard on that part of his game. Here’s the part that flies under the radar, however: free throws. That’s right, after stinking it up from the charity stripe last season, smith is now right back up under 70%, where he belongs. It could get better from here. But for now, we get to watch him shoot a good percentage from the field, and hope that this never stops. Is Josh’s jumpshot legit, or is it just a mirage?

Either way, the Hawks aren’t one-dimensional on offense anymore, and they no longer are front-court challenged when it comes to bonafide scoring. Between the two, the Hawks might just have three all-stars at this season’s half way point. You never know.

 

HAWKS VS. MAVS

Dallas has always been dangerous, and like Atlanta in recent years, they’re good for an early season run. We know who all of the usual suspects are. So much is possible with the cerebral Jason Kidd in the game. Dirk Nowitzki is going to score (and rebound). Jason Terry is a dangerous super sub who can shoot his team to a win. Juan Barea is anathema to any team that has trouble keeping up with quick little point guards. But what about some of the newer faces on the squad? Shawn Marion and Caron Butler have seen better days, what with both of them struggling from the deep perimeter. However, neither guy can be slept on completely. Here’s where the Mavs differ the most, though – in the post. Gone is the apathetic Eric Dampier. In his place is Tyson Chandler, who just happens to be backed up by Brendan Haywood.

There’s the rub. If the Mavs want to, they can go pretty big against us. We’ll be looking at height all night long. Of course, the Atlanta advantage is in speed and full court capability. If the Hawks can get out and run, they’ll give the Mavs fits. The only thing is, if you want to run, you have to rebound on the defensive end. If you want to rebound, you have to play defense (or hope the other team misses a lot of shots). Naturally, this is two areas the Hawks are having trouble in. Defend and rebound, and the Mavs will leave the Highlight Factory with a loss. Fail to do so, and we could be looking at a double digit loss.

Matchups to Watch

Will Larry Drew try to match size with size? Let’s assume he’ll put his five best guys on the floor to start things off, then go from there. So…..

Horford vs. Chandler – Look for Al to draw Tyson Chandler out with his jumper, and see if Nowitzki gets switched onto him. If not, Horford will torch the Mavs as long as his shot is on. On the other end of the floor, Horford won’t have much trouble denying Chandler position in the post, but he’ll have to be careful of quick dump-off passes from the Dallas guards.

Jose Juan Barea vs. Jeff Teague – the Teague watch continues! The second year pg will get his chance to continue proving that he’s a viable option off the bench as he goes up against the Dallas slickster, who has caused the Hawks enough grief in the past. Teague has the speed and on ball tenacity to stay with Barea. But will he have the savvy to stay out of foul trouble?

Josh Smith vs…..?

How will Dallas guard Smith, particularly if they start getting burned by Horford’s 18 foot jumper? Brendan Haywood is too slow, and really so it Chandler (though he’s quicker and a better leaper than Haywood). The Mavs won’t want Nowitzki in foul trouble, and neither Shawn Marion nor Caron Butler have the size and strength. This could be a big key to the game, as Dallas will have to choose which Hawks big man to clamp down on. The Mavs say they have been winning with defense. The Hawks will challenge that idea.

 

What are YOUR keys to the game?

218 comments Add your comment

niremetal

November 23rd, 2010
1:33 pm

This is all a moot point if the reports about Shaq demanding $8M and a starting spot to come to Atlanta were true. We only had the mid-level (and frankly, I don’t think he’s worth that) and a bench role to offer him. A sign-and-trade wasn’t really option unless we could convince Cleveland to accept Marvin’s 4 year contract (and would we really want to make that deal without getting back a SF?). Boston offered him more playing time, a better shot at a title, a storied history, and a bigger stage (at least in the bball world). There was no indication that he was remotely interested in coming here for the mid-level and a reserve role. And Shaq’s tendency to talk $h!t about his team when he gets unhappy makes the prospect of bringing him here under those conditions not-too-palatable.

I really don’t think money was the issue, because Shaq brings you more money than he costs, even considering the luxury tax. I think it was simply that we couldn’t offer him what he wanted given our roster and cap situation.

niremetal

November 23rd, 2010
1:34 pm

And not for nothing, but no teams were exactly banging down the door to get Shaq. There’s a reason for that.

Astro Joe

November 23rd, 2010
1:36 pm

From a practical perspective, I’m not sure what should happen in the next 3-4 weeks. On December 15th, all players who signed late free agent deals are eligible to be traded. If you make a trade before then, you conceivably are limited in your options. So I could see waiting another 3-4 weeks before making a roster-altering move. but that puts the ball firmly in LD’s court in terms of adjusting the line-up and playing time. I just hope that he doesn’t scape-goat Marvin while everyone else gets the same playing time.

It also feels like it’s time for us to read about the obligatory “players only” meeting. That medicine usually lasts about as long as 2 Tylenols.

Melvin

November 23rd, 2010
1:54 pm

Astro,

You are a funny dude…LOL

O'Brien

November 23rd, 2010
2:08 pm

Realistically, I think Rick and LD will ride things out until the trade deadline, and see where we stand then.

But LD has the power to control the lineup, so he will have to try some different things. The players are too comfortable, so LD needs to figure out a way to light a fire under their tail.

nire,

If we did a sign and trade for Shaq and Marvin, maybe we could have gotten Jamario Moon back in the deal.

If we didnt get one back, we would still have our MLE and Bi-Annuals, so we could have signed Rodney Carney to play SF, or we could have offered Matt Barnes the starting SF spot (which I think he would have taken). Or we could have offered Chills a contract.

Would we really let losing Marvin and his $28 mil contract stop us from making a move? All the Hawks needed was to be proactive and creative (and be willing to spend a little extra), if they wanted to make a move for Shaq.

O'Brien

November 23rd, 2010
2:10 pm

“And not for nothing, but no teams were exactly banging down the door to get Shaq. There’s a reason for that.” niremetal.

Were teams banging down the door to sign Marvin, Bibby, or ZaZa when we resigned them for the years and money we did?

doc

November 23rd, 2010
2:14 pm

nire i agree he wanted big bucks that were impossible to meet under present constraints say without the trade of marvin it would seem. 8 mil for 8 mil. that was rumored to be a possibility. if that were a possibility it might be reasonable for what we have gotten from marvin this year. need a sf though somewhere, maybe instead of collins and etan you could have fiilled that void and maybe not throw money away on sy and get a real back up point guard retread somewhere? it would have taken the decision out of his hands?

you said though:

I really don’t think money was the issue, because Shaq brings you more money than he costs, even considering the luxury tax. I think it was simply that we couldn’t offer him what he wanted given our roster and cap situation.

isnt this contradictory? you either got it or you dont. didnt you say the opposite here? if money wasnt the issue then how couldnt we not offer it to him because of cap. teams go over cap if they have the money, dont they?

Astro Joe

November 23rd, 2010
3:35 pm

Looking beyond the Nets & Wizards, the good guys should be able to run off a 6-game win streak (including the aforementioned foes) before facing the Heat and Magic. But heaven help us all if we lose tonight against the Nets… the AJC blog platform may cave under the weight of angry comments.

http://espn.go.com/nba/team/schedule/_/name/atl/atlanta-hawks

Astro Joe

November 23rd, 2010
3:45 pm

Pardon me if this one has already been posted. It sounds like Sund is dealing with some family concerns, I hope all turns out well in that regard.

http://nba.fanhouse.com/2010/11/22/josh-smith-says-hawks-told-him-trade-rumors-are-false/?utm_source=bleacherreport.com

O'Brien

November 23rd, 2010
4:01 pm

doc,

I find it hard to believe that if the ASG offered Shaq $7 mil (in a sign and trade) and promised him 24 minutes of PT at center, that he would have turned us down.

And if I’m Shaq, why would I take the vet minimum to play for the Hawks, when I can make the same money on a better team, with more exposure, and a chance to win a title.

As for possible trades, the Hawks dont have much to offer right now.

Marvin has very little value, and Jamal’s biggest value is his expiring, which means the Hawks would probably have to take up additional salary. And I dont think they will do that considering the new CBA.

AJ,

Hope all is well with Sund. But I saw this excerpt in your article;

“They told me that it was all false,” Smith said Monday in an interview with FanHouse about the trade rumors. “That they want to keep this team and this nucleus together because they feel we have something special going.”..

I’m sure Jamal is tired of hearing that, because he is not getting an extension. And as a fan, I’m tired of hearing that, when I see what’s going on the court.

The bad thing is, the players probably believe Sund.

doc

November 23rd, 2010
4:03 pm

i keep following you around today saying, yeah o’b, great points.

Astro Joe

November 23rd, 2010
4:14 pm

OB, yep, that stood out like a sore thumb when I read it. But the ASG has not had to deal with poor home performances (in the regular season at least) over this recent run of success. Last night had to be quite humiliating… with Ted Turner making a very, very rare appearance and several of the local celebrities out to watch (and be seen). Can Gearon do nothing while watching the Hawks get behind by 15-20 points on the home court against the better teams? Surely, that will impact forecasted home revenues for the season, right?

Melvin

November 23rd, 2010
4:44 pm

OB, doc and Astro, I co-sign all you all post today. And Northcyde made some very good points in regards to the Hawks offseason moves or lack there of. Seems that every team that’s consider elite made offseason moves to their main rotational players. Heck, even the Spurs decide to bench McDyess for Blair (who many had questions about his knees). The Hawks maintain status quo then justify it by saying “WE Like Our Core”. As if this core has won a championship, let alone a game in the 2nd round of the playoffs. There was an opportunity to really change the personnel and leadership of this team this summer but the Hawks preferred (as Astro would say) the sameness.

SMH, while counting my money that would have went towards purchasing a Hawks ticket plan and doc expensive pretzels…

niremetal

November 23rd, 2010
4:54 pm

Doc/O’Brien,

First off, doc, not exactly sure how you conflated “cap situation” and revenue generation. Do you actually think that those two are the same so that “you either got it or you dont?” Shaq would bring in a lot of revenues. That would not change the fact that since the Hawks are about $15M over the cap, we were not allowed to offer Shaq more than the MLE as a free agent. Thus, the only way to get him for more than that (and by all reports, he was demanding more than that to come to Atlanta) would have been in a sign-and-trade. The only “asset” we could offer them that anyone around here would remotely consider (since no one wants Shaq at the price of Josh or Al) is Marvin. And on that note…

The NBA 2k10 mentality that you guys have sometimes is incredible. You do realize that two teams have to agree to a trade, right? It’s amazing how much you talk about why Marvin-for-Shaq would make sense for the Hawks (maybe they’d even throw in Jamario Moon!), but not one word about why the Cavs would want to accept Marvin’s 4 year contract Why on earth would the Cavs, who supposedly have been trying to dump Jamison’s contract ever since LeBron hopped on I-75, be interested in taking on Marvin’s contract? Rebuilding teams don’t take on large long-term deals for borderline starters at a dime-a-dozen position. Why would they take on Marvin’s 4-year $30M contract? I mentioned that as being a problem in my initial post, but nah that can’t possibly be a roadblock. Little details like the other team having to agree to a trade strangely seem to escape the thought processes of some people around here.

Were teams banging down the door to sign Marvin, Bibby, or ZaZa when we resigned them for the years and money we did?

Three things. First, word got out that those three guys were staying in Atlanta within 2-3 days of the free agency period opening. Shaq was on the market for over a month. Apples and oranges.

Second, there were teams interested in Zaza and Bibby. I remember one specific report (which I can’t find now) that Philly had approached Bibby but got rebuffed when Bibby told them he was staying in Atlanta. I can’t find that story specifically, but this ESPN article also states that other teams were interested in Bibby:
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4310653

Selective memory much? As for Zaza, again I can’t find the specific story on him but he definitely had been drawing interest – Sheed (I’ll say he’s a C for the sake of argument), Gortat, and Zaza were the only rotation centers on the market that summer.

Third, since Marvin was restricted, he doesn’t even belong in the same group as Bibby or Zaza, much less Shaq. We gave him a couple clicks above the MLE, which is the most other teams could have offered him. Anyway, your obsession with thinking we overpaid for those guys is more amusing than anything at this point, because your memory of, you know, actual events has been incredibly warped so that it lines up with your preconceived notion that we overpaid for them (which, in hindsight, we did at least in the case of Bibby and Marvin).

niremetal

November 23rd, 2010
4:55 pm

Ah, here’s that Philly/Bibby story, kinda. It’s the RealGM summary of a Philadelphia Inquirer article which appears to have been removed from public viewing:
http://www.realgm.com/src_wiretap_archives/60303/20090703/source_bibby_wants_to_stay_in_atlanta/

doc

November 23rd, 2010
5:13 pm

was asking for your input nire in a pleasant way not to be slandered, but cool. also i know the constraints; it was conjecture on how it could work to try and get him the money he wanted while upgrading the roster. i know it is stretch for you to think shaq could upgrade anything but anyway just conjecture. i guess i could ask if we ever offered the mle or a trade and did he or they turn it down? or did we really think shaq would come here and play with twin for the same money? thanks as always for your comments, very informative even with the invectives.

niremetal

November 23rd, 2010
6:10 pm

I’m flying to Atlanta tomorrow and have aviophobia, doc, so I’m even more on edge than usual now. Sorry if I snapped too hard.

Big Ray

November 23rd, 2010
6:48 pm

New blog up…