Hawks might be on true verge of Detroit model

Yes, we’re back to that again.

I’m sure that as fans we shared quite a laugh at the idea of the Atlanta Hawks morphing into another version of the multi-faceted Detroit Pistons team that was so potent from ‘02-’03 to ‘06-’07 (and arguably a year longer than that). The first objection would be from a defensive perspective, where the Hawks lack a point guard who can not only guard his own position, but guard many shooting guards as well, as Chauncey Billups used to do in the Motor City. The second objection would be that for all the many positives of Al Horford, he isn’t the beast on defense that Ben Wallace once was (of course, Horford doesn’t “juice”, either), and Josh Smith is no Rasheed Wallace (thank the basketball pantheon). In fact, the Hawks have never played team defense the way that Pistons team did.

But offensively speaking?

Under the tutelage of Larry Drew, the Hawks do seem to be headed in that direction. No longer is the team a collection of talent that routinely bogs down in the ingrained habit of isolation plays. No longer are they automatically sentenced to offensive epic failure if Joe Johnson or a second guard off the bench isn’t able to come out with both guns blazing, so to speak. No longer are they led solely or mostly by the backcourt. This Hawks team can score from a number of places, and finds contributions from a number of players. And, it’s happening in every game.

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

For years, one of the common themes has been about the average age of this Atlanta team. How many times have you heard “they’re young”, “we’re waiting for this one to turn the corner and develop into this or that”, or “how far this team goes depends on the growth and maturity of this one”, and what not? Sooner or later, the age factor got old, even if the majority of this roster has yet to do so. The guys grew up. Yet, growing up and developing are two different things. Much of this team’s success and ability to become as dangerous as they can be has depended on the growth and development of their starting frontcourt members.

I don’t like beating the bones of a deceased equine carcass, but Marvin Williams is still a mystery. Who is this guy? What is he capable of? We know what he gives this team, but we don’t understand why he doesn’t always give it. How far does this team go with him as a starter? What in the devil happened to his three point shot? Josh hits 3s now with far more accuracy and frequency. Josh Smith?! Of course, it’s also not fair to kick a man when he’s down. Marvin’s injury is apparently not an easy one to recover from, and maybe the playing time he’s getting right now simply isn’t helping that fact. Whatever happens from here, are we still wondering if this is a position of strength, or one of weakness? And to be fair, is that Marvin’s fault, or that of the front office, who did not see fit to add another wing player of comparable size to the position, until Joe Johnson became injured?

Marvin isn’t the only enigma on the front line, as Josh Smith continues to blend bafflement with brilliance. Every temper tantrum or bone-headed play makes you think you haven’t seen the last of his immaturity and lack of focus, but each season brings far fewer of those. Is this guy really team captain material? Will he ever be an all-star? Is he one now? Maybe the team captain part isn’t the real question. Maybe the real question is whether or not he can play a leadership role. Smith’s ability to take over a game has risen to new levels as he proves that he is the game’s most dangerous shot blocker. You simply never know where he is going to come from, or when. And, it doesn’t just happen at the rim, as more than one jumpshooter has found himself on the wrong end of a ESPN-like highlight. What’s more, Smith has shown an ability to score from a post-up position, occasionally mixing in drives against slower defenders. The part you never thought was coming….it’s now here. One team after the next is finding out that he can’t be left open all the time on the perimeter. I know, I know. You’re not the only one that sometimes sits around biting your fingernails and wondering if that newly effective jumper of his is simply an anomaly, and that one day you’ll wake up to those awful bricks again. Okay, so maybe that’s just me.

Al Horford is no longer the stiff, machine-like presence in the post that he once was. No, he’s not the Tim Duncan of the East, but his inside/outside game has taken strides. The 18-foot jumper is all but a given, and now the baby jump hooks and quick moves to the basket are becoming more and more frequent. The results? Horford pretty much shares the team lead in scoring at 17 points per game, more or less equaling a struggling (and currently injured) Joe Johnson. He’s doing it from the center position, but there is no denying that playing more minutes at the power forward position is lending towards this trend. Only one question: is Al becoming a power forward? Okay, two: is Josh becoming a small forward? It may not really matter, as the versatility of lineups is the ultimate goal, right? However, the more minutes played in these roles, the more it seems that these guys are getting comfortable with them. It’s doubtful that we’ll see Smith play more at the 3 spot, but the same cannot be said of Al Horford, who seems to be quite comfortable at the 4 spot.

That brings up another set of questions. Will the Hawks morph into a team that plays Horford at center only when he is a a clear advantage at the position, or when he is equal to his opponent in size and strength? Or, will they only move him to the 4 when facing Dwight Howard or another larger/stronger center who has clear advantages on him? Having signed Al Horford to a healthy new extension and publicly (and some say, privately) disavowing any Josh Smith trade rumors, Atlanta is not likely going to bring in any “impact” center types of starting caliber. But, might they want to upgrade from the likes of Jason Collins and/or Zaza Pachulia? If this type of lineup strategy works best for the Hawks when they want to go large, can they get to the East Finals as currently constructed?

 

How Far Do They Go Without Joe?

As some of you have noted, the Hawks are 4 and 1 without Joe Johnson. Surely this is too small of a sample size to come to any solid conclusion. On the one hand, that’s a great record for a team playing without its best player and leading scorer. On the other hand, only one of those four wins came against a team that has a winning record. So how much does this team really miss him? We’ll find out as the Hawks take on the Spurs this friday, and teams such as Charlotte, Golden State, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans as the month rounds out. The Hawks are known for their roller coaster ways, and yet this team has shown an ability to win on the road that it did not have last season. Is this a fluke or not? We’ll find out.

 

One way or another, the Hawks look like the Detroit model on paper, at least offensively, and at least when they play according to head coach Larry Drew’s specifications. The offense is more spread out among those who are able to take advantage of it. Here’s a question for you: Is this due more in part to Larry Drew’s scheme, or is it due moreso to the timing of Josh and Al’s development?

169 comments Add your comment

vava74

December 13th, 2010
12:24 pm

last sentence was not supposed to be there

doc

December 13th, 2010
12:33 pm

vava, what was wrong with the last sentence? i agree totally with it and made the team to be just as much a joke to me among others. remember when they made their big personnel move with the statement it would allow rick to see what was out there and they brought back mario. it showed me how either stupid he was or how the asg did not want to be competitive loud and clear. i lost interest right then and there. they were a joke going forward.

oh yeah, some say it was woody’s desire and decision. if it was it sealed his fate. personally, i dont think woody was that dumb.

Ken Strickland

December 13th, 2010
12:44 pm

VALVA74-It’s easy to find fault with any player if you selectively single out certain players he’s had trouble with, or gms where he’s played poorly. Would you say DHoward crapped his pants and wilted in last yrs 1st rd playoff series against Carolina after they shut him down?

You use 1 gm against Boston this yr to make your assertion, but you conveniently forgot what he did last yr in 4 wins against them. Every player has one or more players, or team, that gives them trouble. You’re using the same approach used by Woodson to justify ignoring and refusing to develop younger players, particularly Guards. It involves focusing exclusively on a players perceived weaknesses, rather than looking at, and taking advantage of, that players attributes.

I’ve been an NBA fan since the 60’s, and I have yet to see a Center or PG crap his pants all the way to an All Star berth. Would you say Wilt Chamberlain crapped his pants and wilted whenever he went up against Bill Russell?

Ken Strickland

December 13th, 2010
12:54 pm

WHAT’S UP DOC? I was wondering what had happened to you. I was beginning to wonder if you were going to end up fading away, much like our friend ANDO did. I actually miss him and his eloquence. There were several hardcore regulars that kept these blogs alive and well when the team was losing. It seems they started fading away as the team started consistently winning, and all of the ASG legal problems ceased to be a major issue.

doc

December 13th, 2010
1:16 pm

no ken, that is why i was here commenting and not why i havent had as much to say. sort of sitting back and enjoying what others say and evaluating this team as it goes forward getting up to speed with LD. glad you are around here my friend. been very busy recently coming back after ten straight days on the road studying.

Ray

December 13th, 2010
2:39 pm

Hey I don’t know if anyone saw this, but over on ESPN it says that the Grizz are open to dealing Hasheem Thabeet. Me I say we do a player swap Zaza for Thabeet.

vava74

December 13th, 2010
6:35 pm

doc,

This is the sentence that was not supposed to be there:

“… which was mostly entertainment”

All the rest I continue to sustain.

Mario West was – unfortunately because he looked to be fine young man – bball wise, a bit of a joke.

vava74

December 13th, 2010
6:39 pm

Ken,

Al has been complaining about playing C and he has clearly not been a true warrior against more forceful opposition.

He had quite a few games in which he has behaved a big like a pansy and I think it has been on purpose in order to “guide” Drew into playing him more at the PF slot.

Sautee

December 13th, 2010
9:29 pm

vava,

about this: “Hibbert is not a physical player. He is heavy mostly because he his extremely long.”

May I remind you that you said “anyone else with a really big body”. You didn’t say anything about being physical. Hibbert does indeed have a really big body.

Don’t pull an Astro and try to change directions. What you SAID was “when he is faced with Howard, Shaq and, given Blair’s success, anyone else with a really big body, he craps his pants and wilts”.

I’ve shown you that your statement was incorrect. Hibbert has a big body and Horford, according to Hibbert’s coach, got physical with Hibbert and took him out of his game.

doc

December 13th, 2010
10:37 pm

but vava there was some entertainment value in it, mostly entertainment. again not sure why you retracted such a truth. it wasnt solid basketball as he never got better in the nba. it was entertaining that his peak event was stopping d wade on one play and showing such emotion. it was also very entertaining to see him racing around though with little focus like the energizer bunny.

it wasnt entertaining that we didnt pick up morrow as a tech grad instead of mario as they were both under nose and close by within one mile of the phillips. we could have had one of the best three shooters in the league for a sing and had the ability to keep him for a measly 4 mil a year. that and it was not entertaining that rick sund passed mario off as a viable contributor to becoming a better team down the stretch last year. that was an insult to most anyone that had any basketball intellect.

dont look now but the heat are well and bosh has found his stride and space.

doc

December 14th, 2010
12:18 am

oh dear, phils get cliff lee. that sucks big time. that is the heat in pants with stirrup socks.

vava74

December 14th, 2010
5:20 am

Sautee,

Ok. You are right. I did mention big body when I should have mentioned anyone big and wide who plays very physical.

doc,

I know that “entertaining” was also applicable to mario’s appearances but that type of entertainment ended up beying a bit sad.

Nonetheless, even with his lack of skill I think woody never used him correctly. There is some merit in giving minutes to hustle guys even when they lack other qualities to contribute since it amps up the intensity of play.

Furthermore, with such an ISO-heavy system like woody’s there would be little negative impact to have a player with no offense getting some minutes.

IMO 5 minutes per game to try and stop spurts by opponents would have been an acceptable recipe. 15 second shifts? Heck no, that was ridiculous.

vava74

December 14th, 2010
5:21 am

Ray,
Blog monster…

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
9:21 am

Sautee said “don’t pull an Astro”… so when you engage in “drive by shooting” another blogger who isn’t even in the conversation, should that be referred to as a “Sautee”? Or maybe when you offer little original content to the blog but sit back and wait to pick apart someone’s opinion, that should be called a “Sniper Sautee”.

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
9:25 am

doc, what, worried that a rotation of Holladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels might be able to shut down Nate McLouth and Alex Gonzales? No way. Barring several players have career years simultaneously (possible but unlikely), the Braves will be playing for a wild card spot until they find an owner who is willing to approach a $125M payroll.

doc

December 14th, 2010
11:06 am

vava, yes it did.

niremetal

December 14th, 2010
12:19 pm

So niremetal is back to shopping for a car (I didn’t have the dough for a down payment this summer). Anyone have a Corolla? Little Asian cars are pretty much the only things in my budget right now.

doc

December 14th, 2010
12:25 pm

got one in 1978 that lasted about fourteen years nire. does that help?

doc

December 14th, 2010
12:26 pm

guess they are better now, now that i ponder it a bit. :-)

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
12:33 pm

We have heard the team talk about the impact Josh Smith has when he plays with energy, focus, defensive intensity etc.

I think Damien Wilkins has a similar effect (on a smaller scale of course). When he is in the game, he brings energy, hustle and in your face defense.

I think guys are feeding off that.

nire,

My wife bought a Corolla 5 months ago, and she loves it. I’ve had a Honda Civic for years, and its awesome too.

AJ,

Freddie Freeman might be our secret weapon :smile:

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
1:13 pm

nire, no help here. My wife had a Corolla, but that was back in the early 90s. I’m still not convinced that Toyota has all of their issues worked out (didn’t they just recall a 2011 model yesterday), you may want to test drive a Honda or Nissan.

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
1:20 pm

OB, yeah, Freeman is likely going to be a good player but many other teams have GREAT players at one of the corner positions and we’ll have a decling good player (Chipper) and a rising good player in Freeman. Oh well. Maybe Wren will pull a Matt Kemp out of his hat in a week or 2.

Looking forward to a blowout tonight (have I mentioned lately that Dumars should be unemployed?). I didn’t realize until recently that the Boston game is on TNT. Unlike our last TNT game (Thanksgiving against the Wizards), I suspect that there will actually be some discussion in the studio about the Hawks game. It should be fun watching Shaq “tussle” with Collins. But Marvin chasing Ray Allen around those screens? Not ideal. Neither is Josh guarding Pierce.

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
1:21 pm

…declining good player…

Big Ray

December 14th, 2010
3:32 pm

Ray ,

No offense intended, I assure you….but have you seen Thabeet play? Now, I don’t know how true these rumors are, but I can tell you this – if a team is willing to trade off a guy they made a high lottery pick (he was grabbed at #3, if I recall correctly) just two years after they picked him….something is seriously wrong.

Either management has lost their minds, or they are pretty much willing to admit that the pick has turned out to be a mistake. The team sent Thabeet down to the D-League last season, which I thought was a wise move. Hasn’t done much for the guy. Truth is, he looks to be as dense as a bag of hammers and isn’t giving that team much of anything at all.

I can’t see trading a guy who actually produces in the League (Zaza) for a guy who looks more and more each day like he doesn’t even belong in the League. Now, would I trade Pape Sy for him? Of course. But even the Grizz aren’t that stupid.

Astro Joe ,

Truly scary thoughts. Perhaps a few more minutes for Mr. Wilkins, if he’s healthy?

Big Ray

December 14th, 2010
3:42 pm

Vava ,

I agree that Horford seems less committed to the banging against the best of the bigger opponents he faces. But the fact remains that when he was, he was less effective. Back when he started at center against Dwight, he produced several of those 6-8 rebound performances along with as many or slightly more points. He doesn’t match up well with Dwight. He also doesn’t match up well with Perkins or Shaq, but the Boston Celtics (and most especially their coach) have a lot more respect for his physicality than you do. Just look up the quotes.

Speaking of that Boston game, I felt that the whole team wilted against them. Singling out Al is not incorrect, but I also don’t think it tells the whole story by even a fraction. Am I making excuses for him? Nope. Just saying….notice how much more productive that he has been when adding more of his perimeter game. The guy is averaging a career high in points and looks to be even more deserving of an all-star nod than last season.

When he is faced with the second tier centers in the league, he dominates. Hibbert is one example. Javale McGee will not soon forget how quick Al can get to the hole and dunk on him. ESPN loved that one. So did I.

As for San Antonio….any great defense can take a good, very good, or even great player and make him look less than he is. Case in point, Boston has owned Lebron so many times. A team like San Antonio has some of the best coaching and schemes in the NBA, along with the players committed to executing those schemes. As a result, I’m not the least bit surprised that they kept him off his rhythm. Yet, he still managed a respectable double double.

Well, we can agree to disagree, as always. I do agree that Horford is leaning hard towards being a PF…which he always was in my mind. But I also saw him as a PF/C hybrid. Rarely do those types of guys work out well against the biggest and baddest centers in the league, though.

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
4:10 pm

Big Ray, Paul Pierce is the master of the pump fake and Josh has been vulnerable to that move in the past. That’s what has me concerned with that match-up. I haven’t paid much attention to Shaq’s minutes but I’m guessing that he isn’t playing more than 20 a game, which means that Josh and Marvin just have to “tread water” until they can move back up one slot where they have better match-ups against the Celtics. And yes, either Wilkins or Evans are clearly the best options on Ray-Ray.

vava74

December 14th, 2010
7:38 pm

Astro,

Stop worrying about Paul Pierce next Thursday.

Worry about tonight… I am wide awake! :-D

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:12 pm

yep, everyone is thinking about the BOS game…

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:20 pm

Al vs Ben (old but physical) = another bad start from Horford

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
8:31 pm

AJ,

Hawks are down 10. I assume thats not the blowout you had in mind.

Hawks are not showing any defensive intensity, and their ball movement is lacking.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
8:33 pm

vava,

Al has 7 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes. Go easy on him.

Josh is 1-5 from the field (although he is 8-10 in FT). Jamal is 1-4, Marvin is 0-2, ZaZa is 0-2.

It sounds like you’re singling out Horford…

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:45 pm

oh boy… is LD making an ass of himself tonight…

why defend Rip with Bibby, Crawford and then Teague?

because of Stuckey? for crying out loud, he creates two miss matches instead of one…

talk about a woody revival night!

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:47 pm

OB,

Al got his point and his rebounds without Big Ben on the floor.

He had to play against Wilcox and Villanueva to get his points and rebounds.

His shot is tight, he travelled, …

Josh is missing his shots but he is driving or posting and getting his FTs.

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:53 pm

but you are right, the problem is elsewhere.

LD has set up the team completely wrong for this game. Completely wrong.

Big Ray

December 14th, 2010
8:53 pm

Yuck. Pistons thoroughly outplaying the Hawks. Barring a second half surge, this one is curtains. We certainly see the difference between playing Detroit when they have Rip Hamilton vs. not having him. Missing Joe’s defense, too, not to mention his scoring. Crawford is NOT having a good night and the rook is not available.

Maybe we can count on Teague for some offensive spark? Okay, that was far-fetched…

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:56 pm

…or it’s the jinx!!!!

I am going to sleep and watch the rest of the game tomorrow… maybe we me sleeping the Hawks start to play ball.

Big Ray

December 14th, 2010
8:57 pm

Vava ,

Okay, have to concede that Al has played soft tonight. Very soft. At the same time, he’s very nearly the only Hawk rebounding worth a crap, at least in the starting lineup. Hawks outrebounded 24 to 14 in the first half.

LD may not have this team set up well defensively, but how well set up can we be with no Joe on the floor? Wilkins can defend, but he can’t guard two guys. Jamal is Jamal, while Bibby and Mo are getting called for fouls. What’s your solution?

vava74

December 14th, 2010
8:57 pm

Ray,

If Teague was on Stuckey, I would count on it, but LD put the kid on Rip, who has a 5 inch advantage coped with long arms and one of the quickest and purest releases in the league.

Not a good combo.

Big Ray

December 14th, 2010
8:59 pm

We need more rough-housing out of Al, more of the same from Josh (on offense, that is), and more from other guys. The bench isn’t scoring, and Marvin is doing his disappearing act (again). Mo gives us little tonight. I could easily pick out each guy who isn’t getting something done, but why play favorites when it’s obvious that our ball and personnel movement is both inconsistent, and ineffective?

Big Ray

December 14th, 2010
9:02 pm

Vava ,

Did LD put him on Rip, or did it just happen that way? I really had a hard time telling, but it seems to me like LD and the Hawks are failing to adjust while the Pistons have exploited us by making sure Rip was either on Bibby (2 early fouls) or Teague. Looks to me like Pistons imposing their will and Hawks going the other way….. again ….

Coach and team deserve the blame. On the other side of the court, Josh is the only one imposing his will while Horford gets his points from 15-18 feet out. It’s fine if he hits a bunch of those and it opens things up. It’s not if he begins missing and nobody else can get rolling, while we trade baskets.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:07 pm

Big Ray,

Bibby was on Rip from the start of the game, but I dont know if its LD’s plan, or the Pistons coach creating a mismatch.

I blame LD though, because like vava said, Teague and Crawford have been on Rip.

I dont know whats up with these Hawks though. At least they are making a run, lead down to 6, and we have the ball

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:08 pm

Great ball movement by the Hawks. Good finish by Josh, and then good 3 by Marvin next time down.

That is what was missing in the first half. Could it be that LD makes adjustments at half time? Something we didnt see much of from Woody…

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
9:09 pm

OB, we’ll have a comfortable lead by the 5 minute mark of the 4th quarter… Teague may even get some PT.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:12 pm

Why cant these Hawks set screens?

It seems to me that they are called for an illegal screen every game.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:16 pm

Ben Wallace is playing some good D against Horford. And I remember when Kurt Thomas played well against him in the playoffs last year.

Al needs to toughen up though.

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
9:25 pm

Josh will get a tech tonight.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:33 pm

AJ,

Hawks are not getting any calls.

And why hasnt LD played Collins tonight?

As for Marvin, we need him to knock down those shots more consistently.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:37 pm

Hawks are getting nothing from Marvin, Jamal or Damien tonight.

Astro Joe

December 14th, 2010
9:42 pm

I thought the motion offense was supposed to cure these droughts.

O'Brien

December 14th, 2010
9:47 pm

6 turnovers in the fourth quarter for the Hawks. That is becoming a problem.

AJ,

If hawks are going to get a lead, they better hurry up. Time is running out