New York – Joe Smith. Drew Gooden. Luther Head.
With all these players suddenly showing up on the waiver wire, someone emailed today asking where the Hawks were in their pursuit of one of these soon to be (they have to clear waivers first) free agents.
Maybe someone lost the memo, but it’s the same situation as before the trade deadline last month, the Hawks are simply not in a position to make any moves.
They already have 15 men on the roster and under contract, so there aren’t any moves to be made. The team that took the floor against Cleveland Sunday night and then again last night in Washington will be the same one that hits the floor come playoff time.
Whether or not that’s good enough to get through a first round playoff series against the likes of Miami, Detroit or Philadelphia remains to be seen. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be, especially if those teams are set roster-wise, as well. But no one can be sure right now.
That means the Hawks (Hawks coach Mike Woodson to be exact) have to find some ways to tinker and tweak what they already have to give this team a boost. It certainly helps when they can fend off teams like Washington with a shift in production like they had Monday, when Marvin Williams assumed the alpha-dog role normally played by Joe Johnson.
But what about when the big dogs come calling, as will be the case in later this month? Solid playoff teams and playoff contenders won’t be as easily vanquished as the lowly Wizards were at Verizon Center.
Over the course of the next six weeks it would be nice to see Al Horford, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Flip Murray and even Mo Evans or Zaza Pachulia try that costume on for a night or two. Anything to throw off the masses before the playoffs, when a team’s every flaw is magnified a million times under the spotlight of the postseason crush.
The more the Hawks spread the wealth the better. And is it me or does Johnson always seem more effective when someone else cranks it up and he can sneak up on a team and smash them with big shots late (as he did to the Wizards)?
There are just too many defenses designed to stop him these days. The two- and three-man pressure sets like Denver used last week are going to be the norm between now and April 15. The Hawks’ best recourse is to spread the responsibility around and allow Williams and others to assume more of a scoring load or at least run the offense through someone other than Johnson for stretches.
The best move the Hawks can make at this point is to stretch that roster out (I know teams normally shorten the rotation this time of year, but the opposite could work in this case) and throw a few trick plays at teams scouting them.
Because up to this point they’ve been an open book. Teams know it’s Joe Johnson left, Joe Johnson right and Joe Johnson up the middle on nearly every play. An advance scout for a team the Hawks could meet in the playoffs told me as much before Sunday night’s game against Cleveland.
“They’re like one of those three yards and a cloud of dust football teams,” my scout friend said. “Clear out this side and clear out that side and we’re going to run that sucker right up the middle and dare the other team to stop us. That’s the way they play offense under Woody. When it works, you can’t do anything to stop them. But when it doesn’t, they have a hard time. And in the playoffs, teams are going to do whatever they can to take away your main stuff and try and force you into your alternative options. Right now, I really can’t tell you what those other options are. When they’re at home they feed off their crowd and they run more, they share the ball more and they play more up-tempo. But on the road, it’s not as easy. And correct me if I’m wrong, they beat Boston all three games at home during that series last year but couldn’t find their footing on the road, right?”
That’s exactly right.
So it turns out that the Hawks do have a few moves to make. Just not the kind that seem so sexy right now with all the talk about contenders adding players for the playoff push.