Mavericks at Hawks, AKA Lineups, Perspective and My Big Z Delusions

Brendan Haywood and the new-look Mavs are here. (JOHN F. RHODES/DMN)

Brendan Haywood and the new-look Mavs are here. (JOHN F. RHODES/DMN)

I’m going to refrain from talking about how the Hawks can make some kind of statement about being an elite team against the Mavs. I do this mostly because I usually don’t like building up regular-season NBA games too much but also because I’m written out and need to hand off to the Hawks blogosphere. There’s good stuff out there on lineups, perspective, J.J.’s future and my delusions about Big Z.

– Both Hawk Str8talk (get well soon) and Peachtree Hoops are trying to figure out the best personnel combinations for the Hawks.

atl_hawk_luv says put Teague in the starting lineup not just because of the rookie’s speed and defense but because Bibby would help the bench and J.J. could see a “glimpse of his future with the Hawks” alongside Teague. He wants Mo instead of Marvin, too. Whichever lineup you favor, he’s clearly hit on the two weak spots among the starters.

hawksdawgs is “no longer clamoring for bench usage like (he) once was” after seeing the reserves out there as a unit and realizing the Hawks “just don’t have great depth.” But he thinks they have some “decent pieces” on the bench and so asks: “The bigger question going forward is not whether Mike Woodson should use at least an eight man bench. He should. . . . No, the bigger question is how to combine the bench pieces with the starters. What are the best lineups to maximize the skills and minimize the weaknesses?”

Well said. Woody’s struggling with that issue right now.

– Hawks superfan, ATLien and Slam Mag hack Lang Whitaker answers reader email and calls for some perspective. Responding to a reader upset about that mess in Golden State, Lang says he understands the emotional swings: “Perspective and patience aren’t exactly the hallmarks of rabid fans, who are, after all, fanatics. I know that this is a frequent theme I keep hitting on here over and over, but it can’t be stressed enough: The NBA season is a marathon. You lose a game, you have to put it behind you and start fresh.”

Lang also touches on J.J.’s future plans and says something that I need to remember as I keep seeing all these various reports about J.J. favoring this city or that city while I hear nothing like that from people who would know: “The truth is, I don’t think anyone, including Joe, knows what’s going to happen this summer. And anyone who tells you they do know what’s going to happen is lying to you.”

– Over at Hoopinion, Bret Lagree skewers one of my Ilgauskas posts. Lagree dismisses Ilgauskas’ size and experience as irrelevant because he thinks he’s just not very good or useful to the Hawks and also says he’s no longer much of a shooter. (In my defense, I did write way back when: “He once was an offensive threat in the post but has become more of a jumpshooter late in his career. Ilgauskas has slipped to 38 percent shooting on jumpers this season, according to 82games.com.)

Lagree concludes: “I think it’s even more delusional to believe that Ilgauskas would help the Hawks than that he would sign with the Hawks.” Well, then call me delusional because I disagree with him on the former (but have never believed the latter). Even so, I like Lagree’s style (and substance). Keep on skewering.

– After talking to Jamal, I don’t think the shoulder is much of an issue. I think he’s just slumping. He says not to worry, he’ll be fine.

– The Mavericks are quite pleased with that trade. Well, Tim Cowlishaw is at least.

– Caron Butler may not play tonight. If he does play he won’t be chewing on straws and isn’t happy about it. (I used to chew on straws but grew out of the habit.)

– Remember, the game is at 7 tonight after ESPN moved it up.

– Talk amongst yourselves, Hawks fans.

MC

442 comments Add your comment

THHB

February 26th, 2010
2:51 pm

Michael, one area you miss again on Z is the defensive angle. With the Hawks in a constant switch defense, how you even imagine Z defending even as good as Zaza or Joe Smith, much less Horford.There is no help enough for that scenario and, much like Bibby, his lack of defense in our “scheme” would be often too much for his meager offensive contributions to overcome.

Wabe

February 26th, 2010
3:03 pm

Good blog. Lineups/rotations have been a hot topic on this blog for quite some time, but I don’t think our discussions are indicative of how Woody will continue to floor the same lineups/rotations for the remainder of the season. I honestly don’t see Woody as a guy who will experiment with what he’s had going for most of the season.

I’d honestly like to see JT0 get some starters minutes. Between JT0/Bibby, there’s limitted ability. I think what’s obvious at this point is that unless Bibby’s making his shots, he’s really useless. So, instead of trotting him out there night in and night out with the starters, have him come off the bench. I do think that would help bolster the benchplay, knowing we still have a sharp-shooter that can come in with the 2nd unit and make buckets.

I think Woody should try to experiment with Mo/Marvin as well. Marvin is clearly struggling to grasp his role on this team, so bring him off the bench. Lets see what happens if we bring him off the bench.

I think it’s obvious Woody’s struggling to mix/match his bench guys with the starters. Instead of sprinkling the bench guys in with the starters, Woody often rotates 5 for 5, which gets us out of the flow of the game. It’s also hard to score buckets when you field a lineup with 4 “defensive guys” playing alongside Crawford, expecting him to go 1 on 5 on the offensive end of the floor really stagnates our attack. I think bringing Bibby/Marvin off the bench would give us some more offensive firepower on the bench, and it would give JT0 a chance to run with the starters to see what he can do. Regardless of what it is, I do think Woody needs to experiment with something – whether it be scheme or rotation – to find a way to shake things up and spark this team again. Do I think it’s gonna happen though? Nope.

The Truth

February 26th, 2010
3:09 pm

Confucius told me the Dallas game will be near sell-out capacity.

ntrigue

February 26th, 2010
3:15 pm

I will be right behind Hawks bench helping Woody with his line up substitutions and time outs!!!!

allan in texas

February 26th, 2010
3:16 pm

I would love to see Big Z play for the hawks but all things being equal I just do not see it happening. Put yourself in his shoes; This team drafted you,you met your wife in this town,they are the only team that you have ever played for,and they have assembled the best team he has seen since he got there.All that being said, I ‘m hpoing the hawks land him.

allan in texas

February 26th, 2010
3:17 pm

Sorry about the typing error!

Michael Cunningham

February 26th, 2010
3:18 pm

@THHB: because listening to Woody talk so enthusiastically about Z, i think he will adjust his “scheme” (nice) to account for his weaknesses (woulda been a good question for you to ask Woody!). last time at Orlando we saw that he tried to let Collins take Howard straight up. it didn’t work, but he tried. would Z have more luck straight up against Shaq Dwight, et al? that’s what the Hawks hope, just like they hope he would make shots for them. of course it’s all moot because Z’s not coming and we shouldn’t even be talking about it.

Traceman

February 26th, 2010
3:27 pm

@ THHB,

No doubt the Hawks would have to make some adjustments defensively if they were to acquire Big Z and he were in the game. It would be a joke watching him try to stay in front of Rondo or another quick PG on the perimeter.

That said, I think his size alone would have a significant impact on our bench on both ends of the floor. He can still block a few shots and even if his shooting is not quite as good as it was, you still can’t leave him.

Z is only a 15-20 mpg guy at this stage of his career but I really think he would help in certain situatons.

THHB

February 26th, 2010
3:29 pm

Michael, that’s definitely the use case for Z in a Hawks uni–a souped up Jason Collins. I didn’t ask Woody because I thought/think it’s all a ruse–Z has played the most games in Cavs history, so he must like it there—they are contenders (perhaps that’s an understatement)–and they want him back. So he goes to CLE. All the rest is fronting to stave off the NBA. I can’t ask all the questions, Michael! :-)

THHB

February 26th, 2010
3:39 pm

Trace! Don’t get me wrong, I would take him for free, of course—I just don’t believe there is a strong use case for him beyond the niche situation mentioned by Michael and in other non-defensive critical situations, therefore I have also been skeptical of Z being any kind of magic elixir for the team.

Michael Cunningham

February 26th, 2010
3:40 pm

@THHB: haha. . . wait a minute . . . you didn’t ask the question to Woody (the man with the answer that matters) because it’s all a ruse, but then you come on here and hammer me (some hack with no answers) about my take on this ruse? well, shoot, Woody got off easy then!

@Trace: agree with your take on this ruse.

Traceman

February 26th, 2010
3:42 pm

Truth,

It will likely be a near sell out but how many of those fans will be cheering for the Hawks? You would think that if there are any Hawks fans in this town, they will be in the house cheering like crazy for the home team. I’m not holding my breath.

Traceman

February 26th, 2010
3:45 pm

@THHB,

I hear ya man. He is certainly not going to be able to guard D Howard man to man for more than a few possessions at a time but I think (maybe HOPE is a better word at this stage of his career) that he could make enough shots to make Dwight at least THINK about leaving the paint on occasion.

O'Brien

February 26th, 2010
3:45 pm

MC,

I think Woody should start Teague some games depending on matchups (especially against the fast PGs). This is similar to what he used to do when Royal Ivey was here. Ivey would start each game, but still only averaged 10-15 minutes per game.

I also like the idea of Mo starting at SG, JJ at the 3, and bring Marvin off the bench. The main concern about that is JJ would be forced to defend the other team’s SF from the start, and he would lose his size advantage.

But if Teague is in the game, JJ would not have to guard the opposing PGs as often (although Teague commits some silly fouls and needs to continue working on his defense).

But in the meantime, a bench with Crawford, Marvin and Bibby should be allow JJ to get a few extra minutes of rest, and our bench play should improve tremendously.

But I don’t see Woody changing this starting lineup, unless there is injury. But at the very least, he needs to do a better job of mixing and matching starters with bench players, as has been previously pointed out. And he does not have that many games left to figure it out.

I was looking forward to seeing what Marvin would do(defensively) later, but if there is no Caron Butler, that would be good news for the Hawks. But I’m curious to see how we handle Haywood.

THHB

February 26th, 2010
3:49 pm

LOL–Michael, I didn’t want to waste Woody’s time on the matter. Your time and mine? Totally fair game!

Grandad

February 26th, 2010
3:50 pm

THHB:

To expand on MC’s answer; a team can play a one man zone. In this scenario said player must be a [Big]. He would act as a goaltender.
For obvious reasons, a team could not do this with Bibby.

hoopinion

February 26th, 2010
3:56 pm

Michael —

There’s no surer sign of wisdom than a willingness to fade my predictions. Z probably goes for 30 in a playoff game if he signs here.

Grandad

February 26th, 2010
3:57 pm

I type slowly and missed a great deal of exchange before I entered my post. I think it still applies.
THHP – You got a burr under your saddle today?

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
3:59 pm

We’re a game in the lost column behind Orlando (Sund says to focus on the lost column and he’s been around the league since Naismith was choosing between a peach and apple basket to hang), so why are we comtemplating changing the starting line-up? It seems unlikely that Woody will be able to figure out the right line-ups with Jamal shooting 33% (or whatever it is in the past few games). Or said differently, Jamal at 33% offers very little contribution to any 5-man line-up other than being a decoy for opponents who don’t realize that he is shooting like Evans did for the majority of the season.

Grandad

February 26th, 2010
3:59 pm

‘THHB’ – My apologies I told you I couldn’t type worth a darn.

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
4:01 pm

OB, is Rondo considered a “fast PG”? Who did he do against the Hawks vs. the rest of the NBA this season? And I mean him personally, not his team. Did he put up better stats against us vs. his season average? Rondo, the All-Star lightening quick PG… did he destroy us over the 4 games?

T.C

February 26th, 2010
4:05 pm

Who cares having Z starting at center would make josh and horford more dangerous defending shots(can you say block party)just because of Z’s 7′3 frame.Horford would go back to his natural position and that would mean more points and less fouls.If i was the hawks front office i would show him that they mean buisness putting a two or three year offer on the table.

Wabe

February 26th, 2010
4:14 pm

Astro, I hear what you’re saying. I’m not trying to suggest making drastic changes that will jeapordize our chances of winning, but rather try to better ourselves and our chances of winning consistently.

I understand we’re a loss behind Orlando, but we haven’t beat Orlando. And personally, I’m looking at that issue to be of greater concern than what seed we end up with. Seeding honestly shouldn’t be such a big deal if we could matchup with anybody in the East – which should be our goal if we want to win a championship. It’s obvious this team has flaws, so if there’s something that can be done to cover up those flaws, then why not pursue it? I honestly don’t like settling for the status quo, because I don’t see us getting as far as I’d like to see this team get with things as they are. If a shift in rotation/scheme betters our chances to get where we want to, why not pursue it?

Ree Roe

February 26th, 2010
4:15 pm

@ MC, I agree with you. That guy Bret Lagree is insane if he doesn’t think a 7′3 guy who has playoff experience, can shoot & block shots wouldn’t benefit this team. That’s amazing that a blogger for the Hawks doesn’t think Z would benefit this team.

As for our subs, I’m fine with everything. Yea Marvin has struggled & Bibbridge (Bibby) has regressed, but for all our whining & complaining, we’re the 3 seed & only 2 games behind ORL. I don’t think changing everything will get us the results we all desire. Stay the course Hawks…tinker with mins & lineups on a game by game basis, but Marvin to the bench & Teague getting starter mins on a regular basis are overreactions IMO.

Great blog as usual…I think what I like most about this blog is that it’s thought provoking & allows us to draw our own conclusions. Keep up the good work.

P.S. Any other big men who we might pursue, MC?

-REEcognize the Roe!!!

BrittishAnger

February 26th, 2010
4:17 pm

START TEAGUE! With Bibby reaching a peak in terms of output, he needs to focus on mentoring young Jeff in terms of ball movement and running the floor like the General he will be and should become with the playing time. I figured Bibby would have one more year as floor general before taking over sixth man for Jamal next year, but it may already be time to let Mike ride the bench a bit more often, especially in games where his impact isn’t felt. I understand why the Spirit Group signed him to the deal they did, to act as Teague’s mentor and train him in a way Woody will never be able to; they did the same with Mario West in terms of Teague’s defensive education, but you have to be willing to make some accolades towards your growing parts, and this is the time of year to do it. This is the time for experimentation, and it is obvious that while riding the bench at the end of a 30 point blow out was an okay option early on, it is evident that won’t work for the rest of the year.

In terms of the bench rotation, there isn’t too much to worry about in that regards, we had one really bad Jamal night against Minnesota that given his usual allotment of points wouldn’t have been troublesome at all, and everything else comes down to Woodrow’s inability to trust the depth of his bench when it matters and when it doesn’t; up to now it’s been when it hasn’t (30 point blow-outs one way or the other), but when the games are on the line and there are possible mismatches to address on either side of the floor, Woody hangs his head and wonders why our team couldn’t handle its own in 7 players like his Championship Detroit team was able to. Put Jason Collins on the inactive list, let Randolph Morris start playing sparse minutes again (since he actually produces this year), and quit believing they Ilgauskas hype…whatever the hype may be…

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
4:20 pm

Wabe, we obviously need to figure out how to compete with the Magic (scoring over 90 points would be a good start). But I think that changing the starters that have been together for about 160 games to address concerns with the Magic and Cavs just seems like shooting off your foot. I think Woody is doing the right thing by tinkering with in-game line-ups associated with the bench. He has long since shown his willingness to end the game with whomever he feels will help him deliver the win (often NOT the 5 starters).

Wabe

February 26th, 2010
4:25 pm

“…but you have to be willing to make some accolades towards your growing parts, and this is the time of year to do it. This is the time for experimentation, and it is obvious that while riding the bench at the end of a 30 point blow out was an okay option early on, it is evident that won’t work for the rest of the year.”

Bingo. I feel the same way you do about our rotation/lineup. I think that our goal should be to put ourselves in the best position to succeed in the offseason. It’s obvious seeding WILL BE important to this team, so I can understand the tension about roational changes affecting our ability to win. But, if there was ever a time to experiment, I’d assume it’s now.

Wabe

February 26th, 2010
4:26 pm

Point taken Astro.

Wabe

February 26th, 2010
4:26 pm

succeed in the playoffs*

O'Brien

February 26th, 2010
4:31 pm

AJ, Wabe

I’m just skeptical that the same things we complan about now (ie Bibby’s defensive liability, Marvin’s disappearing act, lack of results from our bench) are the same things we will be complaining about in the playoffs.

By experimenting now, that might give Woody something to think about. And it might light a fire under Marvin (there should not be anything wrong with his confidence), and it should help Teague’s confidence and hopefully lead to better results.

It might seem drastic that the #3 seed in the East is changing its lineup, but what will matter the most is the end result. I will say that Woody has seemed more flexible of late when it comes to sprinkling his bench players with starters, so hopefully he will continue to improve.

And although he may not finish the game with the 5 starters, the most common change is usually Crawford instead of Marvin (2 years ago, it used to be Chills instead of Marvin, and last year it was Flip instead of Marvin).

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
4:38 pm

O’Brien

2 schools of thought, fight hard to get the seed regardless of preparation in the playoffs or like you said, prepare while you have a chance. I think home court is important to some extent, but player development at this stage is more critical.

Nobody is saying lose the game with scrubs on the court. Mix them in during the regular flow to build their confidence and experience level. Randmo and Teague are key here. Collins needs burn to get into game shape and to return to form in terms of the speed of the game.

If 1-2 go down with injury we’ll see the fate of no development. Another embarassment in the playoffs. Only this time Woodson will lose his job, and we’ll never see where he could’ve gone with a healthy team and well developed bench.

Catch 22 of sorts.

Ken Strickland

February 26th, 2010
4:40 pm

MCUNNINGHAM-I would love to see Woody try a different approach against Orlando. Instead of committing all of his resources trying to attack or stop their strength, C DHoward, he should try to attack their weaknesses by creating matchup disadvantages for them. Against Orlando, he should bench Marvin, move Smooth to SF and match him up against MBarnes, and play RMorris at PF and match him up against RLewis.

The advantage of size and inside scoring ability RMorris and Smoove would present against their forwards, along with C AHorford, would certainly keep DHoward busy. Starting Teague instead of Bibby, to go against JNelson, would give us a much better advantage as well, especially on DEF.

Considering how completely none competitive we’ve been so far this yr against Orlando, what do we have to lose by trying it?

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
4:43 pm

Ken

Called for that kind of rotation a thousand times. Good luck with a new result. I offered the same idea with Randolph in the post and Al at the PF to give Smith and Horford the edge. They could also help easily on double teams while Randmo, ZaZa and Collins held the middle with fouls and solid play.

dap01

February 26th, 2010
4:48 pm

We have done so well against Orlando this year, that I would hate to have Woody try something else. Sigh!

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
4:51 pm

Once Jameer is full speed how do we honestly expect Mike to stay in front of him? You’ve gotta give Teague or Mario a try.

Traceman

February 26th, 2010
4:52 pm

O’Brien,

In my opinion, it would seem a little drastic for a team that is currently on pace to win 53 games to change it’s lineup at the end of February. If Woody was going to consider a lineup change (I STILL don’t think the lineup is the issue), he should have done that before Christmas.

I think doing it now has the potential to create a distraction that this team just doesn’t need. That is particularly true in the case of a young team like the Hawks. In my opinion, the risk of losing a few key games that we otherwise might not lose is just too great.

I have no problem with Woody tinkering with different combinations on the floor but I think there is a HUGE risk in sending Bibby or Marvin to the bench.

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
4:54 pm

RandMo chasing Rashard Lewis?

I think that it is great that a lot of you think so highly of this roster that with the right combination of players and strategy, that you seem to think that this roster could defect the Cavs or Magic in a 7-game series (let’s call it deck chair decorating on the SS Hawks). I have my half-full moments, but I can’t even go there. So I’ll enjoy the success that we will enjoy this season and will wait for the ASG to make the next big move toward the next step.

Traceman

February 26th, 2010
5:07 pm

Man you guys are hilarious with the RandMo love. Are you serious? RandMo? You think Rand Mo has ANY shot against Howard? Just because RandMo has made a few nice moves against the scrubs of the NBA in the 4th quarter when it doesn’t matter doesn’t mean he is ready for meaningful minutes in the NBA. You guys have seen Zaza lately. If Woody thought RandMo could provide ANYTHING, don’t you think he would get in the game on occasion?

Obviously, you guys all missed the game where RandMo DID get in against the Magic and Howard promptly posted him up, gave him the drop step and almost dunked him into the basket with the ball. RandoMo is too slow and too soft to be effective against Howard. BEST CASE for RandMo is that he becomes a serviceable, situational big man but unless he gets a LOT tougher, that situation will NEVER include defending Dwight Howard.

In addition, the Magic kill us because we can’t guard Howard so inevitably, we double him which leaves a 3 pt shooter open on the perimeter. Placing Smoove at SF is not going to prevent that from happening. In fact, it will facilitate that happening. Smoove needs to be near the basket versus the Magic on both ends, aggressively going to the basket on offense and providing help D on the other end.

THHB

February 26th, 2010
5:07 pm

Grandad, (sorry, had to go pick up the kids) Ha, no burr, just good-natured discussion on the (non)topic. Just getting in the mix—great comments today about Hawks basketball–who can be rankled about that?!

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
5:07 pm

Astro

Nobody has quite put it that way buddy. You’re content to watch the SS Hawks sink this year in hopes of a better next year. There might not be a next year!

We’re looking for anything that might give a slight opportunity against the Magic using what we have. Nobody has declared it a full roster change or anything of the sort. Just to test the combination sometime agaist a team with a dominant center. MN would’ve been a good outlet to experiment with going big to win the boards against a team with 2 decent bigs. Why not try it to see?

If it doesn’t work we can go with our 7 man rotation that hasn’t proven the confidence to stay within 20 of Orlando. Either way change is needed against them.

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
5:09 pm

Traceman & Astro

Give us your MAGIC solution then? Got one?

THHB

February 26th, 2010
5:09 pm

Trace, agree, agree, agree….there have been instances of Randolph getting run before scrub-time and the results made it obvious that his usual time is where (for now) he is best left to play. The post moves he uses against the other team’s bench aren’t as effective in that time and the defense left wanting.

You left out the part when Howard was laughing at Randy after that particular usage.

Truth-Serum

February 26th, 2010
5:09 pm

T.C

I couldnt agree more. It really doesnt take a lot of thought to see that is the best position for the hawks.

Dezz Nuttz

February 26th, 2010
5:13 pm

Horford is among the bottom feeder when it comes to defense. Hes allergic to it.

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
5:14 pm

Is it my fault that Sund gives me ZaZa, Collins and Randmo to work with other than Horford? Even Big Z won’t fix the MAGIC problem.

Still no solution, only more comments on why Randmo won’t work.

Fundamentals

February 26th, 2010
5:17 pm

How can every coach in the league say that Horford is the hardest working PF/C they’ve seen in quite a while that they’d love to have on their team and you come up with that crap while talking to yourself?

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
5:22 pm

Fundamentals, rebounding and fast-break basketball. Many are focused on defending Howard regarding the Magic but we have yet to score 90 points against them. Two of the losses came after we beat the Celtics. Right, wrong or indifferent, the Hawks get emotionally super-high when they play the Celtics and I think that they would struggle against any decent team the night after a Boston game. I think we have to eventually figure out a way to defend their shooters, rebound the missed jumpers and push the tempo. If Howard scores 70, then fine. The only thing is that the Hawks offense is always at it’s best when Horford is scoring 18+, so we just need to figure out how to keep him on the floor, even if Howard scores 70.

But when the Hawks play a team with more than $10M in roster expense and considerably more playoff experience in a 7-game series, I don’t expect any miracles. We may have a really big and powerful machete but when we enter the 2nd round of the playoffs, we won’t be in a knife fight anymore. The good news is that the Celtics have an American Revolution type rifle… so we should be able to chop them up while they load the gun powder. But those other guys… they have an Agent Zero/Delonte West type arsenal.

richbrave

February 26th, 2010
5:46 pm

So what’s ATLANTA’s take on J-CRIT’s apology on the radio show? That comment about the injury not being right is really alarming.

bigdave

February 26th, 2010
6:01 pm

Randolph on Rashard Lewis…? Rashard would drop 50.

The Truth

February 26th, 2010
6:02 pm

With our likely playoff positioning 3-5, the road to the eastern final goes through Cleveland or Orlando. Boston becomes irrelevant to us in this scenario.