L.D., coach of Team Disarray, thinks one way for the Hawks to tighten up offensively is to let them loose. Because, really, if half court execution takes discipline, precision, and patience then doesn’t getting out and running require abandon, aggressiveness and instinct?
“We’ve got to get back to running,” Drew said today. “We’ve been walking the ball too much. We haven’t been sprinting the lanes. We haven’t been seeking the easy transition points and what that has done is put more pressure on our half court set.”
Said Jamal: “We just have to get back to having fun and being loose. When we do that and can get out and run, we are at our best.”
Added Josh: “We’ve just got to get stops, get deflections, get rebounds and run. And not have to worry about our half court sets.”
In some respects, there is merit to that view.
The Hawks have slipped to 18th in offensive efficiency. All of the teams ranked ahead of them play at a faster pace (and only the Lakers, Blazers, Bulls and Rockets do so by virtue of a superlative offensive rebounding rate).
Also, the Hawks have the horses to run and they are pretty good at it (in spite of themselves).
According to Synergy Sports Technology, the Hawks rank 11th in transition scoring with an average of 1.17 points on 727 possessions. But, and here’s the rub with L.D.’s plan to get out and run, the Hawks have turned it over 14 percent on those plays–the only Synergy play type in which they have a higher turnover rate is pick-and-roll ball handler (14.3 percent) and no other play type is higher than 9.3 percent.
So it seems the Hawks have the ability to run but aren’t better at it because they get a little too loose on the break.
“We have the luxury of having five guys that can get the ball off the board and bring it out on the dribble,” L.D. said. “I said it before and I said it again: that is where we are most effective. When Al and Josh Smith are playing with that type energy it makes us more effective. Yeah, we take a chance on coming down and them making the wrong decision. But I trust in them.”
At this point L.D. laughed a bit before continuing: “Josh has to work on it a little bit more. I was talking to him this morning. Against the Lakers [last game] he tried two lob passes that had no chance of being executed. No chance. He and I kind of chuckled about it this morning. It’s just those type plays. We have to stay in the attack mode but we have to be more selective.”
The numbers confirm what Drew said (and what you think): In 167 transition possessions, Smoove has turned it over 24 percent of the time while averaging 1.14 points. The numbers for the other regulars:
Al: 16.7 percent turnovers, 1.38 points (ranked 27th in the league) on 48 possessions.
Joe: 15 percent turnovers, 1.1 points on 107 possessions.
Marvin: 5.2 percent turnovers, 1.26 points on 78 possessions.
Jamal: 13.2 percent turnovers, 1.16 points on 115 possessions.
Teague: 11.9 percent turnovers, 1.08 points on 59 possessions.
Those numbers suggest that if the Hawks are going to run, it’s probably best for Al, Marvin (who also gets to the free-throw line much more often on the break than his teammates) and perhaps Teague to get more involved. Josh clearly is an asset on the run but probably should be encouraged to fill the lanes and go hard to the rim instead of making decisions with the ball.
Even if the Hawks figure out how to run more efficiently, they eventually are going to have to execute in the half court for long stretches of the game. The promise of the motion offense seems to be a fading memory. Remember when L.D. used to say over and over that movement would be no problem since the sets force the ball and players to move?
So why the stagnation late in games, with the Hawks showing no clear purpose or plan of attack? Too much iso? Are guys cutting off the sets L.D. calls? Are they not bring patient enough? Said L.D.:
“A combination of a lot of things. We’ve kind of fell back into that standstill, watching each other play. I think more than anything we have just gone back into playing half court basketball instead of seeking the fast break opportunity and still seeking the easy baskets. We don’t want to play out of a half court game if we are able to rebound and run. We don’t want to fall into being seduced into playing slower. Even in the fourth quarter, we have to use our speed and athleticism to get out and run, to get out and get easy baskets and get out and attack the rim.
“And another thing is we’ve been settling for jump shots. Teams that double team Joe or come down on Al and force Smoove into being a passer, we space it well. But even when that ball comes out we can’t settle for jump shots. You’ve got people running at you, you’ve got to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket or put the ball on the floor and force the defense to collapse and then make the extra pass. As of late we have just been swinging it and sitting on the 3 and then launching the 3. You just can’t play like that, particularly when the 3-ball hasn’t been falling. And it hasn’t been falling.”
Maybe we all (or maybe it’s just me) should have seen this coming sooner. The Hawks have always settled for jump shots. Only the Wizards and Heat attempt more 16 to 23 footers per game. When the Hawks were moving the ball, there wasn’t much of a fuss (even now only Utah, Houston, Boston and Charlotte make a higher percentage of long jumpers by virtue of assists). With so many capable scorers, the thought (or maybe it was just my thought) was the Hawks would usually be able to find the guys who were hitting if they kept sharing the ball.
Now the stakes are higher, the competition is better and the Hawks aren’t making those shots. They don’t seem to have a Plan B and so they just keep taking and missing jump shots.
“It’s nothing new, [but] now it seems like we are falling into doing it more,” Drew said. “Sometimes when you get 60-plus games into the season, you do take the path of least resistance. And in this case, the path of least resistance is to just sit out there and let them fly.
“Our staff, we have brought awareness to the guys. We show them on tape: ‘You did this when you could have drove it and made the pass.’ It’s going to always be there. Guys are not going to make the right play all the time. What we don’t want is for them to fall into a pattern of solely spacing the floor out and solely looking for the 3-pointer.”
Better to run than do that.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat