Expanding on this theme . . .
J.J. says he’s pretty much in the same boat as Jamal.
“It’s been different for both of us, honestly,” he said. “Just being that creator, that playmaker [and] that scorer. L.D. has pretty much put in his system how he wants implemented and run and we have to play in that system. It’s just part of it. We haven’t played one-on-one basketball or a lot of isolation like we’ve done in the past. So that’s definitely took away a little bit but for the most part we have had to adjust.”
Does he think there needs to be some adjustments to the offense for the postseason?
“I am not sure,” Joe said. “We will have to see. We went through the whole season like this. Maybe so, maybe not. Whatever the system is we have to come out and be professionals and play through it.”
How about it, Jamal?
“[He and Joe] have taken a step back offensively, hopefully for the betterment of the team,” he said. “But we will see. I think we will continue to need our scoring, especially in the playoffs. Things slow down and you have to be able to create one-on-one.”
The playoffs are going to be the final referendum on L.D.’s offensive approach. The ballots are already in for the regular season: The Hawks are significantly less efficient this season than last season.
But remember, the idea is that Drew’s philosophy will work better in the postseason because the Hawks will be less predictable to scout and defend in a series. More ball movement, less standing around watching J.J. force shots against swarming D. Drew wanted the Hawks to share the ball and they have, improving their assist ratio from seventh in the league to fourth.
Drew said “one of the toughest things for a player is to break old habits” but “when you talk about a style that you want to play, you try to implement it and get every guy sold on it and every guy buys in on it.”
“I think every guy recognizes the fact that when we move the basketball we are a better ball club,” he said. “When you look at our assist total, we have done a good job moving the basketball. Its’ not been a situation where we have isolated the whole year. We fall back into that style sometimes but I don’t think it’s to the point where it completely hampers us. We have good one-on-one ball players.”
So the Hawks seem to have mostly altered their style, and here is where I must note how elated my blog people were to hear Drew say last summer he wanted to get away from Iso-Joe. But looking at the Hawks now, what end does it serve if all the passing leads to inefficient long 2-point jump shots? The Hawks attempt less shots at the rim than any team while attempting more shots per game from 16 to 23 feet than any team except the Wizards.
Only the Mavs make the long 2 at a better clip than the Hawks. They are aided by a high-usage, high-efficiency MVP-caliber talent who has few peers when it comes to making that shot. But if the Mavs aren’t making long 2s they have a good Plan B (more than three additional 3-point attempts per game than the Hawks with an effective field-goal percentage of 55–ranked fifth–with 91 percent of those 3s assisted) and Plan C (two more attempts per game from 10 to 15 feet at 42 percent, ranked fifth). They also have a halfway decent Plan D (20th in free-throw rate compared to 29th for the Hawks).
The Hawks continue to live or die by the long 2-point shot. Their guards like to take them, their big men have moved their games farther away from the basket and none of their highest-usage players get to the line often. The shot location distribution is out of whack and so their expected field-goal percentage is in the dumps.
Josh’s has taken more jump shots with L.D.’s (qualified) blessing. He’s more efficient scoring around the basket this season than last but the impact has been blunted because he’s set to finish the season with 200 less shot attempts at the rim and 200 more from beyond 16 feet. Smoove has taken a lot of flak for this development but the way he’s being used in L.D.’s “interchangeable parts” offense also seems to be a significant factor.
Al’s game also is trending outside. He’s been more efficient doing so but it still will mean 100-plus fewer attempts at the basket this season for a guy who, for all the hand-wringing about his lack of size, is shooting a career-high 74 percent at the rim. His .88 points per possession in the post rank 71st, according to Synergy Sports Technology).
Joe and Jamal, meanwhile, are out of sorts, as indicated by their production and their comments. It’s been less of an issue for Joe because he’s always going to get his touches and L.D. seems willing to let him do his thing, for better or worse.
“Joe is such a good one-on-one ball player, we never want to take the strength of a player [away],” Drew said. “There are times when he can isolate and there are times where it calls for ball movement.”
Jamal hasn’t taken well to his altered role. He seems reluctant to do his thing because he doesn’t want to damage the team dynamics. But if he’s not cast in the narrow role that Woody carved out for him he’s less valuable to the Hawks.
“It’s a delicate subject, I guess, because for example he’s not handling the ball as much,” Al said. “We have Kirk, and Jeff has been playing well. He’s the kind of guy who has to have the ball in his hand and make plays for others. I don’t know if we need to play with some kind of [different] lineup and figure out what is best for us.”
The Hawks are still doing a lot of figuring when it comes to their offense. Deliberations on the final verdict begin next week in Orlando.
(The Hawks didn’t practice today so no word yet on L.D.’s plans for minutes over the final four games.)
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat