Indianapolis–The Hawks rank seventh in the league in offensive efficiency. They have, for the most part, feasted on some below-average-to-bad defensive teams: New Jersey, Charlotte, and Washington. (And they didn’t feast on one bad defensive team, Houston.)
There are two important exceptions: the W at Miami and the W vs. Chicago. In those games, the Hawks feasted on elite defensive units, and a look at the Hoopdata advanced box scores from the Miami and Chicago of those games shows some common offensive threads for the Hawks:
Shooting well is the most important ingredient for good offense (obviously). But a look at the Synergy Sports Technology numbers in the Miami and Chicago victories shows the Hawks were able to play to their strengths while generating good shots against good defenses.
Atlanta’s four most-used Synergy play types this season have been spot-up, transition, isolation and cut:
Spot-up: 26.2 percent of plays, 1.07 points per possession (2nd in league)
Transition: 13.8 percent of plays, 1.08 ppp (17)
Isolation: 10.8 percent of plays, .73 ppp (18)
Cut: 8.9 percent of plays, 1.31 ppp (fourth)
The breakdown on those play types in the victory against Miami:
Spot-up: 27.7 percent of plays, 1.29 points per possession
Transition: 11.9 percent of plays, .75 ppp
Isolation: 8.9 percent of plays, .67 ppp
Cut: 12.9 percent of plays, 1.31 ppp
And in the W against Chicago:
Spot-up: 20 percent of plays, 1.32 points per possession
Transition: 23.2 percent of plays, 1.41 ppp
Isolation: 11.6 percent of plays, .91 ppp
Cut: 10.5 percent of plays, 1.5 ppp
You can see that against Miami, the Hawks didn’t run as much but still were able to use their usual rate of spot-up possessions and increased the percentage of cut plays. Against Chicago, they didn’t use their usual amount of spot-up possessions but it didn’t matter because they ran more often and more efficiently than usual.
As I mentioned after the W at New Jersey on Monday, the Hawks can present a lot of offensive threats when they play to their strengths. They can hurt opponents with lots of different guys in lots of different ways.
Jeff Teague can score off the dribble (and now maybe also spotting up for 3-pointers, too). Joe Johnson can bully his man in the post if help doesn’t come, make tough Js, or score on those runners. Vladimir Radmanovic can hit 3s on the weakside and Marvin Williams can make spot-ups or drive to the basket and draw fouls (his free-throw rate ranks 10th among small forwards playing 20-plus minutes).
Josh Smith is tough to stop when he gets to the basket. You figure Al Horford eventually will be strong on the pick-and-pop again (meanwhile, he’s No. 1 in the league with 1.35 points per possession on post-ups, according to Synergy). Tracy McGrady can make plays, make shots and might eventually start getting calls when he drives (his free-throw is high anyway).
Now, I know we’ve seen this script before. The Hawks started off playing a better brand of basketball last season, only to regress once they ran into some better defenses and the overall intensity level of games increased. But this team does have the potential to be a good offensive club even when facing the better defensive opponents (which they will do again tonight vs. the Pacers).
When we move the basketball and execute what we are doing, we don’t become stagnant, predictable. We have a lot of guys that can score and bring a lot to the table offensively. The last thing I want to do it be a predictable club, especially on the offensive end. I want to get out of the total isolation stuff. The last couple games we have done that. We’ve moved the ball very unselfishly, our assist totals are up. No one can really lock in to one guy.
Now, everyone knows that Joe is our main guy and the game is on the line we are going to put the ball in his hands, but he’s been making real intelligent plays out of the double team. The other guys have been doing what they do best. Jeff has been getting to the basket. Al has been picking and popping and he’s made himself felt down in the block. Josh is using his athleticism and energy, he’s made some shots [but] he’s gotten to the basket, he’s not just settling. Then the bench guys come in and give what they give. When we play together, when that ball jumps around, we become a lot tougher to defend.”
Notes from shootaround
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat