Vivlamore reporting. Here is my story for Wednesday’s print edition of the AJC.
There is so much talk around Hawks training camp about the new up-tempo offense that promises a faster brand of basketball. Coach Larry Drew has gone as far as to set an ideal of a mere four seconds for his team to cross midcourt to start an offensive possession.
However, there is an element of the Hawks offense that cannot be forgotten with this fast-paced, perimeter-shooting group. There must continue to be a low-post presence. If not, much of the new look will be ineffective.
“I don’t want to stray away from that,” Drew said. “Our game, obviously, is going to be in the open floor and in transition. But still we have to establish ourselves in the low post and force teams to have to defend us down there, force teams to double team us down there.”
The Hawks are going to run with Jeff Teague, Devin Harris and Lou Williams running the offense. The speedy guards are reason No. 1 the Hawks revamped their offense. The addition of perimeter shooters such as Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson creates another wrinkle to the quick pace. The attention the guards draw with their ability to drive the lane opens the outside for the long-range attempts.
However, that cannot be the sole look of the offense, not with Josh Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia working down low.
“I don’t believe you can win a lot of games, go to the playoffs and win a championship just from shooting from outside,” Pachulia said. “There are a lot of nights when outside shooting won’t be there for you. You need the inside presence for sure. If both aspects are successful, it’s very hard for defenses to guard. It’s a huge advantage when you have low-post players who can score down low, defenses will help inside and then you have outside shooters.”
Therein lies the flexibility of the Hawks offense. If an opponent chooses to take away the outside shot, the inside should be open. If the opponent tries to clamp down on the inside, the outside should be open.
The Hawks were a middle-of-the road team last year in points scored in the paint. They were ranked 19th in the NBA with an average of 39.6 points per game. Denver led the league with 53.2 points per game. The Hawks were without the services of Horford for all but 11 games last season. They often used Jason Collins with Pachulia was out.
Horford said the Hawks yet to introduce the low-post offense during training camp.
“You need to have an inside presence,” Horford said. “You can’t just sit around and shoot jumpers all day. We have to have a paint presence. We have to establish that. In camp, we have really been focusing on the defensive stuff and getting out and running but at some point we are going to have to address it.”
In keeping with the Hawks’ philosophy, it all starts with defense.
“First and foremost to be an up-tempo team, you have to get stops,” Smith said. “You can be an up-tempo team, how Golden State was four or five years ago and run-and-gun and try to outscore teams, but in the Eastern Conference you have to play defense in order to win basketball games. In order for us to be an up-tempo team we have to get stops first. When you get stops it makes it easier to get fast-break points.”
Smith said when the game slows down he, Horford and Pachulia have the necessary moves to score down low. If they force teams to trap in the paint the perimeter shooters should get open looks at the basket.
- Chris Vivlamore
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