Atlanta Hawks: A look at the Hawks at the quarter mark

Vivlamore reporting.

The Hawks have turned more than a few heads with their play during the first quarter of the season.

Through 21 games, the Hawks (14-7) are second in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference. They sit just a game behind the defending NBA champion Heat. Not many expected the Hawks, with a revamped a roster that included the loss of a six-time All-Star, to be such a part of the league conversation.

“Nobody outside-wise gave us an opportunity to be as successful as we are,” forward Josh Smith said. “We have been a successful ball club and have played with a lot of confidence.”

Here is a look at where the Hawks have been and what lies ahead after reaching the quarter pole of a long basketball season.

Biggest surprise

Almost to a man, coach and players point to the new-look team’s ability to come together quickly as the main reason for the early successes. After five consecutive postseason appearances, the Hawks brought in a new general manager. Danny Ferry set about trying to get the team past the second round of the playoffs. His first roster contained just five returning players. One of them was not Joe Johnson, the team’s perennial All-Star. Surely, it would take some time for some many new faces, with a new playing style, to learn to play together.

“We made a lot of changes and I wasn’t sure if we could get on the same page as fast as we did,” coach Larry Drew said. “I’m starting to see guys really starting to play well together.”

The Hawks have taken advantage of an early-season schedule that included a long home stand and a number of games against lesser teams. They have already played the Bobcats three times (all wins) and the Magic and Wizards two times each (all wins).

“I’m surprised with our record,” center Al Horford said. “I think that we’ve been finding ways to win games. Usually one of the early struggles when you have a new team is you let some games slip out of your hands. But we’ve come out on top on most of them.”

Biggest concern

The Hawks have had some inconsistent efforts both offensively and defensively this season. However, the biggest issue facing the team going forward is their inability to make free throws. The Hawks are ranked 28th in the NBA in the category, shooting just 70 percent (299 for 427) from the free-throw line. The situation is puzzling for Drew considering the number of proven shooters the team acquired.

“We have had our struggles at the free-throw line and we need to get better at it or it’s going to end up costing us some games,” Drew said.

Best win

The Hawks have several impressive wins on their early-season resume. They erased an 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Pacers. They defeated the Clippers at home, avenging a road loss. They won at the Grizzlies.

The best win so far may just have come in the second game of the season. After opening the season with a home loss to the Rockets, the Hawks won at the Thunder, the defending Western Conference champions. They did so without Smith, who was out with a sprained ankle. They out-rebounded the Thunder and forced 21 turnovers. The win was an early lesson that if they Hawks play with energy and continue an unselfish brand of basketball they can play with the best in the league.

Worst loss

The Hawks are coming off the toughest loss of the season, a home drubbing by the Warriors. The Warriors, playing the finale of a seven-game East coast trip, outplayed the Hawks on both ends of the court. Drew called it the worst loss of the season and there is little dispute that it was the team’s poorest effort.

“Sometimes we tend to go our separate ways and try to do too much and force different things,” Horford said.

Stat pack

The Hawks have proven to be one of the league’s top defensive teams. Here’s a look at where they stand in those statistical categories.

* Second in the NBA in opponent turnovers per game (17).

* Third in steals per game (9.10).

* Seventh in opponent points per game (94.14).

* 11th in opponent field-goal percentage (.440).

* The Hawks are 8-2 when they score 100 or more points and 2-4 when they allow the opposition to hit the century mark.

“One thing I think we’ve done is we made the commitment defensively,” Drew said. “Understandably, our defense isn’t going to be good every single night but we have the blueprint as far as what we want to do and our guys are going out trying to execute it. That is something that we spend every day talking about. I always feel that if we are solid defensively, we’ll give ourselves a chance because we do have guys who can make shots, who can score the basketball, get up and down the floor.”

– I will pose a question to you: How is the Hawks’ MVP after the first 20 games? I bet you can make a case for Horford, Smith or maybe even Lou Williams.

- Chris Vivlamore

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FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @AJCHAWKS

38 comments Add your comment

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:03 am

14 and 7? Good deal..

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:04 am

1st….

2nd…

Good deal..

Astro Joe

December 17th, 2012
11:06 am

CViv gets my MVP vote. Frequent updates and the “Elbow of Death” to the troll. CViv is BEASTING after 21 games (we’ll excuse the math error of a 14-7 record after 20 games).

Chris Vivlamore

December 17th, 2012
11:06 am

Slimjr: Thanks. Fixed it.

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:07 am

Josh is going to kick some tail this week!

Book it Dano!

Al will feast off of the Josh assists..

Good job Coach Mike Smith! That beat down was amazing!

Chris Vivlamore

December 17th, 2012
11:08 am

Astro Joe: Thanks. I started reporting the story before Warriors game. Had 20 games stuck in my head! Thanks for looking out for me.

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:09 am

C-Viv is da man! hahahaha

Mookie Blaylock

December 17th, 2012
11:14 am

The difference between Al and Josh’s PPG is .3 yet Josh averages 2 more shot attempts per game.

Ivan Johnson PER 19.41
Al PER 19.40
Josh PER 17.27

AL AND JOSH FOR THE ALL ROLE PLAYER GAME!

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:17 am

Miss the 2live Stews on the radio! Hopefully they can be released from their no competition contract asap and land a job with the new great sports talk radio in town: 92.9 FM “The Game”..

That will be a good match for them. I know Doug Stewart must be licking his chops! hahahahahah

790am “The Zone” has become a non-mother freaking factor. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:19 am

How many points per game does Al generate off of Mr Team Captain: Josh Smith assists per night? Hmmmmm

steve brown

December 17th, 2012
11:21 am

Josh was our MVP last year. Josh can play defense, can rebound and can score some but he is not a shooter, not even a streak shooter. Everyone with any sense knows this but him. When Ferry took the job he said he wanted players who could do 2 things, play defense and shoot the basketball. If the right deal comes along you can kiss Josh goodbye and I for one hopes it happens sooner than later.

Mookie Blaylock

December 17th, 2012
11:23 am

Starting Lineup

SG-Horford
SG/SF-Josh Smith
SG-Stevenson
SG-Korver
PG-Teague

too many guards

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:25 am

Josh aint going anywhere..He’s the most skilled big the Hawks have on their roster [Fan Club].

Word on the street it was Al being shopped for D12 not Josh in the summer..Hmmmmmm

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
11:27 am

“Shoot the J! Shoot it!” -Dave Chappelle-

Astro Joe

December 17th, 2012
11:33 am

Slim, I think they were both shopped. Josh for Gasol, Horford for Howard.

Mookie Blaylock

December 17th, 2012
11:34 am

Pachulia and Ivan are the only bigs on the roster. Horford and Josh are guards. I see them leading breaks and shooting jumpers more than in the paint.

steve brown

December 17th, 2012
11:36 am

JS shooting percentage:
2010 – 50.5%
2011 – 47.7%
2012 – 46.0%
2013 – 44.7%
Anyone notice a trend here.

Mookie Blaylock

December 17th, 2012
11:40 am

Declining FG % = increased chance of reaching “All-Star”status?@Steve
That’s what many Hawks fans believe, since the next year is always supposed to be Josh’s “breakout” year.

hfc95

December 17th, 2012
11:40 am

I wanted to watch the warriors game this past sat but i had to go to a party and i missed it, i saw we got torched. I also heard on the radio before the game that this was not broadcast on any tv network? did they really not broadcast a then 1st place hawks vs a top 5 west team? if so the hawks front office needs to be slapped, how does this game not make tv? i am sick of watching my comp firstrowsports for a NBA game where i live in that market., and it seems every 5th game i have to do so. does anyone know if this was broadcast on tv? i am gona write a letter to the hawks about this bs

Mookie Blaylock

December 17th, 2012
11:44 am

Surely we can find more minutes for Ivan. Al Bargnani and Josh Okur dont like to get physical.

steve brown

December 17th, 2012
11:50 am

AH shooting percentage:
2010 – 55.1%
2011 – 55.7%
2012 – 55.3%
2013 – 54.5%
Al must really enjoy watching Josh jack a few up every game. What has Josh ever won but money. Seem to recall Al winning a national championship. Mookie you are so correct, maybe a few Josh tears will help him get that all star spot or a few more clankers from downtown.

steve brown

December 17th, 2012
12:05 pm

Mookie I am with you again on Ivan.

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
12:25 pm

Gasol+Allstar AL= layup drills for the opposition… zzzzzzzzzzz

Samurai Squirrel

December 17th, 2012
12:34 pm

We need to make some moves and clear everyone out except Horford. Perhaps we can pick up 1 or 2 more first rounders (the Rockets pick is lotery protected). Sign a couple free agents and we’re ready to go longterm for the future!

Samurai Squirrel

December 17th, 2012
12:35 pm

I might keep Ivan, as well.

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
12:41 pm

Can he carry em [Fan Club]? pen drop, jumping jacks, eyes shifting back and forth……zzzzzzzz

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
12:43 pm

Gasol+AllStar Al= escort service in full effect..

Gasol+ Allstar Al= The Seas parting ways on a nightly basis. zzzzzzzzzzzz

Just Joe

December 17th, 2012
1:02 pm

Josh is the quarter-season MVP in my book. Over the rest of the season, I want to see Ferry stay focused on the future and not get too caught up in trying to maximize this year’s team’s playoff position. Cap space, draft picks, and player acquisition/development should be priority #1.

Astro Joe

December 17th, 2012
1:18 pm

Rejoice, Josh fans. From Hoopsworld:

Gasol And The Hawks?: Despite speculation from the L.A. Times, in which the Times claims, “The Hawks called this summer to inquire about a Smith-for-Gasol trade,” the Atlanta Hawks have zero interest in Pau Gasol and according to well-placed sources in Atlanta, they never have.

Like most in Lakers nation, the L.A. Times is offering up scenarios that would “fix” the Lakers and moving Gasol continues to be the front and center topic being kicked around by those that cover the team.

The Hawks for their part found the trade notion laughable, mainly because Gasol’s deal flies in the face of what they are trying to do with their salary cap. As much as the Lakers and their fans would like to trade to get a younger and more potent Smith, he was, at least according to sources in Atlanta, never discussed with the Lakers.

There is some truth to the idea that the Hawks tried aggressively to get into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, but only to land Howard for themselves.

Hawks sources said they have heard from most of the league on Smith in one way or another, validating their interest in keeping Smith long-term and clearly establishing a large marketplace should they want to trade him.

The Hawks continue to take the stance that they have heard enough from Smith’s camp to know that they have the inside track on keeping him long-term. With the way the team is playing, they feel like they can use their upcoming salary cap space to either sign a free agent out right or trade for another piece either at the trade deadline, using their ending contracts, or this summer in free agency.

The Hawks have a very open and two-way conversation going with Smith and believe him to be happy in his situation. As long as that’s the case, the Hawks say they are not entertaining trade offers on Smith.

Should the situation in Atlanta change with Smith, the Hawks may change their course, but to believe that the Hawks have even a hint of interest in Gasol or his massive cap-killer of a contract is not only misplaced, it’s the last thing the Hawks say they have interest in.

The message in Atlanta has been unwavering on Smith since Danny Ferry took over the team. The Hawks view Smith and Al Horford as the tent poles of the franchise, they plan to add to those two players so unless someone is offering a better tent pole, which Gasol is clearly not, the Hawks have a plan in place and Gasol is not part of that plan.

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
1:25 pm

one quarter down at 14-7?

Lets see: 14 x4 = 56 wins
7 x4 = 28 losses

darn it, that adds up to more than 82 games… shoot..

okay 56-2=54 wins and 28 losses.. Good deal?

Vinny D

December 17th, 2012
1:45 pm

I have enjoyed watching the Hawks play this year more than in years past. I still scream every time Josh goes up for a jumper with 10 seconds on the clock but at least there is no black hole known as Joe Johnson. Danny Ferry looks like GM of the year to me. I was expecting a mediocre season but I have been pleasantly surprised. When they play with energy and hustle, they are lots of fun to watch and tough to beat.

cpsman_atlanta

December 17th, 2012
1:47 pm

Chris V. – Getting his kick backs from Atlanta $pirit Group.

Team will lose in the playoffs, A$G continues to be nothing more than a bad pimple for the city. Philips Arena falling apart.

BOYCOTT THE HAWKS and PHILIPS ARENA until A$G is GONE!!!

doc

December 17th, 2012
1:59 pm

slimj how about one or two games above .500 the rest of the way for 46 to 48 wins is more realistic.

also, still waiting for the two magic rings you spoke of last week to rescue your giants yesterday?

Slimjr

December 17th, 2012
2:09 pm

hahahahha. /

Statement game and they took full advantage..About darn time…

The Flacons will face the 49′ers or Greenbay in the playoff ’s. It going to be good..

Do not want to see Seattle. Their freaking corners are 6′5″?

Heisenberg

December 17th, 2012
2:26 pm

My vote for worst game was gagging on a 4th quarter lead to the Cavs (at home I think). At least Golden State is playing quality ball and has some talent.

Joe Johnson already getting booed in Jersey. What was the over/under on number of games for that to start?

ryan

December 17th, 2012
2:34 pm

Falcons and Hawks its great to be a Atlanta sports fan right now love seeing New York teams loose .

O'Brien

December 17th, 2012
2:34 pm

I think Josh and Al are co-MVP’s so far.

Heisenberg

December 17th, 2012
2:48 pm

Having seen the impact of Dwight Howard in LA, I say do not even bother going after him next summer. Hawks would have to trade Al to make that happen and right now (and probably going forward) Al is the better player.