1. Mike Bibby is in decline. We all praised Rick Sund for retaining three of the Hawks’ four key free agents, but the Bibby retention, while a boon to continuity, hasn’t paid off in production. Bibby is averaging 9.4 points, down from 14.9 last season. Granted, he’s also playing seven fewer minutes a game — that’s the Jamal Crawford effect — but seems older than 31. He has clearly lost a step and a half, and when a little man loses his quickness there’s not a lot left.
2. Crawford doesn’t mesh with Joe Johnson quite the way Bibby does. While technically the point guard, Bibby doesn’t control the ball all that much. He gives it to Joe and spots up for three-pointers. (I’m betting half of Bibby’s treys last season came off Johnson’s feeds.) Crawford needs the ball more. He’ll shoot but he’ll also penetrate. Bibby almost never ventures into the lane. And when it’s Crawford and Johnson together, as has become more the norm, the ball doesn’t move quite so well.
3. Al Horford is still underutilized offensively. He averaged 8.9 shots a game last season. He’s averaging 9.8 now. That’s still not enough. I mean, he’s making 58.3 percent of his shots. Why should a guy who shoots that well — fourth among NBA in field-goal percentage — not get the ball more?
4. Mike Woodson is shrinking his bench. This was bound to happen. Like most coaches, Woodson errs on the side of familiarity. But Joe Johnson has worked an average of 44 minutes over the past four games, including 45 against Oklahoma City on Monday. (By way of contrast, Kevin Durant played only 38 minutes.) Crawford played 30 minutes and Zaza Pachulia 15, but no other Hawk sub logged even 10. The idea behind a deeper bench was to keep guys fresh for April and May, and Johnson’s minutes-per-game are down by two over last season. But they won’t be if the current trend holds. And whatever became of Jeff Teague?
5. They’ve already lost five home games. That’s not a lot if you’re just trying to creep into the playoffs, but it is if you’re playing to finish first. No division winner in the East lost as many as 10 home games last season; Cleveland lost only two, Boston six. And the Hawks themselves were 31-10 at Philips Arena in 2008-2009, and they’re merely on pace to duplicate that. They’re leading the NBA Southeast at the season’s midpoint, but they’re still not quite dominant at home.