5 warning signs as these Hawks seek to move upward

Here's Jeff Teague. Haven't seen much of him lately. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's Jeff Teague. Haven't seen much of him lately. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A stipulation: The Hawks are having a sunny season and have a chance to play deeper into the playoffs than they have in 40 years. “We’ve closed the gap on the top three [teams in the East],” Mike Woodson said last week, and they’ve gained so much ground they’ve become the fourth in a Big Four. That said …

When you step up in class, even the tiniest flaw can become major. And here, as they go forward, are five warning signs for these Hawks:

1. The bench is basically two guys plus Mo. Remember when we thought the Hawks actually had a second unit? That lasted about 10 days. Jason Collins has worked 17 minutes this season. Joe Smith averages 9.2 minutes per game, Jeff Teague 9.7. (Not-so-fun fact: The rookie Teague, whom Mike Woodson claims to like, averages nearly six fewer minutes than did Acie Law, whom Woodson didn’t much like, in his rookie season.) Mo Evans worked 23 minutes a game last season; he’s down to 15.3 this.

The bench is essentially Jamal Crawford, who has been great, and Zaza Pachulia. We saw the peril in that when both were out against Miami last week. The other subs managed a total of eight points.

2. Turns out continuity has its limits. It seemed a major victory when Rick Sund managed to retain Pachulia, Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby over the offseason. Alas, not one of them has taken his new contract and run with it. Pachulia averaged 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds last season; he’s averaging 4.4 and 3.4 now. Bibby’s scoring average has dropped six whole points and his shooting percentage has plunged from 43.5 to 40.6. Williams is having his worst season since he was a rookie, which was back in 2005-2006.

3. Those re-upped contracts and the impending Joe Johnson negotiations tied Sund’s hands. The Hawks have all but conceded they’re not interested in making a deal — the deadline is Thursday — but the colder truth is that they can’t. Williams and Bibby fit the definition of expendable, but nobody wants them because their performance has dipped and they’re saddled with long-term contracts to boot. And the Hawks couldn’t take on a big salary were they so inclined; it will take $17 million a year to keep Johnson. (He declined their offer of $15 million last fall.)

4. Speaking of Joe … he’s shooting it more, passing it less. He’s averaging 18.4 shots per game, up from 18 last season, against 4.6 assists, down from 5.8. Given that the Hawks have other capable scorers — Al Horford made the All-Star team, and Crawford and Josh Smith coulda/shoulda — this isn’t a promising development. Johnson and Crawford don’t work as well together as Johnson and Bibby did, and Bibby is on the floor less than Crawford.

Still, Woodson seems determined to stick with Iso-Joe as an endgame strategy. Against the Thunder on MLK Day, Johnson took eight of the Hawks’ 23 fourth-quarter shots; he missed five and the Hawks lost. Against the Celtics on Jan. 29, he took nine of the Hawks’ 19 fourth-quarter shots; he made seven and the Hawks won. It’s fine when it works, but shouldn’t a team with more options have … more options?

5. The Hawks have owned one of the other Big Four, but only one. Good news: The Hawks are 4-0 against Boston. Bad news: They’re 0-5 against Cleveland and Orlando, with the average margin of defeat being 15.4 points. Worse news: They’re more apt to play the Cavs or the Magic in Round 2 than they are the Celtics.

147 comments Add your comment

Gilley

February 15th, 2010
10:21 am

The truth! 1ST

S. Webb

February 15th, 2010
10:22 am

Gilley

February 15th, 2010
10:22 am

I agree. Do you think his contract not being renewed has something to do with his rotation? He doesn’t want to risk mistakes with the bench and lose so he tries to burn the starters, even when they tired and playing not so well?

Mark Bradley

February 15th, 2010
10:30 am

Kudos to Gilley.

As for Woodson’s contract: I don’t think that makes a difference. Coaches always trying to squeeze out every win. It’s easy to play your subs when you’re 20 points ahead; it’s hard when you’re down five.

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 15th, 2010
10:38 am

Mark, my impression of the points you raise is that coaching is a net negative, was that the intent?
1)-Coaching decision, Woodson has been reluctant to play rookies or go deep into the bench from the get-go, seems like. Kinna like the old Cremins strategy at Uni level, without the talent advantage over opponents.
2) Motivation/coaching issues?
3) Not sure how this would/should affect performance on the court.
4) Another coaching decision – disinclined to make adjustments, falling into a rut?
5) Coaching/matchups/adjustments issue?

Mark, what is your suggestion for a fix/improvement?

clarkekent

February 15th, 2010
10:44 am

WOW! and the truth shall set you free.

subborn coach (does not adjust to game time situations)
bad bench usage(teague and joe smith need to play more – collins should play more vs ORL)
a non-aggressive all-star that can’t get to the foul line (shoots floaters and fadeaway jumpers)
a starting PG that can’t guard anybody and shot has dissappeared
a starting SF that has not developed (can someone call josh childress back)

-can we get D. Wade in here this offseason if joe decides to leave
-and fire the coach
-and trade bibby or marvin – with such a young team, do we really need a late 1st round pick.

* marvin and bench development are the key for the rest of the season if no changes are made.

Jamaaliver

February 15th, 2010
10:52 am

Alas, It may be long time for a coaching chg. I think Woodson has reached his ceiling. I’ve been thinking, we modeled ourselves after Detroit right? Detroit didn’t win a title until they dumped Rick Carlisle (after reaching back to back Eastern Conference Finals in 50 win seasons) and replaced him with HOF coach Larry Brown.

I do think that’ll be what it takes to get to the next level.

Jamaaliver

February 15th, 2010
10:55 am

And a coaching change could alleviate MOST of the problems listed above.

dap01

February 15th, 2010
11:01 am

Has anyone heard how Childress is progressing? Is his jump shot improved? Has his game improved? Any word?

Boneyard Randy

February 15th, 2010
11:09 am

We’re winning and are among the top teams in offensive efficiency, so those individual numbers don’t mean much to me. Let’s keep it rollin’. Rest our main guys in blowouts. Let’s not try to fix what ain’t broke. We’ve got 3 more warmups against Cavs-Magic to figure out what works against them. Let’s use those to learn and focus on getting a 2 seed for the playoffs. Second half will be fun. Looking forward to it. Nothing like going to The Factory for a playoff game.

matt r

February 15th, 2010
11:10 am

Brad Childress is still learning clock management… no word on his jump shot.

Opinion

February 15th, 2010
11:13 am

Marvin, Bibby, and Johnson for Nash and Amare

GraveDigger

February 15th, 2010
11:25 am

I agree with firing Woody. Woody has topped out in terms of where he is capable of leading the Hawks. To bring in a coach to take us to the next level (winning the SE division, playing in the conference finals or playing in the nba finals) we will need to acquire a coach such as Avery Johnson, Byron Scott or Don Nelson. Heck I even think Dominique Wilkins would make an excellent player-coach at this time. Nique would do much better than Woody ever could.

Asheville Dawg

February 15th, 2010
11:34 am

This seems to be the “peak” year for the Hawks. Their return on new contracts seems to be lowered levels of play. BOOOO

d.carter

February 15th, 2010
11:41 am

Until Woody gets off of the iso train and learns that we need to be a constant pick and roll team we arent going anywere… I would however Trade Bibby, marvin, and MO for Devin Harris and YI

Without-a-clue

February 15th, 2010
11:42 am

Change of subject: This is the way people with class treat their opponents.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=72OhOWFMf84
> >

The Real Hawk

February 15th, 2010
11:43 am

Be saying move Williams for at least two years even if we have to eat part of the salary. Mav’s got it done, why not us?

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
11:44 am

Mark- you “could” say that the bench is basically two guys, but that doesn’t make it true. Your own stats repudiate that fact. Oh, clearly on a night without Jamal, Joe sick and Za hurt the team did not look as deep. HMMMM… Mighty insight there. You would be right if all three of those guys or basically any three except Teague (a 20 y/o rookie pg without a jumpshot) or Collins (french fries) or RandMo (whatever) of our guys are hurt or playing subpar then we will be in trouble. Is this not a true fact for any NBA team? yeah, yeah the Lakers won without Kobe and Bynum… but everybody is looking up at them.

JabboRockefeller

February 15th, 2010
11:45 am

The Hawks show flashes of brilliance, but their inconsistency is maddening. We may get through the first round of the playoffs, but that’s about it. There’s just not a day-in-day-out 100% effort by every player. You never know when they’re gonna dominate on a given night, or sleepwalk. Certainly not championship caliber play (at this point) by any stretch…

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
11:46 am

The Real Hawk because The Mavericks had salaries they could move to help the Wizards (ie. expiring contracts) plus they were willing to take on Deshaun Stevenson contract which may come back to bite them. We don’t have any thing of value to trade (except Mo Evans).

That guy

February 15th, 2010
11:46 am

Avery Johnson is just a younger version of Woodson. He might be able to get more out of the players, but he is still a defense first coach without a lot of offensive imagination.

Byron Scott, I can’t really comment about. Did as good with the Hornets as I think possible, but is he really that much of an improvement over Woodson?

Don Nelson might bring a more up tempo styled offense to the Hawks, but nobody would play any defense. The cold shooting spells this team is inclined to go through doesn’t seem to fit Nelson’s style.

And Nique? Seriously dude?

The Hawks have shown they can compete with anyone except for the Cavs and Magic. Get a defensive center on the squad and this team is more likely in the championship conversation. Otherwise, they have pretty much reached their pinnacle.

I like JJ, but he won’t bring a championship on his own. I say let JJ walk and go after Bosh or Staudamire. Either one with Al and Smoove would be a scary frontcourt for at least 4 or 5 years.

Hawk n the Ham

February 15th, 2010
11:49 am

As said on MC’s blog…..

The Hawks need to fight for the #2 spot in the east to have a chance at making the conference finals.

Personel wise, the Hawks are going to run with this team and make no changes. The next step forward is game planning against the Magic. We can play with the Cavs, just need to ‘finish’ those games. Woody needs to get creative on how to get Dwight Howard in foul trouble early in games, then we have a shot at the Magic.

Come on Woody, think, think……

Opinion

February 15th, 2010
11:49 am

I hear Paul Hewitt’s available

David Smith

February 15th, 2010
11:50 am

I thought Woody would have given Teague more playing time than he has but, he predictably has tripped over his own feet yet again. We continue to not have a cohesive bench unit because Woody is still playing favorites instead of developing roles for his bench players and it’s going to hurt us again going into the playoffs.

d.carter

February 15th, 2010
11:51 am

Are you kidding Avery Johnson is a 10x better offensive coach than woody… That isnt saying much considering that Woody is the worst offensive coach in NBA hitory

d.carter

February 15th, 2010
11:52 am

Hell Paul Hewitts offense is better than woodys

Hawk n the Ham

February 15th, 2010
11:54 am

@ That Guy

Don Nelson …. more uptempo? The Hawks only offense is playing good D and pushing up court. We have no half court game. Don’t know how to get more uptempo.

And you can’t put Amar’e and defensive center in the same sentance. Man has no defense. Last I checked Horford (Mr. out of position) made All Star as a center. That should tell you about what else is available around the league.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
12:05 pm

Enter your comments here

O'Brien

February 15th, 2010
12:20 pm

Mark,

Another thing to consider. Although we have owned the Celtics, they’re probable looking to make a move before the deadline, so the same Celtics team we beat up on might not be the same one we would face in the playoffs anyway.

The Cavs are looking to upgrade, and although they might have Chemistry issues if they do, they have enough time to gel for the playoffs. And we struggle mightily against the Magic (with no adjustments from Woody).

And to think coming into this year, we were supposed to have been a deep team. The problem is Woody has not done a good job of coaching these players up, and then when they’ve gotten time, they have not produced.

Stan VG said the Hawks have not faced any adversity this year, and he’s right. We’ve been healthy except for the last Miami game. I would to see how we would respond if somebody got hurt.

Hopefully we can turn it aound this second half.

Rob

February 15th, 2010
12:21 pm

looked at the last two years playoffs game 6 and 7’s. 2008 are bench was just Zaza and Childress. 2009 was Zaza and Flip Murry. 2010 is Zaza and Crawford. Losing Josh Childress was a bigger blow that we would have ever known. Does Woodson not know how to use his bench? Would Ty Lawson have been a better pickup than Teague? or would woodson have let him rot on the bench too?

Dante Fitzgerald

February 15th, 2010
12:23 pm

Fire Mike Woodson!!!

Ken Strickland

February 15th, 2010
12:25 pm

WOW, for a long time CLYDE and I appeared to be the lone voices in the wilderness when it came to Woodson. But I can see there are others who have seen the light. Woodson has definitely reached his PETER PRINCIPLE and has taken this team as far as he’s capable of taking them. If fact, he’s preventing them for going as far as they’re capable of going.

To beat Orlando, we have to use strategy and adjustments or changes, which completely goes against Woodsons coaching approach. We need to create matchup problems for Orlando, like playing Smoove to SF, RMorris at PF and Teague at PG. Those adjustments would give us more speed and DEF at PG, more size and inside scoring ability at PF and SF. It would also force DHoward to provide more help DEF to both forwards.

Against Cleveland, Woodson has to get it through his thick, stubborn head that they’re too big and good defensively to continue trying to compete with them down the stretch using ISO Joe and Crawford. Woodson must realize the need to continue running the same OFF down the stretch that kept us in the gm the 1st 3 qtrs. You WOODY LOVERS can defend him all you want, but some of the things he continues to do, and allows the team and certain players to continue doing is DOWNRIGHT STUPID, and continues to fail.

tjhook

February 15th, 2010
12:26 pm

Rick Sund needs to put in a request to interview Eric Mussleman. He was a rising coach until he got a DUI a few years ago. He is a fiery coach with strong offensive strategies. He also was an assistant coach for the Hawks earlier in the decade. The Hawks need someone who knows how to employ two and three-man offensive attacks which will allow our athletic players to get one-on-one matchups with opposing defenders.

Harpie

February 15th, 2010
12:32 pm

The Hawks are going nowhere fast, with Woodson as coach. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.

JeJe

February 15th, 2010
12:34 pm

It’s really annoying to see other teams load up on bigs and we are stuck with the bare chicken bones. Does Dallas really now have Dampier/Haywood? I would kill for a player who will commit a hard foul and put a player on the ground. Even if Dampier semi-sucks/is average/overpaid, the guy will protect his teammates and the basket.

We are a soft basketball team. That’s the difference between ORL/ATL and Bos/CLE. Boston and Cleveland have rugged players who commit hard fouls, pick up technical fouls to psychologically mess with you (Delonte), and who look out for each other. We have no players on our team who scare opposing teams besides Jamal. Joe is good, but he doesn’t make other teams shake in fear.
We need someone like Ron Artest at the 3 who will scare other teams and bring the fear factor.

WE ARE A SOFT BASKETBALL TEAM. THAT WILL BE THIS TEAM’S DEMISE IN THE PLAYOFFS. WE ARE NOT UNDERTALENTED, BUT WE HAVE NO ONE TO COMMIT THE HARD FOUL. I’VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR OVER A YEAR NOW. WE NEED TO OVERPAY IF WE MUST TO GET SOMEONE LIKE HAYWOOD–SOMEONE WHO WILL PUT A PLAYER ON THE GROUND. For example, when Delonte dunked on Smoove a few months ago, where was the return favor from one of our players? Are we just going to let the elite teams clown us?

I still think Boston would beat us in a 7 game series, because it’s all about adjustments, and I FEAR Paul Pierce and Rondo. We have no one on our team that other teams fear that much. Perkins scares me, watching him clog the lane. Horford is soft, Smoove is soft, Bibby sucks, Marvin is trash.

We need to get rid of Marvin somehow immediately

SaintSparky

February 15th, 2010
12:36 pm

Get Marcus Camby ! This would really strengthen the Hawks down in the post to give them a chance against Cleveland and Orlando. And maybe the Clippers are dumn enough to take Williams out of our hands. Boy, what a mistake to give him an extension, espcially in that magnitude ! They just don’t want to admit that drafting him was a big blunder as we could have had Paul !
Camby and Thornton for Marvin Williams, Maurice Evans and R. Morris (works under the cap)

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
12:37 pm

Jason Collins is so heavy that he can only be effective against the league’s single biggest player. Joe Smith can’t hit a jumper. Zaza has regressed. Mo is a 10th man on most quality teams. Teague looks like a college junior who was the 7th PG drafted in his class. Maybe most of us (including me) were wrong. This bench is not good.

That guy

February 15th, 2010
12:47 pm

I like the idea of Mussleman. Also, I didn’t want to defend Woody in my earlier post. I just don’t see any of those guys doing anything better with this team.

Bottom line the Hawks need more of a post presence. Move Horford to the 4 where he belongs and he is a lot more valuable to this team. I’d rather have Smith off the bench than at the 3 where he would be more inclined to take outside shots. However, that would leave Marvin in the mix, and I’m definitley not supporting that.

The only other thing Hawks fans can hope for is for this ownership group to actually spend money to continue to improve this team, and I won’t believe in that until it actually happens.

JeJe

February 15th, 2010
12:52 pm

Mo’s only offense for this team is contested 3’s from the corner

jlewis

February 15th, 2010
12:53 pm

Bradley:

This article just proves you are minoring in all things but majoring in nothing, you know nothing about basketball.

JeJe

February 15th, 2010
12:55 pm

I wish we had Mark Cuban as an owner. Even though Dallas hasn’t been as successful in the playoffs over the past half-decade as they should’ve been, this guy spends whatever it takes to get better personnel in. He had the guts to get Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Jason Terry.

Atlanta has not had a high-profile free agent signing or a star come in a trade for years.

L. Young

February 15th, 2010
12:59 pm

They have failed to address the 5 spot on the floor – the Hawks will not go anywhere until they get some size in the front court, they need Marvin Williams coming off the bench, insert a true 5 and Horford needs to go back to his natural 4 position on the floor – we get dominated by bigger teams, especially Orlando and Cleveland. A guy like Kaman, B Miller, even a Camby type would help.
They should let Joe Johnson go in the offseason and give that money to Bosh if he would come here.

RA

February 15th, 2010
1:01 pm

I hate agreeing with Bradley. Seriously, it’s number six on my top ten list of things to do, right below cleaning the gutters. But just as my wife impresses me into that service, the truth compels me agree with Bradley. We’ve got some issues. Joe Smith hasn’t been the same since he came back from that hand injury. Teague would be a lot better if Woody had played him more at the begining of the year. He should have put the ball in his hands. It would have let him get experienced at running an offense and it would have let Crawford play off the ball more. The downside is that you don’t win as many games. The upside is that Teague would have been a lot more playoff ready. It’s disappointing that Collins hasn’t worked himself into better shape, but hopefully, we’ll be able to put that girth to use in the playoffs, if nothing else to burn fouls. Maurice Evans is capable, but he needs to actually see the ball more, and he needs to be more agressive. He can score, but he’s going to have to a lot dirty work around the basic, dunks off of misses, that kinda stuff, in order to get his points. Za Za is proven player. I’m not worried about him. He’ll be there in the clutch and he’ll be a physical presence when we need one. Mario West needs to play more. He provides an element of agressiveness when the rest of the Hawks leave their’s at home. And Randolph Morris, well, they need to see if they can get anything out of him within the system. Bradley’s right, there isn’t any help coming, no blockbuster Bibby-like trade to come to the rescue. This time, what they have will have to be enough, and right now it’s about even money whether it will or won’t.

Dude from Dacula

February 15th, 2010
1:02 pm

Why is it on most NBA teams after a time out, the team comes back on the floor with an actual play designed to get a relatively easy bucket? However, with the Hawks, it’s just “ISO-Joe” every stinking time. This was on full display last night at the All Star Game. Van Gundy and Karl actually designed plays during time outs for easy buckets.

I understand that Woodson is a defensive-minded coach and all, but good grief. If the Spirit insist on giving Woodson a new contract, maybe they should look at hiring a basketball “offensive coordinator” to help design a more innovative offense. Kind of like Lawrence Frank did for Byron Scott during their New Jersey Nets tenure.

The Hawks will struggle in the first round of the playoffs regardless the opponent, and will most certainly be eliminated during the second round.

Joe

February 15th, 2010
1:05 pm

Trade Joe Johnson & Jeff Teague to Phoenix for Amare Stoudemire & Leandro Barbosa.

JeJe

February 15th, 2010
1:05 pm

Randolph Morris produced very well in his minutes this year. Why not GIVE HIM A CHANCE?

WHY DO WE GO WITH THE SAME ROTATION EVERY GAME, REGARDLESS OF IF IT’S WORKING OR NOT? WHEN’S THE LAST TIME WE PUT RANDOLPH OR COLLINS IN THE 2ND QTR WHEN DOWN BIG TO SEE IF THEY COULD PROVIDE A SPARK?

WOODSON IS A STIFF COACH, DOESN’T LISTEN TO HIS ASSISTANTS, AND WILL BE GONE IN MAY AFTER CLEVELAND SWEEPS US

Art Vandelay

February 15th, 2010
1:06 pm

Watching a few minutes of the festivities last night, I came to the realization that the Anti-Spirit Group should sell the Hawks to Usher. He’s got plenty of money to put into the team, and he’d probably be very involved and interested in fielding a winner every year. Also seems like a very bright guy and clearly a big basketball fan. Make it happen, Bradley!

For Real

February 15th, 2010
1:08 pm

Here is the trade the Hawks need to make. 3 team deal:

Hawks get: Chris Paul and James Posey
Hornets get: Tracy McGrady, ZaZa and Morris
Rockets get: Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby and Emeka Okafor

Hornets: The Hornets want to get under the cap by taking McGrady’s contract, reducing salary ZaZa 4.7 mil instead of Okafor 10.7 mil and they want to trade Chris Paul and get something in return because CP3 will not resign with them.

Rockets: The get to move McGrady’s 22.8 mil contract, get a young swing man (Marvin Williams), a vetern point guard (shooter Mike Bibby) and a young rebounder (Emeka Okafor) to go along with Yao when he returns.

Hawks: Finally gets a point guard (CP3 and he should be by April), a tough defender and 3pt shooter (James Posey) at the 3 spot and insurance whether Joe Johnson stays or goes.

Halberstram

February 15th, 2010
1:12 pm

Apologize if some of these have already been mentioned:

- Regarding point 1, I believe Bibby and Crawford are more capable pg’s than what the team when Acie Law was a rookie. Woodson was forced to play Law and isn’t with Teague.
- Regarding point 2 (with respect to Bibby), with the addition of Crawford, Bibby doesn’t have to shoot too much when he is in the game. His job is to set the offense and distribute the ball. I believe that’s why his points numbers have been going down.

BamaFan

February 15th, 2010
1:13 pm

Hey Dap01, go to link http://www.eurobasket.com/player.asp?Cntry=GRE&PlayerID=31080. Josh Childress is averaging 14.72 ppg, 2 apg and 4 rpg. Yea, Olympiakos got their money’s worth!