Monday, January 28, 2008

The Small Ways Mike Woodson Sacrifices His Team's Margin For Error

There were two examples in last night's game that went beyond his on-going (and oft-chronicled here) indulgence of Josh Smith's worst characteristics (petulance and taking jump shots), his complete inability to design and/or call a useful play in the half-court in the final minutes of a game, not playing Al Horford enough in the fourth quarter, and using Acie Law as an off guard.

1) His mistaken perception that Mario West is some sort of defensive stopper. Putting Mario West in the game to guard Brandon Roy for the final 17 seconds of the first half succeeded only in making West (accurately) look over-matched as Brandon Roy beat him with a cross-over, made a lay-up, and converted the free throw earned by the pointless desperation foul West committed after he'd been beaten.

Look for the Mario West Defensive Stopper Scorecard to join the Josh Smith Jump Shot Log at the bottom of future game recaps.

2) Leaving players in a position to fail. Zaza Pachulia had another decent game off the bench last night. Woodson undermined the value of Pachulia's four made field goals and four defensive rebounds last night by leaving him on the floor for more than half of the fourth quarter allowing Portland to spread the floor with five shooters and be assured that one of them would be open because Pachulia lacks the foot speed to close out on the perimeter. Zaza gave as good an effort as he could but he's simply incapable of doing what was required of an Atlanta defender in that situation.

Opposing teams are going to try to create favorable match-ups for themselves. Sometimes they will succeed in doing so. A good team counters that. The Atlanta Hawks generally do not.

Playing as they are now, giving away every third or fourth game but staying within shouting distance of .500, is still probably enough to make the play-offs which would be a legitimate accomplishment. But a first-round series against either Boston or Detroit is only going to shine a spotlight on this team's weaknesses. To participate in a realistically competitive first-round playoff series, the Hawks need to get into the East's top 6. Today they sit four games behind Washington in that race. Despite the team's obvious limitations, they could make up that ground were they to stop giving away points for no good reason.

Decisions that do not work will be made and forgiven every game. Making the same decisions that do not work game after game is simply evidence of incompetence and can be solved not through forgiveness but by replacing the incompetent decision maker.

Ballhype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

Add to your list "letting the team's one good long range bomber sit on the pine for 48 minutes every night". FREE SALIM!

Bret LaGree said...

Salim was omitted due to my ignorance surrounding the true nature of his health the last month.

But your point stands considering that Tyronn Lue wasn't included in the stand around coalition when Woodson called "Joe Johnson dribbles against five defenders while four teammates stand around watching" over and over again last night.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm just going to tack on here with some incredulity about those last several Hawks possessions. For one, if you're simply have Joe Johnson dribble against the entire Portland defense, why is Anthony Johnson even on the floor at all? His only real usefulness is playing with the ball and setting up his teammates, which he in fact did really well last night (11 assists, 0 turnovers). But if you take the ball out of his hands, he's only an average jumpshooter. If Mike knew that JJ was going to do all the ball handling down the stretch, he shoudl have just had Childress, Smith, Marvin, and Horford be the other four since those are the five most talented players on the team-and they also provide the most floor balance.

I've been happy with Lue's play lately-he can't be a great defender, but he CAN be the extra jumpshooter that the Hawks need to spread the floor. And he has something of a history of making jumpshots to win games late. Putting Lue out there instead of AJ is another viable alternative down the stretch if you're going to have Joe Johson do all the ball handling since he actually is an offensive threat. But, unfortunately, he was vastly underutilized against Portland.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately management is about as bad as Woodson so a coaching change is unlikely.