Monday, June 30, 2008

Season Review: Acie Law IV

It's my recollection that expectations for Acie Law IV's rookie season were realistically modest. Law dominated the ball at Texas A&M to a degree that he could/should not be realistically expected to match on an NBA team. He did not take great advantage of the college three-point line (though his relatively few attempts could be devastatingly effective). There were legitimate questions about his ability to defend NBA point guards.

Despite the frustrating fact that none of these concerns were addressed during his rookie season, it would be difficult to blame Law for these concerns lingering. The lack of developments (either a positive or negative) in his rookie season is due more to the injury he suffered on November 14th as a result of a pointless, dangerous display of empty, false hustle by Ryan Hollins and Mike Woodson's complete disinterest in giving Law a chance to learn how to be an NBA point guard should doing so in any way risk Woodson's tenuous prospects of future employment as an NBA head coach.

Given three below-average options at point guard to start the season (Law, Anthony Johnson, and Tyronn Lue), Woodson decided not to make a decision and just play three point guards. Sometimes even all in the first quarter. Lest even this depth chart-less approach seem to be the result of a coach trying to make the best of a bad situation rather than another example of Woodson's inability to think ahead thus causing him to do nothing other than react to every occurrence, keep in mind that Woodson managed to get Law and Lue on the court at the same time for almost 74 minutes (further keeping in mind that Law and Lue were both healthy for only 22 games) of game play. That's two small point guards, both poor defenders, one of whom has no off-the-ball skills, (Seriously, Law would trace an arc around the perimeter following Lue's dribbling while asking for the ball. Law had no idea what to do or how to move without the basketball.) and the other who has little interest in letting his teammates touch the ball outside of an offensive rebounding context. Those were completely wasted minutes for Law.

After the Hawks acquired Mike Bibby, Law struggled to get minutes (when healthy) as Woodson rode his starters (at least those who weren't in danger of potentially getting into foul trouble) nightly in an effort to make what is shaping up to be an extremely counterproductive playoff appearance. The silver lining there might be that the Bibby/Law backcourt was avoided for all but 3 minutes of game time.

Not that Law deserved to be handed minutes. The quality of his play was inconsistent and cumulatively it was quite poor. Only Zaza Pachulia and Solomon Jones (among his teammates) turned the ball over more frequently. Law's assist rate was closer to Josh Smith's and Tyronn Lue's than it was to Joe or Anthony Johnson's and nowhere near Mike Bibby's. Law's jump shooting resembled Smith's as well. Law made just 7 of 34 three-point attempts (20.6%) and 33 of 99 jump shots from inside the arc. Unfortunately, though, Law would get a few minutes at the end of the first- or start of the second-quarter during which he would play good, bad, or indifferent basketball which wouldn't matter because he wouldn't get off the bench at any point in the second half anyway.

I still don't know if Acie Law will develop into a league-average starting point guard (though I suspect that's the most optimistic scenario for him). I do believe that the brief flashes of good play we saw from him last season and his outstanding college career make it a reasonable expectation that he play 15 minutes a game backing up Mike Bibby and run a lot of pick-and-roll with Zaza Pachulia, David Andersen, or Al Horford. If Law plays well, we'll know that the Hawks have at least a quality backup point guard on the roster. If he plays poorly when given a fair chance to succeed, the Hawks can move forward knowing that Law was simply Billy Knight's last bad draft pick.

I'm rooting for Law to succeed.

Up next: Zaza Pachulia

Ballhype: hype it up!


Drew Ditzel said...

I read a week or two ago a story about Woodson philosphy for handling multi million dollar accets and he said something like "i did a poor job of developing Acie last season. but he is my project this season."

Did i cry a little the day i read those words in the paper?

Am i embarrassed?

CoCo said...

Brett, I want to be optimistic, but I don't think we'll know what Law is made of until we get a new coach or he goes to another team.

Bret LaGree said...


I suspect you're right in that the true benefit of Law developing here would be the living, breathing example of this organization looking at a young player, evaluating what he can and cannot do, and then utilizing him in a manner that allows him to maximize his strengths, minimize his weaknesses, and be useful.

That would be a nice change of pace. Whether or not it would be enough to dry Drew's tears, I'm unsure.

Anonymous said...

I think I have to disagree here with the overall tone of your review on Law. Looking at only the numbers, sure he was inconsistent, but I don't think you put enough emphasis on why that was. You yourself even state that he received little to no playing time so I would have thought that you would recognize that the numbers represent such a small sample size as to not put too much weight into them.

The feeling I got from your review made it seem like you think Law has no chance to succeed as a whole. While that may be true while he is still under the Woodson influence, I think Law could easily be the right PG for us going forward in the future, under the right coaching staff that is. Law showed time after time how he could take over games against superior competition when it mattered most in college and there is nothing that says he can't do that in the NBA. First, he was a rookie, and almost all rookies struggle with bigger stronger opponents in the NBA. Given enough time under an NBA workout program with a proper nutritionist I am sure you would see him bulk up some and become a more physical player. Secondly, he rarely was on the court so how could he have ever had a chance to show what he was really capable of? Given that, of course his turnover ratio was high. That's easy enough to do when you only handle the ball a small amount of times, and he's still a rookie. If he had been able to play a consistent number of minutes each game I would be inclined to believe that his numbers would level out into a set which we could then properly evaluate. Finally, he was under Mike Woodson, so can you really blame him for being a little lost when he did get to play? If you say that he didn't know how to move with the without the basketball, then you have to damn the whole team outside of JJ as well with that one. Did anyone know what to do when JJ was playing 1 on 5? Also, is it not possible that maybe Law did know what to do, but he just couldn't get the ball from Lue, who you admitted refuses to let the ball go unless he is shooting, to be able to make anything happen?

Frankly, almost everything you pointed out in your review points back to Woodson and his lack of coaching intelligence, not Law or his ability to play the game. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Until Woodson is gone and we have a real NBA coaching staff in the ATL, none of our talented players will live up to their potential. It's an unfortunate fact and I really feel for those players. Talent has carried almost of all of these guys through their entire basketball careers, but in the NBA, everyone was an All-Star or All-American at some point and all of them are talented, so you then have to add in proper skill and strategy, both of which come from good coaching.

I like your reviews because you cut the fat and lay it out how it is, and there's nothing different here. It's just that I think more of the cause should be placed on Woodson and not on Law. I think the reasonable expectation for the upcoming season would be for Law to see a significant jump in minutes and therefore an increase to his numbers, which we can then properly ascertain his ability and value.


Drew! Where the hell have you been?