Tuesday, September 22, 2009

AJC.com: Smith: Crawford Makes a Great First Impression

Sekou Smith quotes my second favorite source*, "a visiting pro from another NBA Team":
"They’re going to be (expletive) good this year. You throw JC and Joe Smith and this kid [Jeff] Teague, and they’ve got some wrinkles now that they didn’t have last season. They were already a dangerous team and now they’re really dangerous. And knowing these fans down here and what they like, they’re going to love the style this team can play. They’re going to love JC."
*After "an anonymous scout"

Wrinkles, eh?

More like reputations.

JAMAL CRAWFORD (career) vs. FLIP MURRAY (08-09)


Jamal Crawford is a better basketball player than Flip Murray but Flip Murray was a better basketball player than Flip Murray last year. Said another way, Crawford is extremely likely to be a better player than Flip Murray in 2009-10. Jamal Crawford is not very likely to a better player in 2009-10 than Flip Murray was in 2008-09. In very rough terms, the Hawks figure to add an extra assist every 21 minutes at the cost of an extra missed shot every 51 minutes. Plus the difference between Murray's average defense and Crawford's abominable defense.

JOE SMITH (career) vs. ZAZA PACHULIA (career)


At this point in his career, Joe Smith projects to offer little improvement over Zaza Pachulia, and what improvement Smith might reasonably offer--an extra point a game, a extra blocked shot every three or four games--will come at the expense of rebounds, especially offensive rebounds, which, unless everyone again has a career season from beyond the three-point line, figure to be a more important factor in 2009-10 than they were in 2008-09 when the Hawks finished a disappointing 19th in the league in offensive rebound rate.

But even if Smith is a similar player to Pachulia* whose skills don't complement his future teammates as well as do Pachulia's, the first 675 minutes Smith plays will be as a direct replacement for Solomon Jones. That's something positive.

JOE SMITH (08-09) vs. SOLOMON JONES (08-09)


Though Jones put up superficially decent numbers in limited minutes last season, Smith figures to surpass that production while playing non-garbage time minutes and providing much, much, much better defense both before and after an opponent's shot goes up.

*And he is. Joe Smith is a backup center who plays adequate position defense. Any extra blocks he gets are simply a function of his reach compared to Pachulia's.

Rick Sund undeniably made good decisions in replacing Solomon Jones with a better player and not expecting Flip Murray to replicate his career year. Those decisions, though, do not in and of themselves make the team better so much as they increased the chances of the team not getting worse. The positive impact of the difference between Smith and Jones will be reduced every time Smith takes minutes away from Pachulia, Al Horford, or Josh Smith.

Jamal Crawford is a better passer than Flip Murray but he'll shoot just as often thus continuing to limit touches for Williams and Horford. Crawford's inadequate defense will make it more difficult for Mike Woodson to hide Mike Bibby defensively.

If the Hawks are better in 2009-10 (and I'm not convinced they won't be) it will be because Williams, Horford, and Josh Smith stay healthy and shore up the defense for 82 games, because Jeff Teague plays just well enough to allow Woodson to feel he can rest Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby with limited risk, and because Josh Smith pulls his significant and disparate talents together. Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith are nice rotation players. They are not difference makers when added to a 47-win team.


Unknown said...

Saying Flip and Crawford are the same is not exactly true. Even though the stats say that, you have to consider that Flip played against the second team and also to take advantage of match ups e.g. small guards. This tends to inflate his numbers.
Crawford is a much better player. He has the tools to play much better defence( height,long arms stc). It will be up to Woody to make him play d. Also, the motivation of wanting to play in the playoffs, will definately motivate him...

Bret LaGree said...

I didn't mean to imply that Murray and Crawford are similar players just that Crawford should be expected to be similarly productive. You're absolutely correct that Murray needs to be matched up against a smaller defender to be effective. Crawford will shoot lots of jump shots regardless of the defensive matchup.

If Woodson improves the team's defense again this season, regardless of the means, I'll be first in line to praise him. I doubt Crawford will have much to do with that, he's 29 and this will be his tenth year in the league and he's shown no inclination to play defense for any of the nine head coaches he's played under.

Natural Neutral said...

Despite what Crawford does or does not achieve, he is a real player that Woodson will put on the floor and will produce that we got for 2 bench-only contracts from Acie and Speedy. We got something from nothing. This also gave us leverage over Bibby so he lowered his price and saved us having to resign Flip Murray. It was economic if nothing else.

And I wouldn't be too worried about Joe Smith plating more than Zaza--Woody likes Zaza's rebounding.

thirdfalcon said...

I actually worry about that a little bit. Zaza hasn't produced as much in the seasons where he was unsure of his place in the pecking order. And Smith isn't far enough behind Zaza that it's obvious who is better without deep analysis.