His defensive numbers are never great, but his ability to guard point guards, shooting guards and small forwards in a pinch is one factor that allows the Hawks to switch on damn near every screen/roll and not get killed for it. Also: Atlanta’s offense scores about eight more points per 100 possessions with Johnson on the court.Josh Smith:
Smith has taken just three triples all season, and at least one of those (and perhaps two) were end-of-quarter desperation bombs. He’s also taking fewer jumpers overall; only 36 percent of his shots this season have been jumpers, down from 47 percent last season. The result? He’s averaging a 15-8-4 with career bests in assists and field goal percentage (51 percent). His blocks are back up after a down year, he remains a terrifying weak side defender and the Hawks are 10 points better defensively with him on the floor—one of the biggest such numbers in the league.
If you like adjusted plus/minus, his numbers there are tops, too.
I don’t like it, readers—this act of putting three Hawks on my personal All-Star team. And I reckon Knicks and Nets fans won’t like it, either.
Horford averages 13.7 points per game compared to 19.3 for David Lee and 18.8 for Brook Lopez. But Horford get his points on just 10 shot attempts per game because the dude is shooting 59 percent from the floor. Horford doesn’t touch the ball nearly as much as Lee or Lopez, who each attempt about 14 shots per game.
There are two ways to read this: 1) Horford doesn’t touch or shoot the ball as much because he is not as capable an offensive player as the other two; or 2) Atlanta’s coaches and players aren’t doing a good enough job involving Horford in the offense.
If you side with #1, you think Horford is a dumb choice. If you side with #2, Horford is your guy here.
I’m in camp #2. Here’s an unexpected bit of trivia to back me up: Horford hits more of his jumpers than either Lee or Lopez, both of whom have received considerable attention for their improved Js. (See here, here and here for the numbers at 82games.com). He’s not as big of a pick-and-pop threat as either Lee or Lopez, but that’s a matter of strategy and not (lack of) skill.
Horford’s rebounding numbers already rival Lee’s, but it’s on defense that Horford separates himself from the other two. Atlanta allows 11 fewer points per game with Horford on the floor, while both Lee and Lopez are on the wrong side of the defensive plus/minus numbers. His adjusted plus/minus numbers are excellent, but his value on defense goes far beyond numbers.
Watch an Atlanta game and count how many times Horford ends up defending a guard because of Atlanta’s strategy of switching on every screen/roll. Then count how many times the other team is able to punish Atlanta by taking advantage of Horford.