Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dwight Howard Gets It

By "gets it," of course I mean "appears to agree with me."

Amidst the frequent calls for the Hawks to add a "true" center, it's been as difficult to find a reference to the large and effective Zaza Pachulia as it is to find
a defense of the Joe Johnson contract. In an interview with Jeff Schultz of the AJC, Dwight Howard provides an example (implicitly) of the former (HT: Soaring Down South):
"I like their lineup now. I know a lot of people get mad and say they’re not big on the inside, but they’re a big team. They’ve got big guards. They’ve got big forwards. They’ve got a flying forward [Josh Smith]. So it doesn’t really matter about having a seven-footer."
Howard also speaks of the potential folly of the Hawks building a team specifically to counter him:
"That’s only four games out of the season. You have to look long term and what’s best for your team. Cleveland got Shaq to match up with the Magic. They also got Antawn Jamison to match up with the Magic. But they didn’t even play the Magic. They played Boston [and lost]. You match up for the league, not just one team." Blog: Biggest Yearly Declines in 3-Point Attempts

Continuing the evolution of this blog into an annotated edition of the Blog's RSS feed, I share this item from Neil Paine regarding Josh Smith refusing to shoot three-pointers last season (During the regular season* at least.):
Among players who played at least 2000 MP in back-to-back seasons, Smith was actually the very first player in NBA history to go from taking 80+ 3-pointers to taking under 10 the following year (the previous record for fewest 3PA the year after an 80-attempt season was Derrick McKey in 1990, who went from taking 89 to taking 23). This was a very good thing for both Smith and the Hawks -- by cutting back on his threes, he turned into a more efficient player (109.4 ORtg vs. 103.5 in 2009), a more willing passer (he passed on 57% of his touches instead of 43%), a better offensive rebounder (9.0 ORb% vs. 6.5 in 2009), and the Atlanta offense improved to become the NBA's 2nd-best during the regular season.
Just think how effective Smith could be offensively if he eliminates the 240 long two-point jump shots or gets back to being a 70% free throw shooter.

*Smith went from attempting 1 three-pointer for every 143 field goal attempts in the 2009-10 regular season to attempting 1 three-pointer for every 21.5 field goal attempts in the 2009-10 playoffs. Over the last three regular seasons, Smith has attempted 1 three-pointer for every 15.4 field goal attempts. Seriously. In the playoffs, he's attempted 1 three-pointer for every 9.6 field goal attempts. It's not just Joe Johnson who takes what the playoff defenses quite willingly give.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hawks Officially Sign Josh Powell, Jason Collins

Two men. Their combined age: 58. Combined, they played almost 700 minutes last season. Neither has played 1000 minutes in a season since 2007-08.

The Hawks officially signed Josh Powell on Monday. Were they done? No. Three days later, the Hawks officially re-signed Jason Collins. And with that, the frontcourt rotation is, presumably, set. Good news for fans of Zaza Pachulia being the third big man rather than just the backup center. Bad news for fans of youth, possibility, or quality depth.

Both deals are presumed to be for the veteran minimum with the Hawks paying $854,389 of the salaries and the league covering the rest. The deals leave the Hawks with (for luxury tax purposes) $67,555,812 committed to 12 players.

League rules require the Hawks to employ one more player. Kyle Weaver, anyone?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Following Up On A Good Omen

Previously: A Good Omen

Part 2 of Neil Paine's study of how individuals fared against good and bad defenses in 2009-10 is up. Joe Johnson (14th in the league against both above- and below-average defenses) slips just to 17th against top-10 defenses and 16th against bottom-10 defenses but does not appear in the top 20 against either top-5 or bottom-5 defenses.

Al Horford is all over the leaderboards (usage rate between 18% and 23% division):
  • 4th in the league against below-average defenses
  • 9th in the league against top-10 defenses (over a 1500+ minute sample with a higher usage rate than his season mark)
  • 4th in the league against bottom-10 defenses
  • 4th in the league against bottom-5 defenses

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jamal Crawford Wants To Stay; Childress Glad To Be Gone

Chris Broussard reports that Jamal Crawford wants to sign a contract extension with the Hawks:
Jamal Crawford, the league's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, has requested a contract extension from the Atlanta Hawks, according to league sources.

The 30-year-old Crawford made his request three weeks ago, but with the Hawks focused on re-signing All-Star Joe Johnson and other free agents, talks have not progressed to the serious stage.
Given what the Hawks have proven willing to pay aging shooting guards--$19 million to Crawford for his age 29 and 30 seasons, $124 million to Joe Johnson for his age 29 through 34 seasons--who could blame him? Factor in that Crawford had a career year, played in the first post-season games of his career, and there's an impending lockout and this should come as no surprise. I don't expect any quick movement due both to organizational inertia and the impending lockout. The next collective bargaining agreement may well save the owners from themselves.

As to the first roadblock* (above) to a Jamal Crawford extension, Josh Childress spoke with Sekou Smith about why he left Atlanta:
"I don't think I ever got a formal offer. ll I wanted was a deal. I just wanted to feel like they wanted me to be a part of their team. And I never had that feeling. It was always, 'we'll deal with him when we have time.' Personally and professionally, I felt like I acquitted myself the right way. I came to work and did what was asked of me. and then when it came time to negotiate, it was like 'we'll get to him whenever we can.' At least that was the attitude that was conveyed to me."
Childress, you'll recall, was probably the third best player (at worst, the fourth-best player) on the first Hawks team to make the playoffs in a decade. Again, talent evaluation is what holds this franchise back.

That's not just an issue with the front office, either. Childress offered an implicit explanation for how he played 500 fewer minutes than the inferior Marvin Williams in 2007-08 when he explained what attracted him to the Suns:
"One of the main things that got me excited about the opportunity was speaking with [Suns] Coach [Alvin] Gentry. They truly enjoy playing like a team. He was telling me how there were plenty of games last year where the second unit would finish the game. He made it clear that whoever is playing well will play. It's not about playing favorites. It's an equal opportunity situation."
Mike Woodson loved clearly defined roles. It cost the Hawks during the 2007-08 season. It cost the Hawks every time Mario West or Joe Smith stepped on the court. It ultimately cost them a good player in Josh Childress. That all the team got back for him was a second-round pick and a traded player exception they probably can't afford to use is where the front office and ownership re-enter the picture.

*Not counting common sense.

A Good Omen

At the blog, Neil Paine takes a look at how individual players performed against above-average and below-average defenses last season. Paine ranks the players by Offensive SPM (Statistical Plus/Minus) and Joe Johnson was, at least ordinally, just as effective against above-average defenses as he was against below-average defenses.

According to the study, Johnson ranked 14th (between Marcus Thornton and Danny Granger) in the league in Offensive SPM against above-average defenses and ranked 14th (between Deron Williams and Danny Granger) in the league in Offensive SPM against below-average defenses.

Thus, the playoffs notwithstanding, Joe Johnson performed consistently well regardless of the quality of team defense he faced last season. There are two possible (and plausible*) positive interpretations of this information.
  1. Though the sharp decline of his already below average Free Throw Rate in 2009-10 remains a concern, Johnson didn't just rack up good offensive numbers against bad defenses. Johnson's new contract is still a bad idea long-term but, on the basis of this study, there's even less reason to expect him to decline precipitously in 2010-11.
  2. The discrepancy between Johnson's numbers against good defensive teams during the regular season and during the playoffs could have had as much to do with Mike Woodson as Joe Johnson. First, though Johnson's overall minutes played were down significantly in 2009-10 (helped by the 6 games he missed) he still played 38 minutes per game and may have been more worn down than the average player in the post-season. Second, it's possible the predictability of Atlanta's half-court offense made it more easily stymied when seen repeatedly over the course of a best-of-seven series. Not to mention that the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic were the 2nd and 3rd best defenses in the league last season.
If Larry Drew can diversify Atlanta's offensive attack (either in the half-court or by emphasizing transition basketball) and limit Johnson's regular season minutes (having four shooting guards on the roster should help), then Johnson might better be able to replicate his regular season success in the playoffs.

Paine's study isn't all good news. He doesn't use defensive efficiency to separate above-average defensive teams from below-average defensive teams. Rather he adjusts defensive efficiency for "home-court effects and the strength of the opposing offense." In doing so, the Hawks drop from 13th in the league in defensive efficiency to 17th.

Putting all the team's resources in the service of re-signing Johnson hasn't allowed Rick Sund to address the team's obvious (and long-standing) defensive limitations though, again, Mike Woodson's absence could lead to some improvement in that area if the constancy of switching screens really was a key contributor to the team's defensive struggles.

*This is new work and the results should not be assumed to be predictive. I'm approaching the data with common sense and good wishes rather than analytically. We figure to learn more in Paine's upcoming posts on the subject where he will break down player performance against the extreme best and worst defenses.

A (god willing) less important negative aspect of Paine's study concerns Josh Powell. Among players with a usage rate of at least 18%, Powell had the second-worst Offensive Rating (ahead of only Daequan Cook) against above-average defenses. Among players with a usage rate of less than 18%, Powell had the sixth-worst Offensive Rating (ahead of James Singleton, Ime Udoka, Vladimir Radmanovic, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic). The takeaway: Josh Powell is a bad offensive player and good defenses are good defenses, in part, because they force guys like Josh Powell to use more possessions than do bad defenses.

Friday, July 23, 2010 (Insider): Thorpe: Rookie Watch

David Thorpe ranks Jordan Crawford's Summer League performance 18th among rookies:
Crawford is viewed as a pure scorer, and he showed that in Vegas. Although he didn't shoot well overall, he displayed his ability to shoot from 3 and exhibited solid court vision and feel. I also liked the fact that he looked to make plays on D. I liked him better than I expected to.
Crawford didn't shoot especially well (He missed all seven three-pointers he attempted over the last three games in Vegas.) but he was largely above the Vegas Summer League averages, which is probably what one should expect from a first round pick.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

NBA Facts & Rumors: Moore: Atlanta Hawks Offseason Review

Two excerpts from Matt Moore's review of the Atlanta Hawks' off-season activity to date:
Philosophy: "Self-delusion is all the rage this summer!"
The vast number of ways in which the Johnson signing was poorly conceived is staggering. The full max, all six years? That much money? The roster had potential to really contend, but instead, the Hawks simply avoided the great collapse of losing a high usage player with low efficiency. Johnson can take over a game like few in the league. But he also simply isn't worth the money, and it's hamstrung their franchise for the future.

Grade: D+
Moore, it should be noted, is a huge Joe Johnson fan who has, previously, taken me to task for being hard on Johnson and/or the organization's insistence on treating him as a franchise player.

SBNation: Ranking All 30 NBA GMs

Mike Prada ranks Rick Sund in the top 75% of NBA general managers:
The Hawks have a good, but not great team and an ownership group that won't go over the luxury tax. They're not winning a title anytime soon, that's for sure. Yet Sund seems so committed to bringing back the same core of players that have proven they can't get it done.

I'm not even talking about the ridiculous Joe Johnson contract, which we'll get to in a second. I'm talking more about all the moves that led up to it. There's little collective rhyme or reason to the contract handed out to Mike Bibby (three years), Zaza Pachulia (four years), Marvin Williams (five years) and Jamal Crawford (a trade, mind you, but two years). The contracts by themselves make sense, but taken together, they demonstrate a lack of planning. That's four key role players making a combined $25 million per season that expire in four different years.

Let's go back to Johnson now. Yes, his contract is terrible, no doubt. But Sund really got himself stuck by not thinking ahead with his other contracts. He put himself between a rock and a hard place because he did not think to give his role players contracts that all expire around the same time. He limited his options to "sign Johnson, ride it out and maybe rebuild in five years" or "don't sign Johnson and fail to rebuild for a couple years because all of Johnson's role players are clogging up our cap flexibility." Under those circumstances, it's more understandable that Johnson got what he got.

I strongly believe that a lack of creativity and long-term planning with smaller decisions ultimately leads to a lack of creativity and long-term planning with bigger decisions. Bad process leads to bad process. Rick Sund and the Hawks are the best example of this.

Atlanta Hawks Salary Cap Update

ShamSports has updated salary information for the Atlanta Hawks. With 10 players under contract for a total of $65,847,034, the Hawks are currently $7,803,034 over the salary cap and $4,459,966 under the luxury tax line.

Assuming the Hawks fill out the three remaining roster spots with players (either veterans such as Jason Collins and Josh Powell or rookie free agents) who will cost the Hawks just the two-year veteran minimum either in terms of actual dollars or salary cap calculation, the team would be $1,896,799 under the tax line. That might leave room for in-season maneuvering while remaining below the tax line.

The ESPN trade machine has the only published number I've seen for the Traded Player Exception the Hawks got from the Josh Childress trade: $3,631,449. If anyone has evidence confirming or refuting that number, please let me know.

ESPNLA: McMenamin: Josh Powell To Leave L.A. For Hawks

Dave McMenamin reports that sources say the Hawks will maintain their two Josh minimum by signing former Laker reserve Josh Powell:
The Atlanta Hawks are close to finalizing a one-year deal with forward Josh Powell worth approximately $1.1 million, according to sources close to the situation. The deal is expected to be finalized early next week, perhaps as soon as Monday.
That would be pretty quick work by the standards of this organization.

For his part, the 28-year-old Powell is a dreadful offensive player who, despite shooting just 41.7 eFG% and 44.7 TS%, kept his usage rate at around 19% during his two seasons with the Lakers. There are two reasons Powell struggles offensively: he's a below average finisher at the rim (53.8% over 318 attempts) and 44% of his field goal attempts come at least 10 feet from the basket and generate an eFG% of 38.3.

Powell has been a good offensive rebounder (9.8 career OR%; 10.7% and 11.6% in the two seasons in which he played the most minutes) over the course of his NBA career. His work on the defensive glass (sadly and fittingly) is less encouraging as he rebounded just 13.7% of opponents' misses (league average for all players: 14.7%) last season. Marvin Williams, for example, has never posted a defensive rebounding rate that low.

The Hawks may manage to bring back Jason Collins* and find an inferior replacement for Joe Smith.

*As with Collins, the Hawks will get a rebate from the NBA should they sign Powell: $215,210 of the $1,069,509 in this case.

More from McMenamin:
[Powell] was an influential locker room presence as one of Kobe Bryant's most trusted confidants. Powell was credited by teammates for being a consummate professional as a practice player.
That professionalism that helped in practice failed to carry over into games. The Lakers were far worse with Powell on the court. Granted, that has something to do with how good Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum are but it's not like Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia are a bunch of bums.

Josh PowellOffense


No typos in the above table. The Lakers, who outscored opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions in 2008-09 and 8.2 points per 100 possessions in 2009-10, were outscored by 8.4 and 5.7 points per 100 possessions* with Powell on the floor in the last two seasons (over roughly 2400 possessions), respectively.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Narrow Defense Of Doing Nothing Right Now

First, the latest rumor...

Marc Stein reports that the Hawks are:
[T]he only team with a confirmed "live" interest in O’Neal. There are limitations to that interest.
Stein, again:
Shaq, at last report, still wants assurances of a healthy slice of playing time as well as a salary that starts above the $5.8 million mid-level exception, which can be achieved through a sign-and-trade with Cleveland. No team out there, including Atlanta, is known to be willing to pay Shaq more than $2 million for next season.
Shaq for $2 million next season makes far more sense than spending the MLE for X number of years on Shaq. Not that it's any more realistic than Joe Johnson agreeing to a 4-year, $60 million extension last Summer, but, hey, it's worth a shot. Presumably, were this highly unlikely agreement to come to pass, the Hawks would increase their collection of valuable trade chits from 0 to 1 (Zaza Pachulia) were they willing to risk using Jason Collins or similar dreck the 20-odd nights Shaq doesn't dress.

It shouldn't be a surprise that retaining Jason Collins is the sum total of reported free agent activity by the Hawks following the signing of Joe Johnson to a max contract. Even someone with a terrible record for prognostication could see it coming:
Signing Joe Johnson to a max deal will necessitate making future decisions based on finances rather than basketball...
The upshot, of course, is that the Hawks probably don't need Shaq or any other famous, aged center. And not just in the "they need a backup* for Marvin Williams, a point guard** in whom we can be confident, and a capable perimeter defender*** more" sense. The up-post Zaza Pachulia reference is likely one of the few**** you'll have noticed this Summer. Odd considering the number of centers who have been speculated about. So I offer this reminder from Zaza's season review:
[T]he Hawks [are] +5.3 per 100 possessions (Off Eff: 104.7 Def Eff: 99.4) over the last two seasons (totaling 963 offensive and 960 defensive possessions) with Horford and Pachulia playing alongside each other.
Sure it would be fun if the Hawks had the financial flexibility so as to speculate about them getting involved in the fire sales of Ramon Sessions or Brandon Bass but it's also important to keep in mind what the team has. Or, to quote from my (overly pessimistic, it turned out) preview of last season:
It’s tempting, in the transactional flurry of the off-season, to assume that if a team’s not busy getting better, it’s getting worse. When all that exists is potential, reward can overshadow risk and the act of reconstituting a 47-win team fails to capture the imagination.
Locking in the core of a 53-win team in such as way as to limit its chances of someday winning a championship isn't appealing but the 8- or 10-win player the team presumably needs to compete for a top-4 seed in the East in 2010-11 doesn't appear to be available right now. Throwing more money at non-existent roster problems for PR purposes isn't going to create many future opportunities to marshal what few resources the team currently possesses in service of real improvement.

*A job which should be easily filled on the cheap.

**Could be Jeff Teague.

***Could also be Jeff Teague.

****I blame Drew's absence.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summing Up Summer League

Hawks v. D-League Select Boxscore

Hawks v. Timberwolves Boxscore

Player-by-player, here's what I've learned from Summer League...

Jeff Teague: No one could stay in front of him in Vegas. I think that'll be mostly true in real NBA games too though the execution of team defensive concepts will likely complicate matters for him. Given the uncertainty over what Larry Drew's motion offense will look like exactly, it's difficult to project Teague's sophomore season. It's fairly to easy to imagine him, if surrounded by shooters, being effective turning the corner on ball-screens and getting into the lane. Conversely, it's easy to imagine the shooters the Hawks employ having the ball in their hands rather than Teague. The slope of Teague's learning curve could further be influenced by how often the Hawks run which will probably have more to do with defensive rebounding than anything Teague can control. Patience is advised with regard to Teague just as much as it is with regard to Larry Drew.

Jordan Crawford: Crawford can play. Given the composition of the roster, his youth, and his degree of physical development he probably won't get the opportunity to produce much in 2010-11. So, in the short term, Crawford might be reduced to shining in garbage time therefore breaking up the occasional monotony of the 82-game schedule or diminishing concerns over a serious injury to Jamal Crawford or Joe Johnson. Looking farther ahead, if he can convince the team that he can, at the very least, be ready in 2011-12 to replace the production Mo Evans provides, grant the organization some modicum of flexibility to improve at the point or at small forward next Summer.

Sergiy Gladyr: He's clearly not ready to contribute at this point. It's difficult to gauge his skill level based on his performance in Vegas. Either he's not skilled or he was trying too hard to impress. I lean toward the latter as Summer League games tend to be ridiculously sped up and disorganized affairs. Either way, he's 20 (almost a full year younger than Jordan Crawford) and has time to develop. If, in three or four or five years, Gladyr can come over and knock down shots often enough to excuse the physical limitations that make him unlikely ever to be a plus defender or rebounder then he'll have been good use of a draft pick.

Pape Sy: It's easy to see how Sy impressed in a workout setting. He's long and fast. Outside of that (and granting that he was limited by injury) Sy showed little in Vegas. Using one's speed to drive into the lane at the far end of being under control, running into someone, and drawing a foul works fine in Summer League but has negligible value in the NBA unless one possesses the strength and body control of Dwyane Wade or Corey Maggette. Sy does not. He never looked likely to finish. His ball-handling would be acceptable for a wing defender but he's no sort of point guard despite spending most of his time playing that position in Vegas. Were he Gladyr's age there might be reason for optimism. But he's not. To put things in perspective, he's only two years younger than the forgotten Viktor Sanikidze and a year younger than Cenk Akyol.

Richard Hendrix: Hendrix is the only guy free agent on the Summer League roster who could add something to the regular rotation: post offense from the second unit. On the other hand, he would also be one more guy in the rotation whose value is primarily offensive. With no demonstrable organizational emphasis on finding complementary pieces, I doubt Hendrix will signed to be the fourth big guy in the rotation with a defensive caddy for him getting the fifth spot. Maccabi Tel Aviv seems more plausible.

Alade Aminu: There's no way to evaluate Aminu's defensive ability in this context. His offensive skills are rudimentary at best. He's definitely long and active and would be a fine fifth big guy with a non-zero chance to develop into a rotation player.

Jermareo Davidson: Davidson is not dissimilar to Aminu though he plays lower to the ground and, largely due to being three years older, has a lower center of gravity that could be more useful defending in the post in the short term. Given that Aminu has at least an offer to play in France and Davidson has some NBA experience, Jermareo might be the more likely member of the 2010-11 Hawks.

Trey Gilder: Gilder would be a fine backup for Marvin Williams. Because he can't shoot and because the Hawks appear to be unconcerned with Mo Evans' struggles to defend small forwards, it's not especially likely he'll get the gig. If Gilder could shoot, he'd be a borderline NBA starter.

James Augustine: He's another plausible fifth big man, one who would definitely provide support with defense and rebounding if little else. There's some potential entertainment value were Augustine and Zaza Pachulia to share the floor and give the team a two-headed hard-fouling monster.

Randolph Morris: I don't believe anyone learned anything new about Randolph Morris.

Landon Milbourne: Like Morris, Milbourne's presence on the team appeared to more to do with where he attended high school than his likelihood of making the team. I hope he caught the attention of a European scout in his limited minutes.

Luke Jackson: Jackson's presumably headed back to Europe. His time as a potential NBA player has passed though having a professional basketball career after undergoing multiple back surgeries says something for his skill level.

FanHouse: Tomasson: Jason Collins Expected To Re-Sign With Hawks

They weren't kidding about "bulky."

Signing Jason Collins for the nine-year veteran minimum will cost $1,229,255 on paper, but the league will reimburse $374,866 of that to the Hawks and that $374,866 will not count as team salary should the Hawks go over the luxury tax line.

Jason Collins 2009-10 Season Review, quoted in full:
115 minutes, 21 fouls, 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 4:49 of useful basketball. It appears I may have overestimated what Collins had left.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer League: Hangover Links

Five days and four nights* at Summer League, plus that West-to-East travel put me down for the better part of a day. Catching up...
  • Here's that Jordan Crawford piece I wrote for the Daily Dime (#9) yesterday:
    In his first two summer league appearances, Jordan Crawford displayed good basketball instincts. That's not unusual to see in summer league, but rarely in this setting does that trait come with both the athleticism and skill to take advantage of good instincts. The results: 36 points on 27 shots, seven assists against just four turnovers and six steals in his first taste of professional basketball. In his third game, Crawford's youth betrayed him. Matched up against DeMarcus Nelson for much of the game, Crawford struggled to create space for himself against the similarly framed but markedly older and stronger defender. He still scored 12 points but he needed 12 field goal attempts and six free throw attempts to do so. Lesser numbers to be sure, but far from shameful for a 21-year-old facing an NBA-quality defender for the first time. The game wasn't a complete washout for Crawford. Those good instincts were still apparent. In transition, he looks to pass ahead as often as he looks to finish. When the Hawks' motion offense stretched the Bucks' defense in the half court (as it did often in the 83-60 victory) Crawford consistently made himself available, often with the next pass rather than a shot for himself in mind. He earned three more assists, committing just one turnover. It's unlikely that Crawford will get significant minutes for the Hawks this season. Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Maurice Evans all figure to slot ahead of him in the rotation. As time passes, and if his body matures to match his game, it's easy to imagine him proving to have been a tremendous use of the 27th pick in the NBA draft.
  • Colleagues former (Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk) and current (Matt Moore** of everywhere) joined me courtside for the Hawks/Bucks Summer League tilt. Kurt focused on Jeff Teague. Matt offered thoughts on both Teague and Richard Hendrix.
  • Word's out that ownership is not willing to go over the luxury tax line. I certainly don't think they should do so to sign Shaquille O'Neal (or any other veteran center). Nor do I believe that this demonstrates an unwillingness to spend money. I can think of four contracts that quite clearly demonstrate the opposite. The problem with this organization is an inability to spend wisely. I have no reason to assume they don't want to win, they're just not very clever in their efforts to accomplish that goal.
  • Hawks v. D-League Select, for those of you without Summer League Broadband, can first be seen at 7am (EDT) Sunday on NBA TV.
*The events of most of those nights technically took place in the morning hours.

**True story: the first thing Matt Moore said to me in person, "How does Alade look?" Furthermore, he meant it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Notes on the Third Game of Summer


The Hawks raised both their energy and execution levels Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas, beating the Bucks 83-60. I hypothesize that the former had a little something to do with Randolph Morris being absent from the starting lineup. During his brief appearance later in the game, Morris contrived to get beaten down the court by John Bryant.

Richard Hendrix replaced Morris in the starting lineup and again displayed the ability to get good post position and an array of effective moves upon receipt of the ball. He could be a fine undersized four off the bench, though it should be noted that the bulk of his damage was done against Tiny Gallon and Sean Williams rather than the delightfully and ridiculously long-armed Larry Sanders.

Jeff Teague bounced back nicely from his disappointing second game. At this point, it's best to concede that Teague isn't going to shoot jumpers in Summer League. His ability to get past his defender or split the defenders on the pick-and-roll keeps him going to the basket on a consistent basis. That the majority of pump fakes (this works regardless of who is pump faking) succeed in this setting takes care of most other instances. Again, Teague attacked without forcing things (for the most part) and his assist-to-turnover ratio improved to 5:3.

Matched up against an NBA-quality defender (DeMarcus Nelson) for the first time, Jordan Crawford struggled to score as efficiently as he did in the first two games. The three-year age difference between Nelson and Crawford was visible on their similar frames. Nelson has filled out. Crawford hasn't yet. Despite struggling to score, Crawford again displayed good basketball instincts and is a very willing passer. His on-the-ball appears at least acceptable already though he tends to lose contact with his man when he doesn't have the ball.

Look for more from me on Crawford later at

Trey Gilder would not be playing in Summer League if he could shoot. He's athletic, active, and aware but no defender need pay attention to him until he gets within 15 feet of the basket.

Alade Aminu came alive late with a couple of impressive blocks (though he only got credit for one) and strong work on the offensive glass.

James Augustine recovered quickly from his left ankle sprain and did James Augustine things: defending hard, rebounding hard, and fouling hard.

Luke Jackson alternated sharp shooting with ambitious, unsuccessful passing.

Sergiy Gladyr struggled again but his grasp of the motion offense the Hawks are trying to run looked stronger. That goes for the whole team, really.

Jermareo Davidson got his most extended run of Summer League so far. He was active, not dissimilar to Aminu. I doubt he's a candidate to make the roster but he'd be a better use of minutes here than Randolph Morris.

Landon Milbourne broke his Summer League duck late but still doesn't look comfortable at all out there.

Pape Sy was listed as a DNP-CD but he didn't even participate in warmups so I suspect it was again the sore achilles that kept him on the bench.

Summer League Game #3 Open Thread

WHO: Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks

TIP-OFF: 8:30pm EDT

TV: Summer League Broadband

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

TWITTER: @hoopinion

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Breaking News: Luke Jackson Still Available

For accuracy's sake, I should have limited myself to the signings teams had announced on their official websites. Lottomatica Virtus Roma have felt the need to dispute their previously reported signing of Luke Jackson:
Regarding some news outlets these days, especially on the Internet, Virtus denies any kind of interest in the player Luke Jackson. Daily Dime: Teague Brings Speed To Hawks

My contribution to today's dime concerns Jeff Teague:
Despite being an organization that prizes continuity, the Atlanta Hawks are set to introduce a new element in their attempt to improve their record for a sixth consecutive season. That element: Jeff Teague's speed. While it's unlikely new coach Larry Drew shares Mike Woodson's aversion to young guards, Teague's larger role has more to do with Drew inheriting the same problems Woodson faced with the backcourt. Mike Bibby is aging, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford both need the ball a lot, and none of the three can effectively guard opposing point guards.

Recognizing his necessity to the coming season, the Hawks built their summer league team around Teague to the extent they didn't bring a backup point guard. His performance in carrying a load both heavier and different than he'll have in the regular season has been mixed.

On Monday night, Jeff Teague more than held his own against O.J. Mayo, simultaneously exhibiting aggression and sound decision-making while scoring 16 points and earning three assists (several potential assists failed to materialize when his teammates missed open shots). On Wednesday afternoon, Teague failed to exhibit the same control and was outplayed by D-Leaguer (granted, Spurs-affiliated D-Leaguer) Curtis Jerrells. He repeatedly forced things when he got in the lane, and although that got him to the line 12 times, it also led to nine turnovers, slightly offset by three assists, this time a fair representation of his playmaking.

Teague wasn't pleased with his play Wednesday. "I didn't have a good showing tonight. I'm glad we've got three more games. If this was our last game, I'd go home frustrated," he said. That Teague was looking forward to his next opportunity soon after a disappointing performance has to encourage the Hawks who, as Teague put it, "want me to go hard every day and work hard and get better."

Less encouraging might be that, through two games, Teague has scored 16 of his 31 points at the free throw line. With no one yet able to stay in front of him in Las Vegas, he's had little opportunity or reason to the hone the jump shot that figures to feature far more prominently in his game during the regular season. Teague's speed could be a solution to part of the team's perimeter defense problem, but it might also keep him from thriving alongside either Johnson or Crawford if he too is most effective with the ball in his hands. No matter how Larry Drew's half-court offense differs from Woodson's isolation-heavy, it's unlikely to be centered around Teague and he'll have to find other ways to score.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Updating O'Neal, Williams Rumors

Both Michael Cunningham in Atlanta and Brian Windhorst in Cleveland have scuttled the earlier rumor of the Hawks and Cavs getting involved in a sign-and-trade involving Shaquille O'Neal.

The Marvin for Shaq sign-and-trade appears to be a non-starter. The Hawks have consistently said they like their core, and that includes Marvin. So they are not looking to move Marvin for Shaq when he’s playing under what they consider to be a reasonable contract for a starting 3 whom they still believe can blossom under L.D.
There were also various reports Wednesday that the Cavs were talking to the Atlanta Hawks about trading for small forward Marvin Williams. According to league sources, the Hawks are motivated to trade Williams and have been looking for takers and also have some interest in Shaquille O'Neal.

Cavs General Manager Chris Grant has a relationship with Williams from when he was in the Hawks' front office. But Williams had a poor 2009-10 season, averaging just 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds. He also has four years and $30 million left on his contract.

A league source said that while O'Neal's representatives have been pushing the Cavs to look for a sign-and-trade with the Hawks, the Cavs are only mildly interested. It is believed O'Neal is looking for a two-year contract worth more than the $5.7 million mid-level exception and also plenty of playing time. Without cooperation from the Cavs, his options will likely be quite limited.

Notes on the Second Game of Summer


A fundamental question regarding the evaluation of Summer League play is what to do about the free throws. Get in the lane here and you'll likely get to the free throw line. I'm not sure that doing so has much relevance when projecting performance from Summer League to the regular season. Thus I suspect that Jordan Crawford scoring just 5 of his 20 points at the free throw line bodes better than Jeff Teague getting 11 of his 15 points at the line.

Yet, as for the game itself, the Hawks, following a dreadful first half, got back into the game by getting to the free throw line. The free throws did exhibit a will to win of sorts even if they didn't impress. So, I'll credit Teague and Trey Gilder for their 15 second half free throw attempts while also acknowledging that Teague's 9 turnovers (as well as Curtis Jerrells's stat line) and Gilder's 6 fouls are probably the more telling stats.

Crawford was encouraging again, scoring inside and out and showing impressive court vision. He got some time at the point with Pape Sy out due to a sore right achilles. Richard Hendrix and his nice collection of post moves impressed as well though Lester Conner found his inattention to detail on the full-court press offense troubling. Randolph Morris wasn't bad himself, scoring 11 points. It says something of the standard he's set for himself that a three foul, four turnover performance is noticeably above average.

Alade Aminu failed to replicate his fine performance against Memphis, scoring 4 points on 5 shots, grabbing just 2 rebounds, and generally failing to impact the game. Luke Jackson couldn't match the energy he added Monday night in a longer appearance. Sergiy Gladyr missed all 5 of his field goal attempts and got shoved around pretty good when he tried to hit the defensive glass. James Augustine left early with a left ankle sprain.

Summer League Game #2 Open Thread

WHO: Atlanta Hawks vs. San Antonio Spurs

TIP-OFF: 6:30pm EDT

TV: ESPN3, Summer League Broadband

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

TWITTER: @hoopinion

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts. Aldridge: Cavs Trying To Use Shaq To Lure Williams

David Aldridge reports that the Cavs wish to use Shaquille O'Neal to acquire Marvin Williams. This isn't a trade that would hurt both teams so much as one that appears destined to frustrate both fan bases. O'Neal seems surplus to requirements in Atlanta and Williams could again be a victim of expectations as LeBron's replacement.

Perhaps more interestingly, Aldridge puts a number to the trade exception ($2.9 million, as expected) the Hawks will get once the Josh Childress deal becomes official (UPDATE: It's official.) and adds Kurt Thomas (who would help the team defensively and likely be limited to a situational role) to the list of free agent big men in whom the Hawks have interest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 Cunningham: Brad Miller Still In Play As Center Options Dwindle

Say what you will about spending millions of dollars on Shaquille O'Neal to make Zaza Pachulia redundant, but at least O'Neal is on the downside of an all-time great career and is still productive in those minutes he can play. Brad Miller, on the other hand, is on the downside of a good career and not one noted for its involvement in improving a team's defense.

Michael Cunningham is all over the Hawks' continued pursuit of another big man:
The Hawks are still in the running for Brad Miller.

“There is definitely mutual interest,” agent Mark Bartelstein said today. “Where that’s going to lead, it’s tough to say. There are a lot of things he’s looking at. Nothing has been decided.”

Boston and Miami also reportedly have been talking to Miller, but a return to Chicago is still a possibility. Bartelstein said Miller could make a decision by the end of the week.

The Hawks apparently think Miller would be a good fit in L.D.’s offense. He had been a good outside shooter for years but slipped in that area last season. So too did his defense and rebounding for that matter.

Defense and rebounding have not yet proven to be foremost among this team's concerns (see the desire for Ilgauskas) lending further, implicit credence to the team's interest in Miller, who, it should be said, could be expected to serve as an upgrade over Joe Smith.

Kwame Brown also draws a mention in the post, though as one with interest in the Hawks rather than vice-versa. Brown's last four teams (over the last three seasons) have allowed fewer points with him on the court but, combined, that's over less than 2500 minutes and Brown's teams have seen their own scoring rates decline even more with him on the floor.

As for Anthony Tolliver, he possesses some marginal stretch-four potential (he edged over 33% from beyond the arc with the Warriors last season but was less successful (natch) with the long twos), can finish at the rim, and is competent on the defensive glass.

ShamSports: Atlanta Hawks Summer League Roster

In which we learn that three members of the Hawks summer league roster are under contract with European teams for next season.

Notes on the First Game of Summer


Jeff Teague, matched up against OJ Mayo most of the night, looked good. He was aggressive while remaining under control and didn't really force anything until he committed the two late turnovers trying to create a bucket which would tie the game. The silver lining of those turnovers was his genuine disappointment in committing them. The disappointment did not primarily manifest itself as frustration. He appeared to know both that he made mistakes and he can do better. Teague's assist total reflects the shooters he found for open shots more than his passing acumen in this game.

Jordan Crawford also encouraged against a decent level (for summer league) of competition. I'm no great admirer of Sam Young but after watching games wherein Toney Douglas and Garrett Temple were clearly the best players on the court, Crawford's nice work against an NBA rotation player shouldn't be dismissed. He generally looked to spot up off of Teague's dribble penetration but also looked positive when he put the ball on the floor whether creating for himself or teammates.

Michael Cunningham got Jeff Teague to speak about playing with Jordan Crawford after the game.

Like many (if not most) of the guys in Summer League, Sergiy Gladyr played sped up and his high level of effort overwhelmed his ability to execute. His stroke looked good, though. I'd like to see him get some minutes alongside Teague at some point this week.

Pape Sy backed up Teague at the point. He struggled with ball pressure, thus the team struggled to get into their sets (such as they were, this is Summer League) with him on the floor. He showed good quickness whenever he got space but almost exclusively used that quickness to put his head down and drive into traffic. He appeared to turn his right ankle in the second half. After the game, it was iced and he was being careful not to put too much weight on it.

Among players not under contract, Alade Aminu easily did the most to aid his own cause by displaying the requisite athleticism take advantage of his size. It's difficult to judge his defensive and rebounding aptitude in this setting but based on this one performance, one wouldn't begrudge him a roster spot if the Hawks feel they can afford to carry a non-veteran big man.

Richard Hendrix and James Augustine both got off to slow starts (It wasn't until late in the third quarter that someone other than Teague, Crawford, Aminu, or Trey Gilder made a bucket.) but were on the court for and contributed to the fourth quarter rally. Unlikely as it is that the Hawks will learn anything new about Randolph Morris (0-4 FGA, 4 PF, 2 TO in 14:11) this week, I suspect the team would be better off seeing more of Hendrix (who gets great position on both ends from which to score or rebound from below the rim) and Augustine (who could be a useful fifth big man if he corrals his aggressiveness in the service of solid defense).

Gilder showed that if he could make an open jump shot he wouldn't be in summer league. He's still a plausible backup for Marvin Williams if the team wants to add size on the wing.

Luke Jackson is probably not a plausible backup to Marvin Williams, but his insertion into the game ignited the rally. Memphis hadn't had to worry about either Gilder or Landon Milbourne spotting up. Jackson's presence created some more space for Teague and Crawford to operate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer League Game #1 Open Thread

WHO: Atlanta Hawks vs. Memphis Grizzlies

TIP-OFF: 10:30pm EDT

TV: ESPN3, Summer League Broadband

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

TWITTER: @hoopinion

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Hawks Trade Josh Childress To Phoenix

The return on holding the right to match an offer for this sort of production: a 2012 second-round pick and a trade exception. Michael Cunningham describes the potential value of the exception:
Atlanta’s trade exception would be worth half the amount of his first-year salary since he would become a base-year compensation player. The exception works as a sort of credit that would allow the Hawks to make a trade while over the salary cap without meeting the usual salary-matching requirement.
The trade can't be fairly evaluated until the exception gets used or expires but it must be noted that Josh Childress will be paid less money (and over more years) than the Hawks gave their perennial* fifth-option Marvin Williams.

*The constancy of his role somewhat negates the idea that the Hawks expect (or demand) improvement from Williams due to his relative youth.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Guide to the Atlanta Hawks Summer League Roster

Jeff Teague will be the focal point. Jordan Crawford, Sergiy Gladyr, and Pape Sy will intrigue. Richard Hendrix, James Augustine, Jermareo Davidson, and Alade Aminu should each have a real chance to augment the frontcourt rotation this season. Trey Gilder and Landon Milbourne may be test cases as to whether or not the team recognizes the need for a backup small forward. Randolph Morris apparently has a chance to serve (again) as a redundant (though perhaps more importantly a bulky* and redundant) center and/or a manifestation of the organization's separation anxiety.

*Does every public mention of the need for a big guy, a "true center," or someone "bulky" cause Zaza Pachulia pain?

Jeff Teague:
2009-10 Season Review: Jeff Teague

Boxscore from the 82nd game, wherein Teague scored 24 points and earned 15 assists
Jordan Crawford:
Pre-draft assessment of Jordan Crawford: "He scored at a higher rate last season than any other shooting guard in this draft and he and Andy Rautins are the only shooting guards (in this draft) to make more than half of their two-point attempts and over 37% of their three-point attempts last season. Factor in Crawford's age, athleticism, and his acceptable passing and ball-handling and you've got a reasonable NBA prospect."

Let's not forget in the disappointment of how picks 31 and 53 were used that Crawford was likely a good use of the 27th pick if perhaps slightly redundant from a short-term roster construction standpoint.

Post-draft assessment of Jordan Crawford, including more complete college stats.
Sergiy Gladyr:
2009-10 league stats
Pape Sy:
all Hoopinion posts tagged "Pape Sy"

Michael Cunningham on Sy from this weekend's rookie camp: "Pape is legitimately 6-7 and quick with long arms. Those are the tools for a good defender and Pape also seems to have the tenacity for it. 'He’s a good defender,' L.D. said. 'Ask Jeff Teague. Took [the ball] from him. [Teague] got a little lackdasical with the ball and he just took it from him. He’s a gritty defender. He’s got good size, he’s got long arms and he’s got an aggression about him. You can’t be lax around him.'"
Don't expect either Gladyr or Sy to join the logjam in the backcourt this season. Dave Pendergraft:
"Now is not the right time. We brought them over here to get experience. The game plan is for them to learn the system and get them some exposure to some NBA-level players.

[Spain] is a perfect place for [Gladyr]. It is a good league, arguably the second-best league in the world, and he gets to play."
Richard Hendrix:
2009-10 league stats

2008-09 D-League stats

DraftExpress on Hendrix (12/28/09): "He’s a brute force underneath the basket with his terrific body, huge hands and 7-3 wingspan. He’s not a terribly skilled offensive player but is regardless fairly effective around the paint, particularly with his back to the basket. His main virtues lie in his rebounding ability, as he boxes out opponents extremely well and does an excellent job pursuing loose balls with his soft hands and long arms. He is yet to develop much of a face-up game and still a liability from the free throw line, two things he must address as his career moves on, but is a highly efficient player (leading the ACB in field goal percentage) who understands his limitations and comes off as quite an intelligent and fundamentally sound player. Defensively, Hendrix is an undersized center who is effective guarding the post thanks to his strength, smarts and tenacity, but loses effectiveness the more he steps away from the basket."
James Augustine:
2009-10 league stats

career NBA stats

2006-07 D-League stats

2010 Orlando Summer League stats
Jermareo Davidson:
2009-10 league stats

career NBA stats

career D-League stats

2010 Orlando Summer League stats
Alade Aminu:
2009-10 D-League stats
Trey Gilder:
career D-League stats

2010 Orlando Summer League stats
Landon Milbourne:
2009-10 college stats
Luke Jackson:
2009-10 league stats

career NBA stats

career D-League stats
Randolph Morris:
2009-10 Season Review: The End of the Bench

2008-09 Season Review: The End of the Bench

career NBA stats

Friday, July 09, 2010

Links For the Day

My summer league roster analysis probably won't be finished today. Tiding you over...

It Won't Cost To Watch The Hawks In Summer League

Commenter Bob, below the previous post, alerted me to the fact that ESPN3 will be showing at least the first two Hawks games from Vegas.

Thanks, Bob.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Summer League Roster Set

There are some potentially useful players on here in addition to Jeff Teague (of whom we should see plenty as there is not another lead guard on the roster): Richard Hendrix and James Augustine foremost among those whose rights the Hawks do not own. The roster (as reported by Michael Cunningham) below. Analysis to follow in a subsequent post.

Alade Aminu, F, 6-10, Georgia Tech (R)
James Augustine, F, 6-10, Illinois (2)
Jordan Crawford, G , 6-4, Xavier (R)
Jermareo Davidson , F, 6-10, Alabama (2)
Trey Gilder, F, 6-9, Northwestern State (1)
Sergiy Gladyr, G, 6-5, Ukraine (R)
Richard Hendrix, F, 6-9, Alabama (R)
Luke Jackson, F/G, 6-7, Oregon (4)
Landon Milbourne, F, 6-7, Maryland (R)
Randolph Morris, C, 6-11, Kentucky (4)
Pape Sy, G, 6-6, France (R)
Jeff Teague, G, 6-2 Wake Forest (1)

It'll Cost To See The Hawks Play In Summer League

There are two venues for the Vegas Summer League: COX Pavilion and The Thomas and Mack Center. The Hawks are playing all of their games in Thomas and Mack Center (surely in tribute to Stacey Augmon). NBA TV is only broadcasting the games played at COX Pavilion.

That's where
Summer League Broadband may come in for Hawks fans. $14.95 for the full schedule* of summer league games live and an on demand game archive. Budget accordingly, if applicable. For those on the fence about shelling out to watch scrimmages, I'll be attending the first three summer league games and covering them in this space for the price of free. Definitely a get-what-you-pay-for scenario.

*I've asked for confirmation that this package does include the games in COX Pavilion and will update once that is confirmed or disconfirmed.

UPDATE: confirmed

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Salary Cap, Luxury Tax Line Set

Both will be a bit higher than previously projected. The salary cap will be set at $58.044 million and the luxury tax line will be $70.307 million. The Hawks currently owe around* $64.3 million to 10 players for 2010-11.

*Depending on the details of Joe Johnson's new contract. With this cap number, Johnson's 2010-11 salary could be as high as $17.4 million and the six-year value of his deal $131.8 million.

Also announced: the MLE will be $5.765 next season. Given minimum roster requirements, the Hawks, barring moves to shed some of their current obligations, would exceed the luxury tax line were they to use the full MLE.

SLAM Online: Whitaker: About That Joe Johnson Contract...

Lang Whitaker's take on the Joe Johnson contract falls somewhere between Mark Bradley's defense of it and the criticism and worry it's drawn from the Hawks blogosphere. Which makes sense given Lang's position both on the general-columnist-to-team-specific-writer and old-to-new-media spectra. It's also well-reasoned and well-written:
In some ways, the Joe Johnson free agency was a lose-lose situation for the Atlanta Hawks. If the Hawks bid somewhere lower than the max and lost Joe, the chorus of “The Hawks are afraid to spend money” would have rang out. And if the Hawks *had* bid lower than the max, they probably would not have re-signed Joe. As it turned out, the Hawks decided not to be cheap, and when free agency began they aggressively offered the most money possible to Joe, who happily agreed to take that money.

The Hawks really had just two options:

1) Spend whatever it takes to keep Joe Johnson

2) Let Joe go and have about $7 million to spend on a free agent to replace a four-time All-Star
Go read the whole thing.