Monday, October 31, 2011

Pape Sy Explodes For 25 Points in 20 Minutes

With no NBA basketball for at least another month, these weekly updates from Europe are here to stay. This edition differs from its predecessors by virtue of unfettered* good news.

On Saturday, BCM Gravelines beat Pau-Lacq-Orthez 89-60, led by Pape Sy's 25 points on 11 shots in 20 minutes. Sy made three of five three-pointers, five of six two-point attempts and all six of his free throws. Sy grabbed four rebounds, earned an assist, committed a turnover and drew seven fouls.

*For example, this footnote will provide the post's only mention of Keith Benson

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Marvin Williams

There are, I suspect, few remaining believers in Marvin Williams. It appears unlikely that he will develop into a deadly spot-up shooter with three-point range, nor a reliable finisher in transition, nor a dangerous threat in the post who utilizes his size advantage over many small forwards. Last season, whether through injury, further erosion in confidence or both, Williams even regressed defensively. Late in the season, once the Hawks had Jason Collins and Kirk Hinrich and Damien Wilkins all on the roster, there rarely was a compelling reason to play Williams other than his decent-to-good rebounding rate, one far superior to any of the alternatives.

Perhaps back surgery and a late start to the season will make Williams more physically capable than he appeared much of last season. Perhaps Jeff Teague's performance against the Bulls in the playoffs* combined with the (likely) lack of depth will push Williams into a defined role as a leader of the second unit, a role where expectations might better match his capabilities. Then again, depending on how elastic** an amnesty clause the new CBA contains, Williams and the Hawks may be able to part ways before the new season begins. It might be best for both parties.

*It is in the playoffs where Williams' performance becomes indefensible, where it degrades from disappointingly average (but useful) to inarguably poor.

**The more elastic an amnesty clause, the chance that the Hawks use it to get out from under Joe Johnson's contracts increases. Not a lot, but some.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alex Meruelo May Not Have the Money To Buy the Hawks

Remember this Forbes story from August that received little attention? Allow me to quote it once more:
Alex Meruelo's purchase of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and lease to Philips Arena, pending approval from the league’s owners, would be heavily financed by the current owner of those assets, Atlanta Spirit LLC.

According to a person with first-hand knowledge of the deal, 40% of the purchase is to be financed by Atlanta Spirit LLC for five years, which is probably why there has been so much confusion regarding how much Meruelo is paying for the money-losing team we valued at $295 million this past January.

Seller financing is unusual in sports and typically involves poorly capitalized teams. The purchase of MLB’s currently bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers by Frank McCourt from Fox in 2004 involved considerable financing from the News Corp. subsidiary. And the sale of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008 by William Davidson to Oren Koules and Len Barrie was partially financed by Davidson. Shortly thereafter Koules and Barrie sold the under-capitalized hockey team to Boston Red Sox minority owner Jeff Vinik for much less than they paid for it.
Almost makes you wish the lone blogger who made mention of it 10 weeks ago had some (any) reportorial skills, no?

This evening, Marc Stein follows up with this report about Alex Meruelo's lack of funds to buy an NBA team (HT: Kurt Helin):
Sources told on Wednesday that there are concerns at the league level and within the Hawks' current ownership group, headed by Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson, about whether Meruelo indeed has the sufficient funds to purchase a majority stake in the franchise and operate an NBA team.


It was initially believed that the approval process was moving slowly because the NBA's resources have been largely devoted to ongoing negotiations with the NBA Players Association as part of a lockout that Wednesday reached its 117th day.

But sources indicate that the prospect of Meruelo's deal collapsing was mentioned Tuesday when the Board of Governors convened in New York to discuss revenue-sharing plans.

And the ongoing lockout did not prevent the NBA from announcing last week that the Board of Governors had unanimously approved the sale of the Philadelphia 76ers from from Comcast-Spectacor to a group led by private-equity billionaire Joshua Harris.
The Hawks are almost certainly in a bad way cap-wise regardless of the particulars of the new CBA. ASG made sure of that. The last thing this franchise needs is a cash-poor owner attempting to deal with the limitations imposed by his predecessors.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Summarizing the Atlanta Hawks As Featured In #NBArank

From Al Horford at 25th with a score of 7.8 to Keith Benson at 495th with a score of 1.63, a complete list of once, current and (possibly) future Hawks, per #NBArank.

Even though I learned my colleagues seriously underrate Josh Smith (flaws and all), I quite enjoyed participating both during the attempt-to-rank-several-hundred-professional-basketball-players-fairly-and-coherently stage and in seeing the breadth and depth of opinions from my colleagues. Especially when they were wrong disagreed with me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Keith Benson, Pape Sy Off To Slow Starts In Italy, France

It's just two games in Keith Benson's case but Dinamo Sassari (former home of Othello Hunter) weren't impressed. Via Sportando Basket's Twitter feed:
Atlanta Hawks draftee Keith Benson on the verge to be waived by Dinamo Sassari after 2 Serie A games. Benson averages 6pt and 4rb in 21.5min
Not official yet but Hawks draftee Keith Benson is out of Dinamo Sassari. He might play 1more game coz they don't have replacement yet.
Meanwhile in France, Pape Sy played in one of BCM Gravelines first two games, a 77-73 loss to Chalon (for whom Alade Aminu had 15 and 7 in 29 minutes), scoring 3 points in 13 minutes. Sy did not play in Gravelines' 91-59 victory over Roanne on Saturday.

Zaza Pachulia scored 10 points in Galatasaray's season opening win.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Jason Collins

Everyone deserves credit. Jason Collins deserves credit for getting into shape. Rick Sund deserves credit for signing him. Larry Drew deserves credit for using him almost exclusively in situations appropriate to his specific skill. Josh Smith and Al Horford deserve credit for playing good defense alongside Collins at their secondary defensive positions. The fates deserve credit for delivering the Orlando Magic as Atlanta'a opponent in the first round of the playoffs.

The Hawks allowed more than 11 fewer points per 100 possessions with Collins on the court during both the regular season and the playoffs. Quite simply, without the 593 regular season minutes Collins played and the 103 minutes he spent defending Dwight Howard in the first round of the playoffs, the 2011-12 Atlanta Hawks season, by the organization's recent standard of competence, would have been an abject failure.

I didn't see it coming. Nor was there a single thing about the season I enjoyed more than the success the team enjoyed when Collins was on the court.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Season Will Be Fewer Than 77 Games Long

I haven't chosen to write about it much, what with the Hawks in ownership limbo and a non-factor* in the present negotiations but, once the owners, largely via David Stern, chose belligerence as their default public relations stance, I feared this day would come.

*The Atlanta Spirit Group's past actions are clearly relevant both to the hard-line stance the owners are taking and the volume of money players are being asked to relinquish going forward.

The players have, thus far, tempered their very real self-interest with a more voluble interest in the health of the league than the owners. The players have attempted to negotiate. The owners are taking a shot at breaking the union to guarantee operating profits regardless of the decisions they make, profits above and beyond those they (mostly) realize upon selling their teams. There are reasonable, owner-friendly proposals that could have secured a new CBA by now: players taking less than 57% of BRI, a reduced MLE, adjustments to the overall and guaranteed length of player contracts, some manner of revenue sharing amongst themselves.

The players want to make a deal that will pay them fairly* over the course of their necessarily finite careers. The owners don't want to make a deal. Not yet.

*Relative to the volumes we're willing to spend on one of the finest forms of entertainment and vicarious accomplishment yet invented.

The owners want to correct years of mistakes -- over-leveraged purchases, bad hires, meddling in basketball decisions and the resulting bad contracts -- in one fell swoop and on the players' dime. And those owners who haven't made so many bad decisions, those that run profitable and/or successful franchises, they don't want to prop up the profligate, the short-sighted, the entitled beyond the necessity of there being 30 teams in the league.

So all involved will lose money in the short term. Some of the parties involved will make that money back in the future. These basketball games will never be replaced.

Goodnight, Minneapolis.

Goodnight, Celtics.

Goodnight, Chicago.

Goodnight, Knicks.

Goodnight, Jazz.

Goodnight, Orlando.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Jamal Crawford

Quite predictably, Jamal Crawford couldn't muster back-to-back career years. Without the freedom Mike Woodson granted him to focus on scoring (and nothing but) Crawford turned back into the player he'd always been. Crawford's 2009-10 season was a remarkable gift that provided a surprisingly substantial return on the $19 million the Hawks paid him over the last two seasons. (As did the 123 points he scored against the Magic in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.) Make no mistake, the 2010-11 regular provided a lengthy look at a typical Jamal Crawford season.

CrawfordPts/36TS%Ast/36TO/36Usg Rate

Even as he went about winning the Sixth Man of Year award, the conventional wisdom regarding Crawford held true -- he's useful when his shots go in; he's useless when they don't. Given his limitations as a decision-maker when given the responsibility to decide between shooting or passing and his complete inability to rebound or defend, Crawford's value rests entirely on his scoring rate and his scoring efficiency. He was slightly above the league average in both respects last season:


Given that the Hawks played 4-on-5 whenever the other team had the ball or a shot went up* when Crawford was on the court, he needs to be more than a slightly above average scorer to justify his cost. To put Crawford's 2010-11 offensive contributions in perspective, he used an offensive possession 18.8% more often than did Al Horford, resulting in a scoring rate just 7.6% higher than Horford. The concerns about Horford's limitations as a scorer are legitimate. Minus whatever alchemy Mike Woodson used to transform Flip Murray into a useful NBA player, Jamal Crawford, who is only a scorer, was hardly more productive (and far less efficient) than Al Horford in his efforts to put the ball in the basket.

*Though, perhaps due to the likelihood that Crawford would shoot the ball when in the game, the Hawks posted a higher offensive rebound rate when Crawford was on the floor each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately, the increase in their opposition's offensive rebound rate was equal or greater.

During the 2009-10 season, Rick Sund deserved credit for acquiring Crawford while giving up just Acie Law IV and Speedy Claxton's expiring contract, Mike Woodson deserved credit for playing to Crawford's strengths, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams deserved credit for mitigating Crawford's weaknesses and Crawford deserved credit for making a lot of shots. During the 2010-11 season, it became abundantly clear why Golden State would choose not to pay the last two years of Crawford's contract.

Over his two seasons in Atlanta, the Hawks got more value from Crawford than anyone could have anticipated. Looking ahead, the team does not appear to be in a position to spend much on a player who shares many of Joe Johnson's limitations, while being older and inferior, a player whose presence would only further stunt the development of the franchise's lone remaining young, cheap asset. Barring a trade, Kirk Hinrich figures to fill the role of the overpaid veteran guard who provides a narrow utility. Hinrich, theoretically, could better complement Johnson and Jeff Teague than Crawford.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Zaza Pachulia to Play for Galatasaray

His rumored deal with Besiktas never materialized, but, in the absence of NBA basketball, Zaza Pachulia will play in Turkey. Galatasaray qualified for Euroleague this season which means those with access to ESPN3 may get to watch a Hawk play professional basketball this autumn.