Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Opening Night Game Preview: Atlanta Hawks (0-0) at New Jersey Nets (1-0)

For some thoughts more specific to tonight's game, check out the 3-on-3 at Nets Are Scorching.

I don't doubt the sincerity of Larry Drew's desire to have his team play more aggressive defense and push the tempo this season, nor that Jeff Teague's presence will aid both efforts. Aggressive defense and The Horford Treatment cannot co-exist and I'm confident that, if picking up two fouls in the first half while playing aggressive defense leads to lengthy spells on the bench, then players will adjust as necessary to keep themselves on the court.

As for tempo, last season the Hawks finished 27th in possessions per game, same as in 2009-10, but, effectively, last year's team played at a much slower pace. Mike Woodson's last team had so few possessions because it never turned the ball over and got a lot of offensive rebounds. Larry Drew's first team turned the ball over at a roughly league-average rate and never got an offensive rebound.
I expect the Hawks, in the half-court under Drew, will continue to run several seconds of motion offense to create a jump shot, so they'll have to increase tempo by creating transition opportunities to off-set a deliberate half-court offense.

The main reason the Hawks haven't pushed the tempo more often over the past several seasons has been poor defensive rebounding. Under Woodson, the switching defense often inverted the personnel, having big men challenge shooters and guards left to block out on the boxes. Last season, Larry Drew admittedly suffered from Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams being limited by injury but also gave over 1,000 minutes, for reasons good and ill, to poor rebounding big men Jason Collins and Josh Powell.

Jamal Crawford (from John Hollinger's player comments):
Crawford predictably regressed from his fluke rule season in 2009-10...his rebounding went from merely poor to You Can't Be Serious. Crawford is 6-6 and athletic; nobody expects him to outmuscle Kevin Love on the block, but you'd think a few boards would come his way just by dumb luck. Instead he rebounded only 3.4 percent of missed shots when he was on the floor, the single worst figure in the entire NBA. In a league that employed J.J. Barea, Earl Boykins, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and Pooh Jeter, among others, Crawford -- who, again, is 6-6 -- managed to land at rock bottom.

This was not only the worst figure in the NBA last season, it was very nearly the worst in history by a player 6-6 or taller. However, it turns out that there was another 6-6 Hawk who was even worse -- Randy Wittman posted a 3.3 in 1986-87, as did one other player (Jim Paxson in 1989-90).
Crawford will be missed whenever the second unit struggles to score (which, admittedly, could be a nightly occurrence) but his absence will be a virtue every time the other team has the ball, both before and after a shot goes up.

1 comment:

Bronnt said...

Amazing game. Willie Green had a predictable 2/10 shooting night...and was +17. I don't want to take too much from this, coming against the Nets, but a lot of guys surprised me.

Radmanovic actually played really well on defense, and I've always thought he was soft. McGrady looked much like a vintage T-Mac, though without the same kind of ability to finish or get calls around the basket. Willie Green played hard on defense. And Marvin Williams was an aggressive, take-charge offensive player in a game that Joe Johnson started. 3-9 shooting for Marvin, but half of his misses resulted attempting to put back offensive rebounds, so it's not like he was wasting any possessions.

It's beautiful to keep all your starters under 30 minutes in a condensed season like this.