Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Free Agent Clearinghouse Post

At SBNation, Tom Ziller provides a list of all 2012 NBA free agents, restricted and unrestricted.

At, Neil Paine lists all the guys who are playing overseas but do not have an opt-out clause. (In related news, the 2010-11 Season Review: Josh Powell is on deck.)

Keeping in mind the salary cap limitations (barring an unexpected leap into the realm of NBA luxury tax payers) the Hawks have created for themselves means they might need to include a a rookie free agent or two in their December acquisitions, speculate away.

2010-11 Season Review: Kirk Hinrich

The Hawks acquired Kirk Hinirch too late in the season (and Hinrich is too far past his peak) for him to have any real impact on their record but he formed, with Jason Collins and Jamal Crawford, the unlikely triumvirate central to Atlanta's first round playoff upset of the Orlando Magic. Hinrich even timed his season-ending injury such that the outcome of the first series was not put in jeopardy while giving Jeff Teague his first real opportunity to demonstrate that he can play.

Yes, the Hawks gave up a lot to acquire Hinrich, but that's more a giving Mike Bibby a three-year contract problem than a Kirk Hinrich problem. If the Hawks choose to keep Hinrich, he can play alongside either Teague or Joe Johnson, providing useful positional versatility on what figures to be a shallow roster. That positional versatility at both ends of the floor also makes Hinrich the team's second-most valuable* trade asset.

*assuming the team would trade, at most, only one of Josh Smith or Al Horford

Unlike last season, where trading Jamal Crawford in the final year of his contract made theoretical sense but lacked practical plausibility, let's remember that Hinrich was acquired not for Acie Law IV and Speedy Claxton's expiring deal but for Jordan Crawford and a first round pick. If the Hawks decide to deal Hinrich (a decision that may strain credulity as it assumes the Hawks taking a long-term approach to roster and cap management), they might get back some of what they gave up to acquire Hinrich in the first place.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Jeff Teague

Even though he played better in his second season than he did in his rookie campaign, Jeff Teague could not turn competent performances into consistent playing time. Even though Teague's box score numbers compared favorably both to the team's other options and backup point guards around the league and his on/off numbers were perfectly fine* when paired with a regular member of the team's 2-guard rotation.

*Updating those on/off numbers for the full season: the Hawks were -1.2 points per 100 possessions (over 1536 possessions) when Teague wasn't paired with Jordan Crawford, Pape Sy, Mike Bibby or Damien Wilkins in the backcourt.

The questions about Jeff Teague took a turn to the meta as the season progressed. Did his inability to earn regular playing time from two different head coaches over two full seasons despite all public evidence indicating the ability to do a job speak more to him having limitations largely imperceptible to outsiders or a greater organizational dysfunction?

Then Kirk Hinrich got hurt in Game 6 of the Orlando series and Larry Drew no choice but to give Jeff Teague regular minutes in Atlanta's second round series against the Chicago Bulls. Against newly-crowned MVP Derrick Rose. And the question was answered quickly and decisively. It wasn't because Teague can't play. Before his injury-shortened appearance in Game 6, Teague played more than 40 minutes a night in the series, scored more than 16 points a game with a 61.3 TS%, 22 assists against just 5 turnovers, 3 rebounds* a game, 6 steals and 3 blocks.

Beyond the numbers, Teague provided things in that playoff series that the Hawks so often lacked during the season: dribble penetration, trips to the free throw line, active perimeter defense. Given regular opportunities, he should (as long as his relatively slight frame can withstand his relatively physical style of play) do so again.

*Not a lot unless the baseline for point guard rebounding has been established by Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford and any activity on the glass counts as value added.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Zaza Pachulia, Pape Sy Productive in Europe

Zaza Pachulia scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Galatasaray beat Asseco Prokom 78-76 in Euroleague play on Thursday.

Pape Sy has overcome a slow start for Gravelines-Dunkerque to score 69 points on just 38 shots in just 78 minutes over his last five league games. In two Euro Cup games, Sy has scored 25 points on 17 shots and grabbed 11 rebounds in just under 35 minutes. Sy has only played nine games for Gravelines-Dunkerque but it's been far and away the most productive stretch of his professional career and an encouraging sign for an Atlanta Hawks team that may lack options when filling out its roster.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Amnesty Options for the Atlanta Hawks

Assuming the new CBA gets ratified by both players and owners, it will contain the following amnesty provision:
  • Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.
  • Salary of amnestied players included for purposes of calculating players’ agreed-upon share of BRI.
  • A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the player’s salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.
The Hawks are in a pretty terrible position with regard to the salary cap: about $7 million over the cap (counting neither the unguaranteed deals to Pape Sy and Magnum Rolle nor cap holds for the empty roster spaces) despite having just seven players under contract for the 2011-12 season and only $4 million scheduled to come off the books (and some guaranteed money to be added should the team keep its first round draft pick) after the season. The Hawks are both unlikely to pay the luxury tax and unlikely to get under the salary cap by any significant amount for either the 2011-12 or 2012-13 seasons.

What follows may be an academic exercise. The current ownership group chose to keep Randolph Morris on the roster to play 124 minutes in 2009-10 rather than pay him the $855,189 he was guaranteed and either use his roster spot on someone potentially useful or sign an additional player who might have been more productive. Admittedly, this history creates plausibility problems for the options discussed below, wherein ASG would choose to risk paying 10 times as much as Morris was due in 2009-10 for a far more useful professional basketball player not to play for the Hawks.

So, disclaiming the very real possibility that the Hawks will never use the amnesty provision of the new, tentatively agreed-upon CBA, the team has three potential amnesty options:

1) Kirk Hinrich -- Using the amnesty provision on Hinrich would be the cheapest option as his pro-rated 2011-12 salary will be around $6.5 million. Presumably, using the provision on Hinrich would be a short-term move inspired by a desire to use the MLE*, the Bi-Annual Exception, or just fill out the back end of the roster with veterans rather than the likes of Pape Sy, Keith Benson, Magnum Rolle, or their inexperienced (and cheaper) ilk. I suspect the Hawks are more likely to trade Hinrich than use the amnesty provision on him.

*Choosing to amnesty Hinrich in order to use the MLE to re-sign Jamal Crawford is probably the worst of all potential choices.

2) Marvin Williams -- If the Hawks amnesty Williams before this season starts, they'll still owe him $25 million and would be under the salary cap, but by less than $1 million and with seven roster to spots to fill. If the Hawks amnesty Williams before next season, they'd owe him just under $17 million and would be below $52 million in salary owed (not counting a 2012 first round pick's guaranteed contract) to the five remaining players under contract.

As the Hawks don't gain much flexibility by just using the amnesty provision on Williams before this season begins (though the combination of amnestying Williams and trading Hinrich might have interesting consequences), the number and type of players other teams amnesty will likely impact the Hawks' decision. If a bunch of teams use the amnesty provision immediately, then it's less likely Williams would draw sufficient interest under the third part of the amnesty provision wherein another team currently under the cap would defray some of the money Atlanta owes him. However, that might mean that Williams would draw greater interest as an amnestied free agent next summer when teams had fewer options from which to choose.

The reverse is not necessarily true. Even if the majority of teams hold on to their amnesty provision, Williams' market value is at an all-time low right now so the Hawks might not benefit from a thin market of amnestied players in December.

3) Joe Johnson -- If things go south (or even stagnate) for the Hawks over the course of this season and the next, 2013 could hold massive rebuilding potential for the team. Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Jeff Teague (if the Hawks make a qualifying offer for him) are the only players currently under contract beyond the end of the 2012-13 season.

If rebuilding becomes a reality, the Hawks would also figure to have their 2012 and 2013 first round picks under contract, plus the haul from a Josh Smith trade (as it's highly unlikely the Hawks will just let Smith leave via free agency). In such a scenario, the Hawks might have enough players on team-friendly contracts that it would make sense both to pay Joe Johnson the remaining $69 million in order to get that cap space back and pursue free agents in 2013 and 2014.

Because of that third part of the amnesty provision, there is a chance that it would make sense for a team under the salary cap to assume some of Joe Johnson's contract and defray the cost to the Hawks of using the amnesty provision on Johnson. Again, it's not that Joe Johnson is a worthless basketball player, it's just that he's not going to be worth $20+ million dollars a year for his age 32-34 seasons.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NBA Basketball Tentatively Coming Soon

There's a handshake deal in place for a labor agreement that would result in a 66-game season beginning on December 25th. Players and owners must still vote to approve the deal.

The players should vote for the deal because professional basketball careers are short and it's better to be paid under an owner-friendly CBA* than not paid at all. The owners should vote for the deal because they've won hundreds of millions of dollars, annually, from the players and because, by cramming 66 games into the schedule the quality of play may be sufficiently degraded to achieve some semblance of competitive balance.

*It remains a fair question as to whether the NBPA should have recognized their collective lack of leverage and the extreme hard-line positions of a sizable minority of owners and decertified the union far earlier in the process.

As the deal gets approved or not, as practical applications of the new CBA's provisions become clear and as free agency approaches on December 9th, the focus on team-specific concerns will return to this space, like the approaching season, in concentrated form.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 Hollinger: Marginal Value of Assists

There's no basketball but John Hollinger, who might serve as a humbling example to others, hasn't let that stop him from writing his annual player comments (Insider). Because of the lockout, the fine editors of the NBA section at are doling Hollinger's player comments out one team at a time. The Mavericks and Heat are the only two teams revealed thus far, so it might be a couple weeks until we get a full set of comments about the Atlanta Hawks but, within the LeBron James comment, we learn that, among players with at least 300 assists last season, Joe Johnson's assists provided the lowest average marginal value. The league average assist during the 2010-11 season was worth two-thirds of point. The average Joe Johnson assist was worth .572 points.

The methodology:
Based on shooting percentages at each distance, I calculated that the marginal value of an average dunk/layup assist is about 1.329 points in 2010-11, whereas the marginal value of an assist on a long 2 was just 0.356 points.
As always, this is surely down both to Joe Johnson's particular skills and style of play and a generally dysfunctional Atlanta Hawks offense to which we were witness last season. Atlanta Hawks in long 2-point predilection shocker!

more time for Johnson at small forward will make a positive difference whenever we resume regular operations.

Friday, November 04, 2011

"The Atlanta Hawks Are No Longer For Sale"

So says Bruce Levenson, one of the men who brought you going-down-the-list-of-general-manager-candidates-until-you-find-one-that-agrees-not-to-have-the-authority-to-choose-the-head-coach and almost-three-quarters-of-Joe Johnson's-career-is-worth-$200 million-plus-two-first-round-draft-picks-and-a-league-average-player after the deal to loan Alex Meruelo the money to buy a majority share of the Hawks was terminated by mutual agreement.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Dinamo Sassari Cuts Keith Benson After Four Games

Per Michael Cunningham, Dinamo Sassari have cut Keith Benson:
Dinamo Sassari waived Hawks draftee Keith “Kito” Benson. Benson’s mother, Janice Hale, called it a “mutual parting of ways” and said Benson will work out at Oakland (Mich.) University with a focus on building his strength.
Benson's stats

Sportando Basket tweeted details to Cunningham:
@ajchawks he didn't show his skillse.He had a tough and difficult task, to replace one of the idols of Sassari's fans, Othello Hunter
Othello Hunter.

Which isn't to say that Benson wasn't a perfectly cromulent use of the 48th pick in the draft so much as to remind everyone that the 48th pick in the draft is highly unlikely to contribute in Serie A, much less the NBA. I've always liked Hunter and Benson's superior length might be sufficient for him to carve out the NBA role that has eluded Hunter, as an undersized four, thus far.