Saturday, December 31, 2011

Initial Feedback: An Experiment In Crowdsourcing

I'm not going to be able to watch tonight's game live which complicates matters for this feature. So I'm crowdsourcing this edition and asking you to write player comments and ratings, either in the comments to this post or on Twitter (@hoopinion). You can write a full set or just comment and rate a single player or the head coach.

Sometime after the clock strikes 2012, the best of those comments will be posted, with attribution, in this space.

Experiment failed.

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Oh, yeah. Jeff Teague can be a tremendous improvement for the Hawks without being an above average point guard in the league. Not that Kyle Lowry getting the better of him proves anything definitively. 4/10

Joe Johnson: With Kevin Martin lighting up Joe Johnson, it became difficult to ignore the inefficiency with which Johnson scored. 4/10

Josh Smith: Josh Smith's stubborn insistence on shooting jump shots (0-6 tonight) does Johnson no favors with regard to the scoring load. Houston's offensive performance didn't speak highly of his ability to impact the game defensively, either. 4/10

Al Horford: If he was the best Hawks player on the night, it was largely by default (or the simple act of not taking bad shots). Luis Scola got the better of him. 5/10

Marvin Williams: Had a fine first quarter but never got back on track before sitting for the 18 minutes of the game. 4/10

Tracy McGrady: It's great that McGrady has been a positive contributor through four games and it's not his fault that those contributions have come at the expense of Marvin Williams. 5/10

Zaza Pachulia: Not built to play at Kyle Lowry's speed. Not likely to play enough minutes for The Horford Treatment to be even a consideration. 3/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Despite a good early effort trapping Goran Dragic in the backcourt, he has to make shots to be effective. Didn't make shots. 2/10

Jannero Pargo: Admirable effort but he's a third point guard filling in due to injury. 3/10

Willie Green: Has improved to provide generic, inoffensive backup guard play. 3/10

Jason Collins: Inexplicably made his season debut after Pachulia picked up his second foul in the first half. Inexplicably on the court while the Hawks were trapping in the backcourt. Never had a chance. 2/10

The head coach
I understand the desire not to run the starters into the ground during the compressed season, but the lack of depth also means that the Hawks can't afford to split 46 minutes between Williams and McGrady. Not on a night where a scoreless Radmanovic and Willie Green play 32 minutes. Neither Williams nor McGrady can play point guard, but Willie Green can't play NBA basketball. Sitting Pachulia because he picked up two first half fouls made no sense, nor did the insertion of Jason Collins to remind us that he can't move well enough to defend the pick-and-roll effectively. Larry Drew will have to be creative in his rotations this season. Exploring whether or not Willie Green can defend Kyle Lowry isn't creative. It's stupid. 3/10

A thought regarding the opposition
It remains to be seen which will be the more effective season-long strategy, but the Rockets may have won this game because Kevin McHale was willing to play Lowry and Martin 40+ minutes each in Houston's third game in a row while Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Jeff Teague barely cracked 30 minutes. One can talk about superior energy and execution but the team that has its best players on the floor more often holds an inherent advantage.

Initial Feedback: Hawks Outlast Nets

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate* response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Barring the inability to connect to the blog software for 15 hours. Apologies for the delay.


Jeff Teague: Teague probably wasn't ready from day one, but surely we needn't have waited two full seasons for this. 7/10

Joe Johnson: Very efficient scoring night. Scoring's the most important part of the game, so if you're going to contribute in just one facet of the game, that would be the one to pick. 6/10

Marvin Williams: We're at the point where 11 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes from Marvin Williams seems surprising light, production-wise. 6/10

Josh Smith: Doubled his season total of made jump shots but was partially culpable for the team's dreadful defensive rebounding. 5/10

Al Horford: His zero defensive rebounds proved a touching tribute to the missing Robin Lopez. 4/10

Zaza Pachulia: He is and always has been an excellent third big man. Let's not forget Zaza getting a role worthy of his talents amidst Jeff Teague's breakthrough season. 6/10

Tracy McGrady: I'm perfectly fine with McGrady picking his spots. His solid fourth quarter made up for his somnambulant first three. 5/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: He can't continue to turn the ball over this often. 3/10

Jannero Pargo: Proved that he can contribute without making shots. The Hawks don't win this game without Pargo's contributions. 4/10

Willie Green: Best performance yet as a Hawk. Four points on five shots, but no turnovers or fouls. 3/10

The head coach
Probably stayed with the second unit too deep into the fourth quarter but this is the type of opponent you risk giving your starters some extra rest. Not that the starters looked especially desperate. The Horford Treatment made a brief, relatively harmless appearance but was more than made up for by leaving Horford in the game after picking up his fifth foul. More playing time for Marvin Williams would help the defensive rebounding. 6/10

A thought regarding the opposition
MarShon Brooks can score.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Call For Submissions

I'm pleased with positive response to the initial feedback posts. I developed that format for two reasons:
1) I've written 300-and-some game recaps over the past four seasons and the process has rather lost its luster
2) I will have far less time to devote to this blog than in seasons past.
As to the second point, I wanted to lower the barrier to entry for potential contributors. It's difficult to commit to blogging day-in, day-out and, even should one follow through on that commitment, the rewards can be minimal. If you would be interested in writing the initial feedback post for an upcoming game, send me an email detailing your interest and availability.

If you would be interested in writing a post of any kind regarding the Hawks this season, write it, email it to me, and I promise to read it and respond to you. I'm not looking for people who write like me or agree with me. I'm simply looking for good writing about the Hawks. If it's good, I'll publish it. If it needs more work, I'll ask you to revise it.

The long term plan is to find regular contributors for the site, allowing for flexibility regarding the level of commitment. If you want to write one good essay on a subject of interest and never submit anything again, I'd like to publish that essay. If you want to write a few initial feedback posts over the course of a season, great. If you want to (eventually) help run the site, take part in the TrueHoop Network, and plot to overthrow me from within, that's great, too.

Quote of the Day -- December 29, 2011

John Wall:
"Get him out of the game!"
The Hawks scored the first 11 points of the game and led 19-4 before John Wall decided to send a charge into his team by scoring eight consecutive points for the team. But his frustration was apparent early on, as he looked at Coach Flip Saunders and shouted about one the Wizards’ starters, "Get him out of the game!"
Puts waiting for Kirk Hinrich to come back and replace Pargo and Green in perspective.

HT: Bullets Forever

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Initial Feedback: Hawks Home Opener

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: A somewhat uneven performance but let's bear in mind that was just the fourth time in his career that Teague played 28 or more minutes in a regular season game. John Wall certainly did not have his way with him. 6/10

Joe Johnson: At his best when passing or catching-and-shooting, the first unit's ball and player movement gave him ample opportunities to play to his strengths. Inability to keep opposing ball-handlers in front of him may be a problem when the opposing ball-handler isn't Jordan Crawford. 6/10

Marvin Williams: 17 points on 8 shots and he joined Smith and Horford in forming a three-man rebounding wall. Couldn't have wished for a better, more impressive start to the season. 8/10

Josh Smith: 2-10 on jump shots through two games, but passing, defending, rebounding, and making 80% of the good shots you take can make up for a highly visible ill. 7/10

Al Horford: Showing no signs of making the leap in usage that's necessary for him to become a franchise player, though he did step up to make two baskets in the paint in the final four minutes to put the nail in the coffin. The rest of his game remains as exquisite as ever. 7/10

Tracy McGrady: Looked very nice playing with the starters and played a role in dominating the defensive glass. If Marvin Williams and McGrady keep playing like this, Larry Drew will have a pleasant dilemma. 6/10

Zaza Pachulia: No idea how much his sore shoulder limited him. Got to the line and was active but only two rebounds and no hard fouls made for a less than vintage performance. 4/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Moves well without the ball, makes open shots, and tries on the defensive glass. Nice qualities to have in the ninth man in your rotation. 4/10

Jannero Pargo: He will have to make some open shots because he does nothing else to contribute. Despite good effort, his size really inhibits his effectiveness on the defensive end. 2/10

Willie Green: Bad offense, bad defense, bad player. 1/10

Ivan Johnson: Pargo and Green kept the ball from him during the two minutes he played. No rating.

The head coach
Another double-digit win notable for an appreciation of what Jeff Teague brings to the team. Saw the first intimations of understanding and reacting to the lack of backcourt depth with Teague playing the entire third quarter and both Marvin and McGrady getting some time at the 2. Flip Saunders didn't really go for it while the Hawks struggled to score for much of the fourth quarter. There will be more challenging games but I don't see how one could hold that against Larry Drew when evaluating his performance tonight. 8/10

A thought regarding the opposition
If Chris Singleton can make open shots, then the Wizards will have a very nice rotation player. Which will be desperately needed if Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford aren't making shots.

Truth About It: 3-on-3: Back To Atlanta, What On Earth Will Jordan Crawford Do?

For the second day in a row, I'm riding the coattails of a more industrious TrueHoop Network blog. Over at Truth About It, Kyle Weide, Rashad Mobley, and I each posed a question for the 3-on-3 previewing tonight's game between the Wizards and Hawks:
Rashad Mobley: The Hawks lack a significant scoring threat off the bench, and Wizards are lacking a veteran presence in the back court to mentor/guide/spell John Wall. Jordan Crawford could be that bench threat for the Hawks, and Kirk Hinrich (when healthy) could play that role again for the Wizards. The draft pick part of the trade that brought Chris Singleton to D.C. notwithstanding, would Crawford and Hinrich be more effective on their old teams?

Bret LaGree: Hawks fans generally agreed that Jordan Crawford was talented but whether or not he could use his talents within the structure of a good basketball team proved divisive. Can he be a starter on a playoff team or is he destined for a life putting up shots on bad teams?

Kyle Weidie: It’s fiscally understandable that Atlanta had to let Jamal Crawford go. People might also agree that Tracy McGrady was a decent, low risk signing. But Willie Green, Jannero Pargo and Jerry Stackhouse….? Really? Why not kick Gilbert Arenas’ tires?
Click the link to read our answers. Leave your own in the comments. Stein: What will Magic want for Dwight?

Marc Stein reports on trade discussions between the Hawks and Magic regarding Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith:
Sources told that the aforementioned Hawks, meanwhile, engaged Orlando in trade talks for Howard earlier this month with an offer believed to be headlined by $124 million guard Joe Johnson and swingman Josh Smith. You have to figure that the Magic, though, would insist on Al Horford if such discussions ever got serious.

The Hawks are not on Howard's short list of preferred trade destinations alongside the Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, even though Atlanta is his hometown. That's presumably because Howard wants no part of Atlanta's perpetually unsettled ownership situation. The Hawks nonetheless took the risk of pursuing Howard anyway and, according to sources, felt like they were making some semblance of progress before the Magic shut down talks.
Otis Smith just traded Brandon Bass for Glen Davis so I'm not quite willing to figure that he would insist on Al Horford. Especially considering this paragraph from Stein's report:
Sources familiar with Orlando's thinking say that a picture of what the Magic will ultimately expect in return for their anchor has indeed begun to emerge, telling this week that Orlando would not hold out for youth and draft picks as the league-owned New Orleans Hornets were ordered to do in the Chris Paul sweepstakes. The Magic, sources say, would instead prefer to bring back multiple established veterans who can keep the team competitive.
This may be an instance where losing a franchise player in free agency and getting nothing in return benefits a franchise in the long term.

Quote of the Day -- December 28, 2011

Tracy McGrady:
"I’m a gamer, man. That’s what I am. I just get bored with preseason. I know that sounds crazy but I really do. The anticipation builds up for the offseason, especially being healthy and get out there and play. I’m like, let’s get this real thing going on."
Crazy? Or the sanest thing you've ever heard?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Initial Feedback: Atlanta Hawks Blow Out New Jersey Nets In Season Opener

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Under control without resting for a moment. Knocked down three of four three-pointers. What took so long for this opportunity? 7/10

Joe Johnson
: Can still get anywhere he wants on the floor, presuming where he wants to get isn't within 15 feet of the basket. 4/10

Marvin Williams
: Aggressive offensively and his seven trips to the foul line more than made up for poor shooting. Nine rebounds (four offensive) demonstrate his most direct path toward providing consistent value for money. 7/10

Josh Smith
: Early returns indicate that excess weight was not the cause of poor shot selection last season. Talented enough that his rebounding, passing, and defending can make up for four unnecessary jump shots. 5/10

Al Horford
: Fairly passive offensively overall but spared a moment to dominate Kris Humphries in the third quarter. As is typical, paired with Smith to anchor the team's defense. 6/10

Zaza Pachulia
: With this second unit, Zaza should continue to get plays run for him. 13 and 11 nights won't be a regular occurrence but the moody, disengaged Zaza could disappear entirely.7/10

Vladimir Radmanovic
: Perhaps sometime tomorrow night, someone will guard Radmanovic for the first time this season. His spacing was excellent, he knocked down open shots, and was active defensively. Can't reasonably ask any more of him. 7/10

Tracy McGrady
: Looks equal parts old and skilled. I suspect he'd be more useful complementing the starters than leading the second unit. 4/10

Jannero Pargo
: A good night for the inactive Donald Sloan. Pargo dribbles too much, lacks vision and was physically dominated by Sundiata Gaines in the second half. 2/10

Willie Green
: I don't look forward to him playing in a game where his minutes matter. 1/10

Ivan Johnson
: Congratulations on his NBA debut. Only disappointment is that 'Nique nicknamed him "9 to 5" due to hard work, not because Johnson's a huge Lily Tomlin fan. 3/10

Jerry Stackhouse
: To put a word in Pape Sy's mouth, "Seriously?" 1/10

The head coach
The Hawks defended Deron Williams effectively and held the rest of the Nets down through some combination of good defense and just letting them beat themselves. Wisely didn't give the bench heavy minutes until the game was decided. Josh Smith got The Horford Treatment. In tonight's context, it was a meaningless decision. 8/10

A thought regarding the opposition
I included the Nets among the ten teams trying to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference more for their willingness to improve the team than the current roster. As constituted, this team sorely misses Brook Lopez and Brook Lopez isn't very good.

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.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Official 2011-12 Season Predictions

The Hawks are going to make the playoffs. No disrespect to Lawrence Frank and Dwane Casey, nor the organizations that made the sound decisions to hire them, but there are only ten teams I expect to try and make the playoffs in the East this season. Furthermore, I expect only two of those ten teams -- Miami and Chicago -- to be especially good, with a very compact group of teams finishing third through ninth in the conference.

I think the Christmas Day games lend early support to this opinion. Without Paul Pierce, the Celtics started Sasha Pavlovic and had Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, and Chris Wilcox in the rotation. The Knicks are concerned about replacing Iman Shumpert and Jared Jeffries. The Magic willingly traded Brandon Bass for Glen Davis, further weakening the supporting cast for (the possibly unsettled) Dwight Howard who might finish the season there. I'm not sure that Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Indiana aren't all going to finish ahead of at least one of Boston, New York, and Orlando.

So I'm optimistic about the Hawks for external reasons. And for internal reasons as well. The Hawks have two All-Star caliber players in the frontcourt, an essentially new two-way point guard, and two potentially above average wing players who should be healthier than last season. Yes, the bench is old and, until Kirk Hinrich returns, pretty much lacks anyone who can be counted on to do two things well every night but the bottom third of the Eastern Conference could be really terrible, thus allowing the Hawks, if* they take care of business, to marshal their strength for the sterner tests they'll face. Who knows, maybe Larry Drew's ability to make use of Jason Collins can extend to some of the other one-dimensional old players on the roster.

*a big if, I know

I anticipate the Hawks winning between 31 and 35 games. If they win more that, great, they'll probably be competing for the third seed in the East. That will be fun. If they win fewer than that, then the organization may finally have to come to terms with the work that needs to be done to create a championship-caliber team and decide to get a head start on the summer of 2013. Those efforts should be interesting in the short term and might provide the greatest long-term benefit to the franchise since Billy Knight drafted Al Horford.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hickory-High: NBA Wish Lists

'Tis the season over at Hickory-High, where Ian Levy got myself, Jason Walker from Peachtree Hoops and 66 other NBA bloggers to make a wish for their team.

SB Nation: Ziller: Previewing the Southeast Division

Tom Ziller predicts no playoffs for the Hawks:
The Hawks are the team in the NBA least likely to earn a repeat trip to the playoffs. Atlanta was the East's No. 5 seed last season and even knocked out the Magic in the first round. But that was largely smoke and mirrors. Atlanta had a negative efficiency differential, which means that based on scoring margin, the Hawks were a below-.500 team. The Hawks won a good share of close games, but when they lost, they usually got blown out of the gym. By slaying Orlando, Larry Drew showed himself to be a pretty good coach. But so long as Joe Johnson plays like he did last season -- average, basically -- this team's backcourt just isn't good enough to ensure another postseason bid. Al Horford and Josh Smith can only do so much.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Salary Cap Situation In 140 Characters

No need to re-type the whole thing here, is there?

Hawks Waive Keith Benson, Plan To Start Season With 15 Players

Second-round pick Keith Benson didn't make it to the regular season, either.

Surprisingly, given the team's proximity to the luxury tax line, the Hawks will start the season with 15 players on the roster. Starting with the good news, quality D-League products Ivan Johnson (an active, if undersized, four who could be able to score off the bench) and Donald Sloan (a young, cheap, and legitimate third point guard*) will start the season with the team. The bad news is that neither figures to play as long as thirtysomethings Tracy McGrady, Willie Green (whose contract is guaranteed), Jannero Pargo, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Jerry Stackhouse** are around. Both are more likely to be cut than any of the guys whose best*** days are behind them.

*I'm counting Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich as point guards. Pargo might bring the ball up at times while Hinrich recovers from surgery but Pargo isn't going to play point guard in any traditional sense of the term.

**Jerry Stackhouse is 37 years old and has played 162, 855, and 50 sub-replacement level minutes in each of the past three seasons, respectively. I can't see why the Hawks would keep him around in a non-coaching capacity, further flirting with the luxury tax, unless Larry Drew intends to put him on the floor in games that count. Furthermore, I fear that he's on the roster because he scored 10% of his total regular season points over the last three seasons in the three games he played for Milwaukee against the Hawks in 2009-10.

***Best not being synonymous with either good or productive in some cases.

The Hawks are going to be in serious trouble if any of their top seven guys get hurt (as the scramble to deal with the short-term loss of Kirk Hinirch, in 2011, demonstrates) regardless of which freely available players fill out the back end of the roster but they've taken the least interesting path* in completing that task. Young guys who can't play will always inspire greater interest than an old guys who can't play. For a not-especially-successful franchise committed, in the important ways, to more of the same, in perpetuity, it seems the least they could do to stoke fan interest around the margins rather than import re-treads en masse.

The odd thing is I'm optimistic about many things this season: Joe Johnson shooting better than last season, Jeff Teague playing regular minutes, Josh Smith weighing 225 pounds, Marvin Williams being healthy, not having Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford on the court for a single possession when the other team has the ball. But last year's team was somewhere between a 38- and 44-win squad. Will all those improvements by the starters (should they even come to pass) make up for the guys who will be on the court after a starter picks up two first half fouls, needs a rest due to the compressed schedule or, heaven forfend, gets hurt?

*So the Hawks waived Pape Sy because he couldn't play point guard. The Venn diagram of people who have seen Pape Sy play professional basketball and people who think Pape Sy could ever play point guard in the NBA would consist of a small circle in the center of the page in front of you representing the former and a dot on a piece of paper in a drawer in the attic representing the latter.

Hardwood Paroxysm: The 2011-12 Atlanta Hawks Preview That Only Like Forty People Will Care About

Their title, not mine, though someone there might have gotten a glimpse at my traffic numbers.

You've got Danny Chau on Josh Smith:
Al Horford is their best player, Joe Johnson is their most experienced leader, and Jeff Teague is their brightest glimmer of sunshine. But they don’t matter as much as Smith, because everyone else on the roster is safe. With the snap of a finger, Josh Smith could be traded. Teams would bend over backwards to obtain a player with his superior size, athleticism, defensive ability, playmaking ability, and post skills still in his mid-20s. Now if you close your eyes and let all of those traits swirl around in your head, you have a damn-near-perfect player. The problem is, if you’ve ever watch Josh Smith play outside of the five-minute YouTube mixes, you’ll know that he can go entire quarters without exhibiting any (ANY!) of those traits.
Amin Vafa on the general state of things:
So basically what you have in Atlanta is a roster with tons of raw talent, an immobile franchise-player-level contract, and erratic energy that will most certainly play the ugliest two rounds of playoff basketball you’ve ever seen (this coming year and in years past).
James Herbert on his willingness to start a cult about Jeff Teague:
We love Jeff Teague because he’s not safe. We’d start a cult about Teague because, on a team we’re not particularly excited about, he gives us a reason to tune in. He’s extraordinarily quick, he’s actually drives to the basket, he plays defense, and, unlike the rest of the Hawks roster, we’re not sure where his ceiling is.

Hawks Waive Pape Sy, Ending a Bizarre Non-Era

Pape Sy is probably never going to be a useful NBA player. In that respect, the decision to waive him (along with Magnum Rolle and Brad Wanamaker) is perfectly defensible for a team struggling to reach the league's roster minimum without going over the luxury tax line.

It does not make the decision to draft Sy, despite his age and lack of professional experience, or to buy out his contract despite their being no role for him to play on the 2010-11 Hawks team any more explicable. The Hawks spent money on a player who wasn't ready and, after
his first, brief period professional success, they give up on him.

Sy's tenure with the team demonstrates the same lack of long-term planning and wasteful spending as does the need to fill out the roster (again, minimally fill out the roster) with replacement level players in their thirties because of habitually poor cap management and player development, factors which are far more likely than Pape Sy's presence or absence to impact the 2011-12 Atlanta Hawks season negatively.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hawks Sign Willie Green

I must say that, having become inured to his constant Willie Green-ness and being somewhat thankful that he was some other blogger's problem, I hadn't noticed that Green has stopped turning the ball over. So he's got that going for him. Related, the frontcourt has copious offensive rebounding opportunities to look forward to.

Over the age of 30, lacking three-point range, and unable to get to the foul line consistently, Green shouldn't face much of a learning curve in adapting to the Hawks' system. Per John Hollinger (via Hoopdata, presumably), more than half of Green's field goal attempts were long twos.

If Green gets a shot at some of Jamal Crawford's minutes, he'll be a better rebounder and defender than Crawford without being good at either endeavor. If Green gets a shot at some of Jamal Crawford's minutes, we might find ourselves constructing sentences involving the phrase "Mike Bibby wasn't that bad."

Pape Sy might not just be the most interesting reserve guard on this team (until Kirk Hinrich returns), he might be the most talented basketball player. Willie Green and Jannero Pargo are what happen when you can't afford to fill out your roster with guaranteed minimum contracts.

Hawks Sign Jannero Pargo

Fun with the Hoopinion archives, from August 13, 2008:
I thought signing Jannero Pargo was a bad idea but leave it to the Atlanta Hawks to take an unappealing hypothetical transaction and do one worse by making an unexpected actual move that's far more dispiriting: signing Flip Murray to block Acie Law IV.
If believing in Acie Law's potential doesn't take you back, then remember a time before Mike Woodson revealed himself as the lead guard whisperer, a time before I believed that every team should have someone like Jannero Pargo, an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass gunner employed for the express purpose of shooting as often as possible at irregular intervals over the course of the season in games where a conventional, idealistic approach has failed.

Granted, the idea of using a roster spot on such a player assumes fairly idealistic roster construction as a whole, something this Hawks team lacks. Pargo figures to be the backup point guard until Kirk Hinrich returns, getting regular playing time to combine his trademark inefficient scoring with his lack of playmaking ability. But, considering how difficult it is for the rest of the Hawks reserves to score, it's not like a truer, younger point guard such as Donald Sloan figured to have much success creating shots for his fellow reserves.

The pressure only grows on Larry Drew to expand his ability to wring value out of the one-dimensional Jason Collins across the entirety of the bottom half of his roster.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 Now On Sale

Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle were more than a match for the compressed pre-season as Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 is available for purchase. In the Hawks chapter, Bradford explores why the Hawks defy their projection system and, for the third year in a row, I'm proud to have submitted a sidebar item.

It's only $9.98 to download. Not yet convinced? Read the free samples.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hawks Lose Exhibition Opener

  • Nobody got hurt.
  • Marvin Williams has a strong head of hair.
  • Jannero Pargo's joining the Hawks tomorrow, undermining what interest one might have had in watching Donald Sloan and Brad Wanamaker tonight.
  • Since basically nobody coming of the bench for the Hawks can score, much less create his own shot, the team's lack of depth is going to appear exaggerated if the reserves play as a unit.
  • Jerry Stackhouse has nothing left. Hasn't for years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thinking Out Loud About the Roster and the Luxury Tax

The season starts in less than two weeks. It hasn't sunk in yet.

I have the Hawks at $69,249,116 plus Keith Benson's rookie deal (terms still undisclosed). The Hawks have 13 guys under contract. By position:

PG: Jeff Teague/Kirk Hinrich (injured)
SG: Joe Johnson/Pape Sy*
SF: Marvin Williams/Tracy McGrady
PF: Josh Smith/Vladimir Radmanovic/Magnum Rolle/Keith Benson
C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia/Jason Collins

With only one healthy point guard on the roster, just 12 healthy players total, and at least one rookie who would likely best be served with some playing time in the D-League, and the luxury tax line expected to be around $70.3 million, that appears to present a serious problem. Almost like the Hawks cannot sign a free agent with two or more years of NBA experience without going over the tax line.

Though I'm confident the luxury tax line is an issue for management, it needn't be an absolute concern at this point in time. Presuming the new CBA calculates the luxury tax the same way as the last CBA, the Hawks would only need to get under the tax line before their last game of the season.

Therefore, the Hawks could take advantage of Magnum Rolle's unguaranteed deal either before or during the season, replace him with a player making the two-year veteran minimum and only add roughly $55,500 to their wage bill. Sign a rookie free agent to a partially guaranteed deal to be the 14th player (13th until Kirk Hinrich returns), cut him before his contract become fully guaranteed for the season, stagger the use of 10-day contracts, maybe make a trade at the deadline that sends out more salary than is received, and the Hawks can, fairly comfortably, go over the luxury tax line in December in order to build temporary depth (in numbers if not in quality). Depending on when Hinrich returns vis-a-vis the deadline for contracts to become fully guaranteed, the Hawks could even buy some D-League time for Keith Benson in the middle of the season depending on who they (hypothetically) sign and how they stagger those 10-day contracts.

I admit that such speculation lacks the frisson of how to clear up enough cap room to make a run at Dwight Howard and one of Chris Paul or Deron Williams in the Summer of 2012 scenarios but, as a five-year vet (by choice) of this particular beat, one learns to play the hand dealt.

*For good or for ill (and I'm a serious Pape Sy playing time booster at this point, separate post on that pending), Pape Sy transcends positional designations.

HoopSpeak: Harper: The Hawks and Kumite DVDs

Yesterday, I linked to Eric Freeman using "Kicking and Screaming" to preview the Atlanta Hawks. Today, I link to Zach Harper using some other premillennial home video favorites for the same purpose:
There is something about Van Damme movies that I’ve always enjoyed. Maybe it’s because I can’t do the splits and appreciate that level of flexibility. Maybe it’s that while they’re extremely entertaining and a great way to kill a couple of hours with eyebrow flirting (It’s the only way he knows how to flirt), a disarming and sometimes intelligible accent, and flying roundhouse kicks to catapult through random wood doors and bay windows. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve always wanted the supreme balance to hold my foot in someone’s face and then turn my body 90 degrees before putting it down.

Whatever the reason is, I appreciate the level of entertainment they provide while not having to fully invest in the franchise. You can find a bargain version of each DVD and think you got a steal.

That’s kind of what it’s like following the Atlanta Hawks over the past year. They’ve spent so lavishly on “DVDs” that are so unsatisfying when you realize how much you spent on them, that you start relishing when you find a bargain. Al Horford is a legitimate bargain for the five-year, $60 million extension. Tracy McGrady and whatever he can hopefully bring to the Hawks before his back gives out is probably a steal for the veteran’s minimum.

But do those contracts make you honestly feel better about what the Hawks have going for them? Does it make up for Joe Johnson’s absurd contract or the money you’re paying Josh Smith to sandwich his YouTube highlights betweens multiple slices of horrendous shot selection? We want to like the Hawks because they seem like they’d be really fun. But in reality, it’s a mismatched clusterfluff of annoyance and frustration at what we want the potential to be.
A Terriers* fan would have gone with fustercluck.

*Now streaming on Netflix.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hoops Analyst: Schreiber: Atlanta Hawks Transactions

Harlan Schreiber weighs in on the Tracy McGrady and Vladimir Radmanovic signings:
Did you know that T-Mac is only 32? In a part-time role, McGrady wasn’t actually that bad for the Pistons either. The problem is that one of the most exciting players of the 2000s is now, at best, an average bench guy who can’t really get to the line and is a decent shooter. On a playoff-level team, T-Mac’s presence as a cheap filler will have value, assuming the knees hold up well enough. The hope, though, is that McGrady can replace Jamal Crawford off the bench. At first blush this seems silly. McGrady can’t move very well these days and Crawford got ridiculously hot at times. Looking at the advanced metrics, though, T-Mac actually had a slightly higher PER than Crawford (14.9 to 14.2) and shot exactly the same from three (.341%). Does this mean that McGrady is a more valuable player? Well…no. Part of Crawford’s value was the ability to generate tons of shots (13.7 shots and 4.1 free throws per-36 versus 11.0 and 2.8 for McGrady). The Hawks are downgrading on 2010-11 stats (though not by as much as you would think). Still when you combine the volume with the possibility that McGrady might get hurt again or continue his steep decline from his peak, there is plenty of risk that the Hawks will have a big hole at backup sixth man.

As for Radmanovic, he has demonstrated that he will never be a regular but is also useful in a bench role. While Vlad still can’t play any defense and is thus not a viable starter, he will help the Hawks replace the tons of threes lost when Crawford doesn’t come back. In short, the Hawks’ filler is useful but has some holes.
It's going to be heart-in-mouth time whenever a Hawks player turns an ankle this season, but lack of depth is the price you pay for not planning long-term and/or willfully limiting your cap flexibility.

Monday's Pre-Season Game To Be Televised On NBA TV

Atlanta's trip to Charlotte on December 19th will be one of 10 pre-season games shown live over a six-day period on NBA TV. John Schuhmann:
It’s been exactly six months since we’ve seen live NBA basketball, but the drought is about to end. The preseason tips off on Friday. And while the action is bound to be a little sloppy, we’re all salivating at the thought of seeing our teams back in action.

And NBA TV has got you covered, televising 10 preseason games over the course of six days, beginning with No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving‘s first game in an NBA uniform.

Here’s the full NBA TV preseason schedule (all times EST), which includes 18 of the 30 teams…

Friday, Dec. 16
Cleveland @ Detroit, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17
New York @ New Jersey, 2 p.m.
San Antonio @ Houston, 8 p.m
Sacramento @ Golden State, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 18
Oklahoma City @ Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 19
Atlanta @ Charlotte, 7 p.m.
LA Clippers @ LA Lakers, 10:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 20
Washington @ Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 21
Miami @ Orlando, 7 p.m.
LA Lakers @ LA Clippers, 10:30 p.m.
Post-lockout basketball plus the meaninglessness of exhibition basketball plus the long-gestating need to make snap judgments equals entertainment gold.

Ball Don't Lie: 2011-12 Atlanta Hawks Preview

Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine, and Eric Freeman preview the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks have been so consistent in their 45-win'ness that you wonder what a significant shock to the system would do to this club. The offense should vault up a tick this season based on the presence of a well-rested McGrady and Johnson's assumed return to form, but unless a whole lot of the East tears a whole lot of ligaments, the Hawks seem safe in their station. Set to look sound for stretches and take in whatever playoff gate receipts away them in spring.
Three years after spending a first-round draft pick on Teague, it's time for the Hawks to give him an actual, honest-to-goodness chance to play starters' minutes.

They need to find out if he can be the brand of explosive backcourt creator they've so desperately needed since choosing Marvin Williams over Deron Williams and Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft. (And if you've always viewed Jason Terry as more of a two-in-one's-clothing than a real point guard, you might even argue that they've needed that type of player since Mookie Blaylock went west.) If Teague can prove that his play against the Bulls was the rule rather than the exception, he could be just the sort of spark that can help a relatively stagnant, middle-of-the-pack team finally break through that second-round ceiling.
In Noah Baumbach's first (and still best) feature, "Kicking and Screaming" (which isn't the Will Ferrell soccer movie), a group of friends graduate college and spend the rest of the movie doing very little else with their lives. One pines after his absent girlfriend, some join book clubs just to feel relevant, and pretty much everyone starts dating much younger women. The majority of hope is felt in remembering good things that happened in the past. It'd all be depressing, if not for Baumbach's extremely clever script and great performances from Josh Hamilton (who isn't the baseball player) and especially Chris Eigeman.

The Hawks have effectively graduated from promising young playoff team to postseason mainstay, but in doing so they've seen their trajectory flatten considerably. They're really not building towards anything anymore -- it's all cool Josh Smith dunks, 25-point games from Joe Johnson, and quality all-around play from Al Horford in the service of another middling seed and a less-than-stellar playoff series.

Monday, December 12, 2011 Southeast Division Daily Dime Live

Daily Dime Live previews the Southeast Division from 11am to 4pm today. The Hawks will be covered from 2-3pm. Not by me, though. Consider that fair warning or a bonus.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hawks Sign Vladimir Radmanovic, Politely Ask Him To Go Stand in the Corner

You're not going to get good all-around players for the league minimum and, if you focus your acquisitive efforts on guys in their thirties, you're not looking for potential. The Hawks aren't looking to discover* Gary Neal or Reggie Williams or Anthony Morrow. Instead, they're looking at what guys once were, and hoping that, for another eight or nine hundred minutes, what they are is a reasonable, if faded, facsimile of what they once were.

Vladimir Radmanovic can make threes. The Hawks were 17th in the league in three-pointers made an 18th in the league in three-point field goal percentage. As long as others create shots for him, he should knock them down. He won't turn the ball over. Signing him doesn't signal a move toward a defensive-oriented philosophy, but he's a decent defensive rebounder for a stretch-four and anything that improves the Hawks' spacing will be an improvement over last season.

*Brad Wanamaker, Donald Sloan, please feel free to prove me wrong.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

ProBasketballTalk: Mahoney: Hawks show uncharacteristic sensibility with signing of Tracy McGrady

The NBA needn't be officially open for business for me to take an unpopular and possibly incorrect position. Bronn made a case for Tracy McGrady in the comments of that post and Rob Mahoney compliments the Hawks for signing McGrady at Pro Basketball Talk today:
McGrady may not have the ability to dribble-penetrating ability that Atlanta so desperately needs, but he’s an incredibly cost-efficient addition capable of hedging against the seemingly inevitable loss of Jamal Crawford. The Hawks aren’t in a position where re-signing Crawford makes financial sense; they already have $66 million in salary committed for this season and $62 million committed next year, meaning that Crawford’s deal would likely push a solid — but firmly non-contending — team over the luxury tax line. Even beyond the practical consideration of overpaying a dwindling, inefficient scorer like Crawford, the financial realities for a tax-averse team like Atlanta make a re-signing a virtual impossibility.

Such is the reality for a franchise that presented Joe Johnson with a golden effigy on the first day of free agency last season, invested in Marvin Williams to the tune of $8 million a year, and took every shortcut there is to take in team construction.

All of which makes McGrady — who will join the Hawks on a one-year, minimum salary deal — an oddly reasonable signing.


For the league minimum, this is very likely the best the Hawks could possibly do. McGrady isn’t what he once was (and certainly isn’t Crawford), but this is a smart, economical move for a team with such a cluttered cap sheet.
John Hollinger's player profile of McGrady (Insider) provides further reason for measured optimism:
McGrady was an intriguing player to watch last season because of the huge variance in his play from night to night. There were games when his legs were back and it looked like the old days -- soaring over defenders for jumpers, driving and finding open men, or dunking at the rim. Other nights you wanted to run out on the court and give him a Segway to get around.
If Larry Drew can spot McGrady with anything approaching the alacrity with which he used Jason Collins for much of last season, the Hawks may have another interesting low-minute impact player. Maybe McGrady's comeback season in Detroit suffered from too much playing time and, if he doesn't have 1600 good minutes in him, he has 800.

Then there's the chance that signing McGrady signals something of a philosophical shift for the Hawks. Collins, reportedly, will return on a third consecutive one-year deal. Earl Watson, his value heavy on the defensive end as well, may serve as the injured Kirk Hinrich's understudy. And trading Jamal Crawford for Ronnie Brewer, whether it comes to pass or not, is emphatically not a typical move for this franchise.

Now, any or all of these signings come with a price. Namely, that none of these guys can shoot. But the Hawks should, with Josh Smith and Al Horford and (a healthy) Joe Johnson and (an on-court) Jeff Teague should be able to get away with having a defense-first player on the court at all times. Smith and Horford, in particular, have carried a heavy defensive workload to keep the Hawks a league average defensive club the past two seasons. Who knows what they could accomplish with a little help on the perimeter? A lighter defensive workload might even make a positive impact for them, and the team, on the offensive end.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011 Smith: Atlanta Hawks Agree To One-Year Deal With Tracy McGrady

Stephen A. Smith reports that the Atlanta Hawks have agreed to a one-year deal with Tracy McGrady for, natch, the veteran's minimum. McGrady's physical decline and his accompanying, increasingly impotent on-court performance makes me feel sad and old. And now he's a Hawk.

Let's go down the Hawks' free agent checklist...

Cheap? Yes.

Old? 32 years worth, not counting the history of back and knee problems.

A recognizable name? Yes, though signing McGrady represents something of a breakthrough for the Hawks as he's recognizable for being a once great basketball player rather than going to high school or college in Atlanta or being the nephew of the city's greatest professional basketball player.

Little reason for optimism evident in his recent performance record? Yes. McGrady had something of a bounce-back season, more due to how horrific his 2009-10 season was than anything special he achieved in 2010-11.

Tracy McGrady scored at a lower rate than Marvin Williams last season. McGrady set a career low in usage rate and a career high in turnover rate. He's no sort of replacement for Jamal Crawford and I say that as one who thinks Jamal Crawford shouldn't be replaced in a straight like-for-like (but cheaper) exchange. Maybe McGrady is a better* option at the 2 than Damien Wilkins when Larry Drew wants to go big and McGrady will certainly out-rebound Crawford (and probably Joe Johnson, too), but any positive contributions from McGrady will constitute more of a feel good story than reasonable expectations, like playing a little better than Damien Wilkins, being met.

*Optimism alert: The Pistons were measurably less bad defensively with McGrady on the court last season and he made box score defensive plays at something approaching his career rate.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Josh Powell

Quite predictably, Josh Powell was a complete disaster, needing only 653 minute of court time to turn the team's point differential from positive (+50 when Powell didn't play) to negative (-117 when Powell was on the court).

In his previous two seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers were outscored by 8.4 and 5.7 points per 100 possessions with Powell on the floor. Last season, the Hawks were outscored by 8.9 points per 100 possessions with Powell on the floor. It was worse than that during the competitive portion of the schedule, as Powell played 90 minutes with a plus/minus of just -2 over the final four games of the season, games which the Hawks did not try very hard to win.

By his standards, Powell had a decent offensive season, scoring 12 points per 36 minutes while approaching 50 TS%, and getting 9% of available offensive rebounds. Even on a team that featured Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford, Powell's embarrassing defense stood out. His method of defending the pick-and-roll by running hard toward the half-court line, past both ball-handler and screener, and setting his hips perpendicular to the baseline beggarded belief. To Powell's credit, despite frequently having his back turned to potential defensive rebounds, he did manage to equal Marvin Williams' DR% over the course of the season.

Powell earned credit for his locker room presence in Los Angeles, so it should be noted that he was twice suspended (for one game each time) by Larry Drew, not counting the game he missed after getting arrested for a moving violation on the way to Philips Arena.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Off the Dribble: Mahoney: Give Teague a Chance

Friend of the blog, Rob Mahoney, makes the case for Jeff Teague at's NBA blog:
Increasing the minutes for Jeff Teague is one of the few low-cost, high-reward propositions the Hawks have for boosting their performance. He isn’t an All-Star caliber player by any means, but Teague presents Atlanta with a more dynamic scoring guard to accentuate the roster’s offensive versatility. In his one playoff series with operational freedom, Teague led the Hawks in scoring in three out of six games – topping 20 points on each occasion in slow-paced games played against the best defense in the league.

On a Hawks team that is committed to the inefficiency of long 2-pointers and tough pull-up jumpers out of isolation, Teague brought a .514 playoff field goal percentage while committing few turnovers. He went from playing marginal minutes to doing 40 a night, and led the Hawks in playoff P.E.R. (Player Efficiency Rating) in the process. If you’re looking for a compelling reason Atlanta was able to play effectively against Chicago in the postseason, I see few more valid explanations than Teague’s performance.

This coming year is Teague’s chance to build on that success, but he can only do so with Drew’s approval.

It is not uncommon for coaches to trust veterans over young players, but the basis for that perspective in Teague’s case is now gone. Teague has produced as a meaningful member of Atlanta’s lineup in a way that Hinrich never could, and if Drew is finally willing to let Teague continue to explore his optimal role, the Hawks will be all the better for it.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Good News/Bad News: Josh Smith Drops Weight, Kirk Hinrich Drops One Healthy Shoulder

Official NBA business need not resume for the league's finest beat writer to display mid-season form. Michael Cunningham dropped news good and bad last night.

First, the good news: Josh Smith is visibly slimmer. Cunningham:
I noted he looked to be in good shape when I saw him at the local pickup game back in October, but he’s even slimmer now, suggesting he’s been putting in work since then. The torso is slimmer but the shoulders are still stout, as you can see here at the Hawks web site.
In reviewing Josh Smith's 2010-11 performance, I speculated that his weight might have contributed to his perimeter-oriented play, a situation that rendered the value of his improved shooting essentially nil. Josh Smith, in better shape, might more regularly make the effort to take the shots he can make most often, while also getting back to the offensive glass and the free throw line.

Now for the bad news: the Hawks have just seven players under contract, are $7 million over the cap and one of those seven players won't be healthy to start the season. Kirk Hinrich had shoulder surgery about a month ago:
Hawks general manager Rick Sund said guard Kirk Hinrich had surgery to to remove a cyst and repair the labrum in his left shoulder and is expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season.

Hinrich experienced discomfort in his shoulder as a result of offseason workouts and had the procedure in early November.

“The injury typically requires three to four months of recovery,” Sund said

Based on that timeline, Hinrich could be out through the end of February. The 66-game NBA regular season schedule is to begin Dec. 25 if there are no snags in the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement.
(NOTE: Ken Berger first reported Hinrich's surgery).

The Hawks figured to augment the seven players under contract by picking up Pape Sy's unguaranteed deal, trying to re-sign Damien Wilkins and Jason Collins, and possibly Magnum Rolle if he has an opt-out to his Korean deal. With Hinrich out for up to two months, the Hawks will have to acquire a cheap backup (or backups) for both guard spots. Obvious candidates such as Mustafa Shakur and Garrett Temple are in Europe and they aren't coming back for the season. Not that the Hawks need any encouragement to look to veterans to fill out the rotation.