Friday, April 13, 2012

Hickory-High: Atlanta Hawks: Go Small. Go Far.

At Hickory-High, Matt Cianfrone looks at 5-man units and wonders if playing Marvin Williams at the four alongside Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith might help with that pesky problem the Hawks have scoring against teams with winning records, a problem they will be forced to overcome in the playoffs:
The inability to score has been particularly striking against the teams in the playoffs at the moment: New York, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, Boston, Chicago, Memphis, San Antonio and Philadelphia. In the 19 games the Hawks have played against those opponents since Horford’s injury the they have scored over ninety points 4 times; twice against Indiana, once against the Thunder, and once against the Knicks. In only two games did the Hawks score 100 points or more, one of two matchups with the Pacers, and one of two with the Knicks . Meanwhile in seven of those games the Hawks have scored less than 80 points, and in one game against the Magic, the Hawks needed overtime to score 89 points.
Cianfrone uses this as a jumping off point to examine how the offense functions:
Plenty of this offensive problem is centered on how the Hawks offense is built. Atlanta runs isolation plays on 12.0% of their possessions according to, a number that is comparable to other isolation heavy teams such as the Thunder (13.7%) and Lakers (12.8%). Unfortunately for the Hawks they do not have a Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, or Kevin Durant on their roster. What they do have is Joe Johnson; who is pretty good in isolation situations scoring 0.85 points per possession, only 0.02 points less than Bryant. The biggest problem for the Hawks is where the ball goes when a Johnson isolation does not work. So far this year that answer has been to Josh Smith. This season Smith has 161 isolation possessions more than anyone on the Hawks outside of Johnson’s 212. In fact the two, combined, account for about 53% of the Hawks 703 team isolation possessions. Smith though does not use his portion to produce anything near that of Johnson, scoring 0.75 points per possession in these situations, shooting only 35.3% from the field, and turning the ball over 6.2% of the time. In total, Smith only scores on 39.1 percent of his isolation attempts. There has to be a better option for a struggling offense.
There are four good paragraphs (too good to pick just one to excerpt) about the pick-and-roll offense and a consideration of the defensive consequences of a small lineup. There is no consideration of Marvin Williams' playoff history which, admittedly, might render the whole value of getting him more minutes at the expense of the rest of the bench moot.

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