The Atlanta Hawks had one of the busiest off-seasons in the NBA. With two top-20 picks in this year draft along with only 3 players on the books they were in prime position for Danny Ferry to put his fingerprint on the future. After an awkward departure from Larry Drew in which both parties flirted with others during the pending divorce the future is quite bright in Atlanta. Ferry managed to lure long time Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer away from his assumed coach in waiting post behind Pop to man the overhaul in Atlanta. The connection is obvious with Ferry and Bud working together for years on winning the “Spurs Way.”
The acquisition of Budenholzer coincided with the Detroit departure of Josh Smith. Smith was a pariah in Atlanta for his refusal to ignore bad shots, his constant on court bickering, and lack of consistency. Without Smith, the Hawks are sure to take a hit on the defensive side of the court where the already undersized front court will remain small and lose its leading shot blocker from last season. They will still have an All-Star in the starting lineup in Al Horford. Horford is continuously overlooked by the media, returned to All-Star form averaging 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while leading the Hawks in minutes. Ferry continued to his trend of spending money wisely filling the gap left by Josh Smith with a tremendous two-year deal with Paul Millsap. The front court will remain undersized with the Millsap – Horford duo but it will rebound and score in bunches. Ferry brought in Elton Brand on a friendly one year deal to help solidify the bench. In addition to Brand, the bench will finally have some big men who might contribute after the acquisition of Gustavo Ayon, who was claimed off of waivers from Milwaukee. and Pero Antic, a stretch four with tons of Euroleague experience.
Kyle Korver looked to be a lock to reunite with Deron Williams and AK-47 in Brooklyn early in free agency. Korver however found security in a four-year deal to remain a sharpshooting focus in the Hawks lineup. The contract might look a little heavy for a one-dimensional player such as Korver, but he was key member of last years team as a deadly option off of any screen and shooting ages well. DeMarre Carroll is a junk yard dog. He brings a little bit of grit and hustle to Atlanta in a contrasting role to Korver. A young forward with a nose for defense and rebounding Carroll is a value replacement for the recently released DeShawn Stevenson. With both pieces on board the Hawks look better at the small forward position than in years past. Mike Scott will back up the three and four positions and showed huge strides of improvement in the Summer League. After a rookie season where he struggled to get any minutes, Scott made the most of his time in Vegas averaging 18.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. It was impressive to see how active Scott was around the basket, getting multiple offensive put backs every game.
The decision to resign Jeff Teague was easy. The way the Hawks went about it were par for the new CBA. Why would the Hawks wish to outbid the market for Teague when they had the right to math any offer? Teague ended up feeling not wanted by the Hawks and signed an offer sheet with Milwaukee to reunite with Larry Drew. The Hawks of course matched the four-year deal locking up a valuable asset for the future who happens to be coming off of a career year. Watching Teague develop under Coach Bud is going to be fun over the next few years at the Highlight Factory. Coach Bud was instrumental in the development of Tony Parker and George Hill. Teague should excel in the multiple screen sets that Bud will bring with him from San Antonio. Another young player who should excel in the new motion sets is John Jenkins. In limited minutes as a rookie Jenkins showed that his skill set would translate to the pro game. He played extremely well in the Summer League running the new look offense. Playing a central role he averaged 18.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
So enough Summer League talk without mention of the German that stole my basketball soul, Dennis Schroeder. Schroeder was a long rumored lottery pick after his impressive showing at the Nike Hoops Summit. The Hawks were rewarded by the basketball gods when Schroeder was there at number seventeen they quickly selected the young man with two years of pro experience at the tender age of nineteen. In Vegas, Schroeder showed a poise that would come with that experience. He got the Hawks into their sets early in the shot clock and looked poised on the pick and roll, setting up several lobs and easy finishes for teammates. Which weren’t always converted. The thing with Schroeder is the offense is in addition to his amazing defense. The Rondo comparisons are legit, he is freakishly long and uses change of pace dribble off the pick and roll to create. He will be one of the best on ball defenders at the point guard position for years to come. Throughout the Summer League he hounded opposing guards full court and pick pocketed several roster hopefuls shamelessly. What I would give to watch the first few practices with Teague and Schroeder battling out top.
I know. How can I go this long without mention of BeBe Nogueira? The man, the myth, the Hair. Nogueira is most likely not going to be playing stateside this season, the big man is most likely heading back to Spain to develop for another season. After an impressive showing in Vegas, it was obvious that BeBe could use a little more bulk on his 7 foot frame. He swatted a ton of shots coming from the weak side to help, but struggled to contain smaller stronger players on the block.
After a rough summer school session, I’m back. I’ve been trying to figure out a strategy to make the blog more consistent and have decided to focus strictly on hoops. The world of sports is much too large for one man to cover alone (or at least do it well). I will try to bring a unique look into my thoughts, views, and opinions of the comings and goings of hoops.
The NBA off-season has lulled to the slowest point of the year, with all prominent free agents signed except Nikola Pekovic and all coaching vacancies filled except for the tanking 76ers. Starting tomorrow, I will post my thoughts on all teams off-season moves to this point, some potential breakout players, and how I think the season will play out.
Russell Westbrook is human after all. The Oklahoma City star has never missed a game. Not in high school, not in college, and certainly not since he came into the league in 2008. Westbrook suffered torn cartilage in his right knee though we do not know to what extent. He will certainly be out for the rest of this series and most likely the next as well. Without knowing the true extent of the surgery it has been hard for experts to put a timetable on his recovery. This is a horrible loss for the Thunder. They must now go into Houston and try to keep hold of this series which will be much harder without their thoroughbred. Westbrook was sixth in the league in scoring this season and averaged the most assists of anyone in the top 10. The Rockets will certainly try to expose Reggie Jackson for the young point he is. This series is about to get interesting Will Durant go off for 50 a game? Will Lin play? Will this be McHale’s last coaching gig? Will Kendrick Perkins continue to get away with two-handed holds on screens?
This was a freebie. I am fortunate enough that I did not have to include the high-flying Nuggets in my League Pass 5. I live in the Denver metro area and have been able to watch this high-octane offense every game of the year (quite a few live). The Nuggets are officially over Melo. There is no one that longs for his long isolations and affinity for the one-on-one game. Even if he is the most dynamic player in the league at this aspect of the game. The Nuggets have secured the 3-seed in the Western Conference which is an amazing feat after playing 17 of their first 23 on the road. This had never been done in league history, but George Karl managed to guide this deep roster through that rough stretch. Carl has them poised to dominate and make noise at home all season.
Reasons To Watch
Fast Times at Mile High.
The Nuggets run, run, and run some more. Karl has created an offensive juggernaut that attacks the basket non-stop and looks to run at all times. The Nuggets are second in the league in offensive pace. With one of the youngest rosters in the league (exception see: Andre Miller) and finally acquiring a perimeter defensive stopper, the Nuggets now are able to get stops which lead to exciting run-outs and a high-octane game that truly is entertaining. The Clippers may have claimed lob-city, but no one can deny that Andre Miller throws the prettiest full court oops in the game.
Kenneth Faried is a man. He is an animal. He is the Manimal. It has been a pleasure to watch someone truly just out-hustle his competitors every night. I can only imagine what this guy brings to the practice court. He seems to have a motor that is stuck in 6th gear. He has seen more minutes this season taking on a bigger role in the Nuggets overall scheme, and man has he produced. He is averaging more than 4 rebounds more this season than last in only a few more minutes of playing time. His intensity is a huge reason for the Nuggets outstanding home record. He ignites the Pepsi center with a passion just by never loafing. The kid gets it and wants to be a winner, telling an older JaVale McGee upon arrival from Washington, “We work here,”
The Houston Rockets were waiting in the weeds. Stockpiled with assets and draft picks ready to find their superstar. Did they ever luck up when OKC came calling offering James Harden. With Harden, Daryl Morey had found Houston’s focal point. The talent of the signings he made in the offseason, of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin compliment what Harden brings to the table. Kevin McHale has the Rockets playing at the leagues fastest pace. By giving the team freedom to play with less structure and at a quick pace McHale has been rewarded with an effective attack that is a top ten offense. They have room to attract some marquee talent this offseason and Morey isn’t one to stand pat. The team should be a playoff lock for years to come it’s only a matter of how far “the Beard” can take them.
Reasons To Watch
James Harden turning into a Superstar.
The former OKC sixth-man has proven he was worth the bounty the Thunder refused to pay. He has made the leap from promising talent to bonafide star. He should be the unanimous selection for Most Improved Player with statistical jumps in all areas of his game with more of a burden by being the man. His euro step alone was reason enough to choose the Rockets for League Pass. He can get buckets in so many ways that his game is a pure joy to watch. I am glad that McHale hasn’t handcuffed this young Rockets squad. He is simply letting them Run’n’Gun and it has been a pleasure to see.
Chandler Parson and Jeremy Lin
Parsons is fun to watch and it seems like he hasn’t let success go to his head to much. HIs banter with Jeremy Lin has been fun to watch and it seems as if this Rockets teams enjoys playing with each other. Parsons was a steal of a second round draft pick for Morey. He fits in with McHale’s up tempo attack, and flourishes next to Harden and Lin.