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.
As part of the NBA League Pass broadband subscription, you get to choose five teams to have access to all non-blackout broadcasts. It’s tough deciding on which teams to choose. You must do so strategically with favorite players, teams, time zones, non-local, and ignore the national tv darlings (since you get those anyways). I reside in Denver, so a later start exciting team was already on the list thanks to altitude. I am an Atlanta Hawks fan at heart so they’re in. Plus…
Last off-season, the Hawks ownership brought in new leadership. The newly appointed Danny Ferry instantly threw his name in the GM of the Year award race by putting the Hawks in position to still contend and have major cap room this summer. Gone is the albatross of Joe Johnson’s contract and the shadow that could have been Chris Paul, Marvin Williams. With only five players remaining from last year’s team and only one of them on a non-expiring deal, it was going to be an interesting season. The Hawks got off to a fast start, winning 14 of their first 20, and have been streaky ever since. The record going into tonights matchup with the Pacers is 39-31. Tempo should be a major factor in Indy tonight as the Pacers look to slow the ball down and are 28-8 at home this season. The word on style of play out of training camp was that the Hawks would look to push the pace and play at a quicker tempo than previous years. A given now that ISO-Joe is gone. While the pace has been quicker than last years, up to 94.1 from 92.4, they still are among the bottom half of the league. The team manages to stay in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race fighting through trade rumors and uncertainty of the future for everyone except Al Horford and rookie John Jenkins. Even Larry Drew is coaching for his job. The Hawks won’t look the same next year, but this year’s team has been playing entertaining team basketball for a change and it’s been a welcome one.
Reasons To Watch
Development of Jeff Teague
Teague is a restricted free-agent this summer and he has been forcing the Hawks to give serious thoughts on how high of an offer they can match. With elite athleticism Teague can get to the bucket at will, but control tends to be his main issue. Since Lou Williams knee injury, Jeff has stepped up having a huge February and has managed to play well in March – as well, even though he has been a bit injured. Here are a few examples of the potential that Teague has off the dribble:
Called for a charge but DAMN.
Blows by Westbrook and finishes over Durant.
Josh Smith and Al Horford’s Pick and Rolls (And Josh’s unique abilities)
Being undersized, the Hawks frontcourt still produces in a big way. Horford and Smith carry the team on a nightly basis and usually with little recognition on the national or even local scene. After being snubbed for the All-Star game and events the duo has been on a tear in the second half, especially Al Horford. The sweet shooting big man has a TS% of 56.5 on the season trailing Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler for third amongst starting centers. The midrange game Horford brings to the table coupled with Josh’s passing ability and decent handles makes for a nice big on big pick and roll at the free throw line and elbows. The defense typically tries to switch the action which Horford often takes advantage of by slipping between both defenders for an easy lob.
Larry Drew has done a nice job of using this out of timeouts and even though teams have scouted and know it’s coming, it is still quite effective. Josh has also jacked up his fair share of unnecessary jumpers at the beginning of the action, so I can see why Drew is hesitant to rely on this more often. As long as Josh continues to throw down those classic lefty tomahawks I am okay with a few bad jumpers a game.Well sometimes.
Backdoor from Horford.
Game Clincher and Bad Intentions on Brook Lopez.
And his jumpshot misses are usually noteworthy, ending last season.
Even his free throws are an adventure.
Last but not least: IVAN the TERRIBLE!!!!!!
I take a small amount of pride in the fact that Ivan might just be the scariest person in the league, other than Metta World Peace. He has admitted to not knowing anything about others in the league outside a few stars. He takes shit from no one and wears a gold grill during the game. In a time when the league is as squeaky clean as it’s ever been, I’m glad Ivan found a home in the A. He has a unique story and faced quite a few hurdles on the way but he has been a steady contributer off of the bench and gives the team some much needed toughness.
Debut vs. Miami last season. The beginning of a terrible reign.
No one is safe or at least no backboard.