Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Don't Expect Much to Change in Atlanta this offseason

After an expected lesser campaign in 2016-17 than the season before, and the voluntary separation of the team from Kyle Korver, along with the pending free agency of Paul Millsap, one would surely understand if you believed change was headed the Hawks way this offseason.

After all, Dwight Howard ended the season on a sad thought, the Hawks could not beat a team maybe best suited for them to upset in the Wizards, and Millsap is on the wrong side, NBA-wise, of 30 years old and looking for an Al Horford type contract, assumedly.

My thought? Get used to what you are seeing.

Did Tony Dressler make the call to take Paul Millsap off the trading block, a move that would have looked more like trying to build around a younger core of players, in order for them to lose him for nothing this offseason? Is the lesson he says he learned from the Al Horford negotiations one of letting the same thing happen again?

Also, has there been anything that Ressler said or done that makes it seem like Dwight Howard, who has a niche group of people that appreciate what he can do on the court these days, would be asked to dissolve his contract, much like the Celtics did with Dominique all those years ago?

ESPN was recently bearish on a Millsap return, and he may very well choose a more championship-ready destination, but it will not be because the Hawks left 1M/yr on the table, as they awkwardly did for Horford last summer. I believe they will try to cram the pentagon-shaped block into the Hawks-shaped hole and roll Millsap-Howard out there again.

Truth be told, it was never the front court that killed the Hawks this season, it was the awful, dreadful defense of the backcourt that, time after time, submarined the Hawks. True that Howard was left ineffective at the very end of the season, but his numbers were up from his previous season and definitely  aided them to their first top 15 in REB% since the 2007-2008 season.

Howard was fourth in DEF REB% in the league this season, shoring up a long, long hole in the Hawks center position. Howard holds the team record now for that stat among players eligible for the scoring title and since that stat has been collection. His 31.7% is more than Dikembe Mutombo (31.3%, 1999-2000) and Kevin Willis (30.9%, 1991-92) when they were Hawks.

Does that make any great difference? Not in terms of pushing the team higher, but it was a team that traded Jeff Teague for draft pick. Taurean Prince looked really good at the end of the season, but there was some gap in the backcourt that losing Teague and not bringing in any proven productive PG made. Also, Kyle Korver declining and subsequent trade impacted the Hawks by not having the usual amounts of space on the floor, limiting the Hawks offensive efficiencies. Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore ended up 189 and 196th in defensive rating, allowing over 105 points per 100 possessions when on the floor.

So there was more to it than just an end-of-the-season disgruntled Dwight Howard and it does not sound like the owner has regrets, rather, he sounds led to not make the same mistake happen again as in the Horford scenario.

It seems more likely, rather than a complete teardown, that the Hawks attempt to address things that went awry, as in the aforementioned defensive issues and spacing problems in the starting lineup. It is the more likely scenario and one that will help ownership feel better about the gazillions he is paying Howard and Bazemore for next season. It all starts with convincing Millsap to stay, which is the top priority.

If he goes, then anything goes, but I would say this is the Plan A for the Atlanta Hawks: Tweak and seek to fill the gaps, keep the stars, and not be a lottery team.

Brace yourselves.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My take on all the experts on Washington and nobody being on Atlanta.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Yes, Thabo!

A statement from Thabo Sefolosha, as released through the Hawks PR department:

“I would like to thank my family and friends, Coach Bud and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization, the NBA and the NBA Players Association, my agents Guy Zucker and Herman Manakyan, and my attorney throughout this process, Alex Spiro. The support that I received over the past two years from each was invaluable and something that I will never forget.

It is an extremely gratifying feeling to know that justice has been served and that now, finally, I can truly put this behind me. To fight for what is right and be fully exonerated and vindicated is both satisfying and very humbling.

We are all aware that there are still too many cases of police brutality today. So many of these cases go unnoticed or unreported; so many victims do not have the means to fight for justice as I could. It’s unfair.

While I alone can’t bring the type of change needed to eliminate these issues, I want to help make a difference. A substantial portion of my settlement will be donated to Gideon’s Promise, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps support and train public defenders across the country.

On their website, it reads ‘We are the voice for the voiceless’. I hope my donation can help give many more people a voice to fight for justice as I did.

Thank you, Thabo!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why the Atlanta Hawks need to use Ersan Ilyasova more

Nice guy -- maybe the Hawks should use him more.
When the Atlanta Hawks traded for Ersan Ilyasova before the trade deadline, I understood it. Since the Kyle Korver trade, it seemed as if teams stopped caring about the Hawks perimeter game and sagged back into the lane, limiting the top five drive rate of Dennis Schröder, the artistry of the offensive game of Paul Millsap and the room to roam inside for Dwight Howard.

Mike Budenholzer has been slow to use Ersan, likely due to his notorious defense. However, Bud has also moved Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the second unit with Ersan, doubling down on defense with the starting unit.


That's over the last five games (thanks, nba stats!) and the ten game look is more or less the same. The Hawks are shooting a lot better with THJ and Ersan in the game, draws more fouls and turns the ball over less. Hey, they are even playing better defense.

Yes, yes, yes, but what about the offensive and defensive ratings?

Man, that lineup even plays faster!

When watching the Orlando Magic sink into the lane and thus suffocate (at times) the Hawks offense, it was clear nobody is scared of Schröder jump shots nor Thabo's or Bazemore's.

As Bud continues to run that first lineup out to start the games, the Hawks will continue to struggle out of the gate. He should consider opening things up with some shooting to spread the floor.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Dennis Situation

Dennis has alarming instances of immaturity and needs to understand his role as emotional, and not just usage, leader on the floor. He lost sight of that after a tremendously lucky shooting stretch in the first quarter, and Bud had to use playing time to get the dude's attention.

He got into it with Dwight Howard and showed his immaturity to a degree that he needed what he received. Looks like the remedy worked as he wanted to private conversation to understand why. Perfect. Mission accomplished. Hopefully, Dennis listens.

I am no fan of petulant coaches, but this is not that kind of situation and this issue with Dennis is an ongoing growth opportunity and another chapter in the book.

It's why I said the Hawks foolishly went into the season without a veteran PG behind Dennis to push him and mentor him. Malcolm Delaney is no threat, nor is he the best example that Dennis can learn to. I don't think Jose Calderon is the best remedy for that, and hopefully the team sees this as a need heading into next season.

Dennis is great, with still much more to develop, but his own approach will be necessary to realizing this ceiling. His role is bigger than he understands.

Otherwise, no comment.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chicago Bulls should probably change their expectations when playing the Atlanta Hawks

In the Atlanta Hawks' 119-114 come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bulls, the home team blew a 110-100 lead in the final four minutes of the game. Ouch. That has to hurt. To be outscored 19-4 in the most important minutes of the game, especially after stellar efforts from Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, hurts, sure, and the Bulls stars blew up after the Hawks comeback was in the books.

Afterwards, Wade and Butler took turns questioning the efforts of their teammates, but not themselves, which while looking selfish from the outside, seems appropriate anyway. Wade and Butler have been great this season, while the rest of the team either suffers from lack of talent or the Rubik's Cube treatment that Fred Hoiberg has used for all the other positions.

Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, et al have all, at one matchup or another, rotated through the starting lineup, leaving the team rudderless, with the exception of Butler and Wade. That they don't execute well late in game may not be such a surprise as a result.

But I am burying the lead here -- this isn't the first time the Bulls have apologized/questioned themselves after a loss to the Hawks. Why, it just happened a few days ago!

This was after the Hawks win on January 20th where the Hawks blew out the visitors, though Budenholzer did have to go back to the starters after a strong fourth quarter start by the Bulls forced the Hawks to close the deal with the regulars.

So, two games, two looks inside by Wade, who was no doubt used to beating the Hawks when a member of the Heat, especially in the LeBron James era.

Just for fun, let's remember another highlight of the Wade era in Miami in regards to the Hawks, shall we?

Ah, Mr. Holman. Never change, sir.

Anyway, Wade may be used to beating the Hawks, but should the Bulls really expect to beat the Hawks so much that it needs to self-inspect after each loss?

Let's look at recent history of Bulls v. Hawks (thanks, basketball reference!):

Hmmm, I am starting to see a pattern here. Is it such a disgrace to lose to the Hawks? Seems like a win should result in an old fashioned rushing of the court in Chicago. Heck, the Hawks even won in the preseason this year, too!

The Hawks play one more time this season, in Chicago, April 1st. Maybe things will have changed in Chicago by then. Maybe Fred Hoiberg will still be coach or finally have figured out the PG position on the team, just a tiny important piece to the puzzle.

Any which way, maybe they should brace themselves for a Hawks win and save the apologies for games against the Nets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Paul Millsap Trade Breakdown Breakdown

Well, wha' happened?

Paul Millsap was supposed to be dealt, but now it looks like he is not going anywhere, no sir. Out is the notion that the Hawks have detonated this team and in is the notion that Millsap is too valuable to let get away.

What changed? Let's break it down just a smidgy.

What was said: "Paul Millsap is too valuable to trade"

Translation: We shopped him, but teams took a look at his contract, his opt out and what the Hawks wanted in return for the All-Star and said, "Ummm, not at this juncture, no."

Result: No Millsap trade, yet.

What was said: "Hawks are determined to compete in the Eastern Conference"

Translation: "Holy crap, this conference is so flat we've won six in a row and are in 4th place!"

Result: It's hard to take anything less than the best possible deal for Millsap when you are reasonably well placed in the playoff hunt.


What it means is that the Hawks would have traded Millsap if someone like the Raptors had come across with Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and a pick, but since no trade like that emerged, and the Hawks are suddenly three games and two spots behind those same Raptors, why take a lesser deal than you want when you can kick the can two months down the road and see where you are?

The trade market for Millsap will not go away unless he is injured, a possible scenario of course, but the Hawks can hold for a little while as they see where all of this goes and open the market back up if things change.

Will it matter?

The Hawks have figured out their defense and are back to being the second best defense over the past 10 games and first over the last five games. The offense still needs help, as it is middle of the pack over the last five games, but their net rating is back up to third best.

Perhaps improvement in Dennis Schröder is part of that -- over the last five games he has played slower in pace, but raised his efficiency and lowered his personal defensive rating.

Also, part of the recent spike for the team may have addition by subtraction because (hold on, I'm getting emotional) the departure of Kyle Korver took the lowest net rated player this season and the 28 minutes per game he was getting, replacing it with more minutes for the much higher rated Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha.

Does it mean the Hawks secretly infected the Cavs with Korver and have now turned the tables on the defending champs? Maybe! And that's a better outlook than the Hawks had 10 games ago when all of this began to take shape.

Always love comments in the comments area -- reply SLAs are posted in THHB offices under lock and key.