Wednesday, October 28, 2009

THHB Season Preview, Part Three: The Rest of the Story

We've tackled The Season and The Starters and now it's time for----the Rest of the Story.

We've been asked about the new depth the Hawks have and we have stated that, while yes it's nice to see familiar names and seemingly competent folks holding down the Six through Ten, it doesn't exactly mean the Hawks have the bench of say the Magic and/or Celtics, who just so happen to be the  teams the Hawks should be aiming to chase down this season.

Let's take a look.

The Bench:

They Liked it So Much, They Bought the Company!

Making a summer long story shorter---the Hawks got great production out of Ronald "Flip" Murray last season, but it was only the third such season in RFM's well traveled career, making it very unlikely that he would repeat such production. The Hawks understood the value that RFM provided the team and figured they needed to ensure such levels of production needed to be secured for this follow up season.

The Hawks also entered the offseason without a signature of Mike Bibby's on a contract meaning that, should Bibby sign elsewhere, they could have been without a triggerman for their perimeter heavy offense.

Enter the deal for Jamal Crawford---a deal that fulfilled both insurance in case Bibby bolted and also a player who could likely match that production that RFM lent to last season's team.

Didn't really make that shorter, did we? Moving on---

Crawford's career numbers are, even on the low side, right at or above the season that RFM provided--so they have that going for them, which is nice. The cost of attaining such assurance, player-wise was insignificant: a finished Speedy Claxton and the disappointing/disliked (by Coach Woodson standards) Acie Law. The price tag (2 more years, 19 more million dollars), however, is what has raised some eyebrows around the Nest, given that with that contract the Hawks, even if Joe Johnson left this coming offseason, wouldn't have enough for a star level contract to replace him.

The question this season around this shall be: Was it worth that kind of commitment to hedge a Bibby bet and/or replace RFM (circa 2008-09)?

Crawford provides a terrific ability to score--so much so that he scared THHB every time he made a shot when he played against the Hawks, as if he was going to go nuclear and go on one of those runs that can paralyze an opponent. His defense had been much maligned everywhere he has gone, but none of those teams have seen the level of bad the Hawks have individually displayed on defense over the years--believe us America when we say: We can cope with it.

That Man's Money and He Doesn't Even Know It

We were very surprised that Zaza Pachulia took (4) years and (19) million dollars to resign with the Hawks. That the Cavaliers spent quite a bit more for a similar player in Anderson Varejao (6 and 50) and Marcin Gortat receiving a full MLE from the Magic should let Hawks fans know how much Zaza wanted to be a Hawk.

Every winning team seems to have a player like Zaza coming off the bench in the frontcourt.

He doesn't really have the ability to block a shot (no seriously, don't wait for any blocks unless Earl Boykins is driving and even then--he's more likely to get knocked down by Zaza than get his stuff thrown out of there.) and he won't be confused with Brad Miller in terms of passing the ball from the center position.

But what he does--oh, he does so well.

He provides precious extra possessions by his ability to offensively rebound.(Zaza was 7th in ORB% among players that played at least 15 mpg last season (basketball reference is king) ). He goes to the basket with reckless abandon---not with the intention of scoring necessarily, but with the intention of his version of a meet-and-greet in the lane, otherwise known as drawing contact. Pachulia's draw foul rate was far and away the best on the Hawks at (25.2) percent ( is also king--remember--we're appeasers!).

He is also the type of annoying presence for the opposition that makes you love that he is on your team. THHB doesn't believe that he is insidious as some other goons might have been on other teams in the past---Zaza brings the nice guy demeanor to the "Screw You Guy" for the opposition to shout at.

No, That's Not a Pseudonym, His Name is Really Joe Smith

He was their big outside the roster free agent signing, and they got him for peanuts. THHB hopes it doesn't end up smelling like elephants.

Smith will provide a more seasoned upgrade for the minutes Solomon Jones logged last year, and if you were certain that Smith would be used more than Jones, then you're saying that he'll thief those minutes from Zaza, Al, or Josh---try that at your own (and the team's) risk.

Smith's playoff seasoning is really encompassed in the last (2) seasons he spent in Cleve-land. Smith provided the same sort of minutes we feel Woody will use Joe for here---a dependable big body off the bench, rather than the "I'm not ready" look that Jones often provided or the cavalcade of projects and D-leaguers the Hawks gave floor time to.

We would have preferred a more impact type role player, like say Drew Gooden, but if the goal was to upgrade the minutes from last season and replace one for one, then Smith (especially for the min price) was a good option. We would just caution not to expect much at all from this role.

In the NBA Draft, Even the Ushers Get the Guy They Really Wanted

Jeff Teague is fast. Maybe the fastest Hawk with the basketball since JT. What Teague does not have that Terry had like crazy is a drop dead jump shot. And in the Hawks stand, dribble, and shoot offense, that may not be such a good fit.

Teague has a nice feel for the ball and delivers it surprisingly well for a guy not even into the seasonal part of his rookie year, but to make the most out of his skill, the Hawks would have to allow him to penetrate and dish or get out on the break and run. Filling the "Mike Bibby" role in the offense does not play to Teague's strengths and would make for some frustrating outings for the young man.

Teague replaces Acie Law as the PG of the Future Du Jour--with an important advantage. Leading up to and through the draft, Hawks GM Rick Sund made it clear that Mike Woodson would have a good part in making this pick. Even on the night of the draft, there was Woodson in the war room, and afterwards Sund made it clear that this was a "team" pick, leaving Woody's fingerprints on the 19th pick. It behooves Woody to not bury Teague on the bench or make him play away from what he does best, so that may end up in the Hawks favor when it comes to the eventual production of this exciting young player.

You Got it Half Right---Which Means You Got it All Wrong

We never believed that Maurice Evans could replace the production of Josh Childress and the stats say it wasn't even close. Evans struggled through massive stretches of play with his outside shot, making the series of games he was hot moot by impact. The offensive rebounding and overall efficiency provided by Childress was missed off the bench and in the spots where Evans was forced to start (25 games last season).

Evans did however prove to be quite a leader and a steady voice of reason, but his play on the court was a little too shaky for a guy who logged over (1800) minutes for a playoff team.

Others Finished with (65) Percent of the Vote and Will Take Office in February.

Randolph Morris, Othello Hunter, and Jason Collins make up the rest of the roster, making the Hawks one of (4) teams to carry the league minimum of (13) players.

Morris is in the last year of a (2) year, minimum level contract and hasn't shown near enough to justify continuing the experiment to this point. He plays smaller than his height, but does have soft hands--it just doesn't amount to a lot on the basketball court at this point.

Hunter is an aggressive, always improving big man who wouldn't be so bad as the Hawks 5th big man, but that role has been given away to a Proven Veteran. Hunter still is very raw, but gives fans what they are looking for from a player so far down on a bench---hustle, aggressiveness, and obvious athleticism.

Collins is the Proven Veteran who will no doubt get the call if Al, Zaza, Josh, and Joe Smith are unable to return to the game. Collins once was an excellent defender but in recent years seems to have lost the fastball. We are interested to see what the big fella (and he does have some serious NBA size) can provide if pressed into duty, but we're getting the feeling that we don't wanna know.

To summarize: The Bench has improved, but one did not have to elevate to the levels of The Namesake to clear the bar set by the previous season's benches.

They're OK, and that is definitely an improvement.

We Watched (27) Minutes of Previews---When Does The Movie Start?!

We've said our peace, now we're ready for the home team to prove us wrong (unbloody likely with our talented scouts and mathematicians on staff here). GameTime is Tomorrow Night---A Home game even!

THHB will appear on The Bill Shanks Show this (Wednesday) afternoon @ 5pm EST (click the link for the live stream if you want to listen in) to talk about the season, players, and all other things Hawks. In other words, just what you have read for the last three days---but in audio form! Seriously, tune in to Bill's show as he actually hosts a show in Georgia that gives a darn about the Hawks and will talk knowledgeably about them .

THHB is amped for the new season. That is all.

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