Jeff Teague: B+
Despite 8 missed shots and 3 turnovers, Larry Drew relied on him to initiate the offense and he responded with 13 points and 12 assists. He even helped stretch out the Charlotte defense, hitting his first three three-pointers on the night.
Kyle Korver: A-
I can pretty much just post “Shooters shoot! Shooters shoot the ball!” every night with Korver. He shot 6-10, including 4-6 from beyond the arc for 16 points. He even had 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal for good measure.
DeShawn Stevenson: B-
Stevenson continues to play the least noticeable 36 minute games in recent history, but remains a reliable option in Larry Drew’s rotation. He did hit a few timely three pointers to stretch the lead and pulled down 6 rebounds. His games are akin that pair of jeans you can wear over and over that you lose count how long it has been since you’ve washed them.
Josh Smith: C-
Oh Josh, why do you baffle me so? In a contract year, he is currently shooting his worst eFG% of his career. It’s easy to know why. Simply, he is a below average midrange shooter in his career but continues to shoot a high number from that range. His 4-12, including 1-6 beyond the paint, night led to Larry Drew benching him for Zaza Pachulia for most of the fourth quarter. J Smoove is still an elite defensive player in almost all situations, and was able to find Horford and others for easy buckets as his 8 assists would suggest, but there’s only so much you can contribute in other areas before his poor shooting overshadows the rest of his game.
Al Horford: A+
A completely fantastic game all around. He was able to abuse the Bobcats young post players to constantly get position for easy layups in the post and ran pick and rolls to perfection. 26 points on 17 shots and 13 rebounds is as fine a game Horford has ever played.
Devin Harris: C+
He manned the backup point guard spot and was generally unnoticed. Had 8 points and an assist in 18 minutes.
Lou Williams: D+
Fourth Quarter Lou did not do much of anything tonight, as much of his value comes from getting to the free throw line at a high rate. However, he relied on jump shooting as opposed to his aggressiveness in transition resulting in no free throw attempts for the second game in a row. His track record suggests this trend will not continue into Philips Arena against the Clippers Saturday.
Anthony Morrow: C
2 points in five minutes. Not much to say here.
Ivan Johnson: C
2 points in five minutes. Not much to say here. No, I didn’t copy and paste this from the previous line.
Zaza Pachulia: A-
What can you say about Zaza Pachulia? It’s not possible to be a Hawks fan and not love the big Georgian. He played some point-center in a couple of transition opportunities, hit the deck about 50 times for loose balls, and was the main reason Josh Smith took a seat in the fourth quarter. Danny Ferry, please resign the man.
Larry Drew: B+
I said before that he had not done anything to quell groans regarding reprimanding Josh for his shot selection but looked to send a message to Josh in Time Warner Arena Friday night. Despite being the de facto face of the franchise, he is not beyond punishment nor is he above the team concept of sharing the ball and looking to work from the paint outward. Benching the hot hand in Al Horford in the first quarter seemed to effect his willingness to demand the ball in the second, as he only had 1 shot in the second compared to 9 in the first. Still, Drew proved to be a little more flexible with the rotations, despite not finding any time for Ivan or Morrow. It remains difficult to argue against a coach with this roster possessing a 7-4 record for third in the Eastern Conference. The results speak for themselves, even if there is little explanation for the process.
It’s easy to see the improvement the Cats have made since last year. Kemba Walker has taken a huge step forward in leading this young roster. Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood have been timely pickups in the offseason and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor look to be impressive rookies. Despite the results of this game, a great hat tip goes to General Manager and Coach Mike Dunlap for turning around a franchise headed toward perennial laughingstock territory. Their improved outside shooting showed in the first three quarters, despite tailing off in the fourth from long range. Though the playoffs are a long shot, their 6-5 record notwithstanding, although not completely out of the question in the underachieving Eastern Conference, they have already made strides in rebuilding the entire organization into more than just a collection of basketball players.