Possibly The End of a (Short) Era for the Hawks Core of Horford, Smith and Teague

Jan 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; /Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0), small forward Josh Smith (5), and center Al Horford (15) during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: (Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James, Way of Wade Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan.

Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith.

Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin.

Moe, Larry and Curly.

Maybe not the last set, but great trios have defined much of the world history in a way a central figure or powerful duo simply cannot. These groups are inseparable from each other in their place in history and became more than a sum of their parts.

Multipolarity has often created solutions when bipolarity has failed in history, as there are frequently two sides to an issue and a deadlock can arise when two sides retreat to their corners. It is often used in part to explain the leadup to both World War I and II in modern international relations involving relative power of world nations. Such a setup determines both the dynamics of world politics as well as a a flowing NBA offense.

A new triumvirate has emerged in the Deep South, that sadly may have had only 82 games to truly shine. Teague, Smoove and Horford have scored 48% of all the points scored, 48% of the rebounds secured and 57% of the assists dished this season for the Hawks. They have guided the Hawks to an improbable 6th straight playoff appearance despite low expectations and a multitude of injuries.

Some other players have certainly had their moment, such as Lou Williams before his injury, Kyle Korver or Zaza Pachulia until his health woes and even unexpected contributions from the likes of rookies John Jenkins and Mike Scott. But it’s clear which players have the ball in their hands when the going gets tough.

After the season Jeff Teague is a restricted free agent, which gives the Hawks the ability to match an offer sheet that any other team signs him to, and Josh Smith is an unrestricted free agent. Smith has been seemingly more willing to test the market in a big way this offseason, according to quotes from his camp. This doesn’t rule out a return to Atlanta but it may make for an uncomfortable situation the longer this drags on.

However, before the massive uncertainty of this offseason arrives, the Hawks have a chance to impress in the postseason. Their first round matchup increasingly looks like it will be the Brooklyn Nets, who increasingly resemble the Atlanta Hawks of the past 3-5 years with former Hawks Joe Johnson in stow. No group of players knows Joe Johnson’s tendancies more than Teague, Josh and Al, and that include’s this season’s Nets. Handling Joe along with a slumping Deron Williams and a breakout Brook Lopez will be a tall task for a relatively young core.

Jeff Teague has taken a noticeable step forward in his sophomore season as the starting point guard. Though he still has a propensity to getting lost defending perimeter pick and rolls, he’s has taken command of the Hawks offense in a big way. His averages of almost 14.7 points and 7.2 assists a game are nothing to sneeze at. Teague has the 6th most assists in the NBA this season, behind only Greivis Vasquez, Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook. For this motion offense, he’s the perfect blend of being able to stretch the floor, create for himself heading to the rim and not always bear the burden of facilitating the offense.

A lot has been made of Josh Smith’s contract season. One would have to think the numerous trade rumors affected his play as he’s seen an uptick in turnovers per game and his shooting has been similarly subpar. Still he’s an elite passer for his position and an über flexible and near-dominant defender. The Atlanta native will certainly be missed by many should he chose a different residence in the days ahead but he can still give thanks to the city with a strong performance in the postseason.

But it’s been Al Horford that has taken control of a team in flux. Horford has stepped up in a big way, shouldering the load of the Hawks offense on many nights. With blistering shooting percentages (.560 TS%), Horford is averaging 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, per NBA.com. He would be the first Hawk to average a double-double since Dikembe Mutombo in the 1999-2000 season.

The Hawks have shared the ball like few other teams in the NBA. According to Hoopdata.com, Atlanta has the highest percentage of assisted made shots. It’s easy to see during any stretch of games. Josh Smith and Al Horford are as skilled as any other big man duo when it comes to sharing the ball from their numerous high-low plays, where one man triggers a pick and roll. Also, both can both easily pass out of a double team in the post. It has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses who are not use to step out and challenge them into making bad passes. In a way, it’s equivalent in putting a point guard in the post while remaining effective in that it creates a unique matchup problem that is rarely seen so out-of-position.

Sadly, this trio may be dismantled in the months ahead. You may have heard about the gobs of cap space that will be give the Hawks many options in free agency. Add to that two first round picks and two second rounds picks as added compensation from the Joe Johnson trade and Atlantans could witness a group of players that in no way resemble the scrappy club from 2012-13. However, given the play of Jenkins, Scott and even Ivan Johnson, who will be an early bird restricted free agent, fans can rest assured there will be parts to complement a possibly new core in the seasons ahead.

Tags: Al Horford Atlanta Hawks Jeff Teague Josh Smith

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