Reason For Concern


After a 6-0 start, the Atlanta Hawks have lost 7 of their last 9 games to fall to 8-7 on the year.  There are several reasons for the collapse, with the main reasons being ones that this site and several other sites pointed out as possible weaknesses before the season start.  Unfortunately, without a roster shake up, I don’t see the issues this team has improving.

1.  This team’s perimeter defense is piss poor, and Coach Drew continues to play the absolute worst defensive combination on this team in the backcourt for a majority of the minutes in the back court.  Brett Legree details the problems with playing Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford so much in the back court together.  I agree with Brett.  You will be hard pressed to find a worse defensive combo than Bibby and Crawford on the same team.  What amazes me is that Jeff Teague is a player who actually puts forth some effort on defense when he’s in the game, and when he makes a defensive mistake, he gets yanked.  However, there is no accountability for Bibby or Crawford and their complete noneffort on defense.  To me, that sends a rather poor message.  Not only that, but when you have Bibby and Crawford on the floor at the same time, it forces Joe Johnson to guard the oppositions best offensive perimeter player.  Joe Johnson is a below average defender himself.  He’s not to the extent that Bibby and Crawford are, but he’s not a good defender either.  Given the lack of attention that has been paid to getting perimeter defenders and the lack of accountability for the overall poor defensive effort from guys like Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford, I’m convinced that this organization doesn’t understand the importance of playing strong defense.

2.  This team doesn’t rebound the basketball well.  This isn’t a problem due solely to a lack of talent.  The biggest problem is that Al Horford and Josh Smith are typically the only players on the team that attack the boards.  On a lot of occasions, the Hawks have only one guy in rebounding position.  They give up tons of second looks to the offense they are playing.  Part of this goes to the lack of attention that gets paid to defense on this team.  Yes, it would help to have a big, rebounding center in the middle that can give the team 20-25 minutes a night.  The Hawks could have picked that guy up for a cheap contract, and all it would have cost them was the roster spot that Josh Powell or Jason Collins is currently wasting.  They could have signed Erick Dampier, but instead, they let the Miami Heat grab the best rebounding and defensive big man that was currently available.

3.  This team has no on the court leadership.  Right now, they aren’t getting much leadership from the bench or the players.  Here’s the thing though.  I think Al Horford is a budding leader, but due to the fact that the coaching staff seems very reluctant to focus everything around him, it’s hard for him to take his rightful role as team leader.  I really feel that this team has no idea how good Al Horford is or how good he will end up becoming.  The guy is currently 4th in the NBA in PER, 4th in TS%, 4th in eFG%, and 4th in win shares while he is 3rd in win shares per 48 minutes.  Al is the most efficient offensive player on the team, and yet, his usage rate is currently 5th on the team.  He is used on offense barely more than Josh Powell when he’s in the game.  To me, this is a case study in piss poor roster management and game management.

The biggest reason for concern may be the fact that the Hawks appear to have abandoned the new flex motion offense that was creating a lot of opportunities for guys like Al Horford and Josh Smith.  If their last game was any indication, the Hawks may go back to the heavy iso-Joe and iso-Jamal offense that they utilized last year and was a complete failure in the playoffs.  They still think Joe Johnson is their best player, but he has basically become a very expensive third wheel.  His decline has been sharper than I anticipated.  Jamal Crawford, whom this coaching staff appears to adore, has become the Jamal Crawford of the previous years, showing that last season was essentially a fluke season for him.

I feel this team needs a roster shake up.  I’m of the opinion that the best thing they can do is put Joe Johnson on the market and see what they can get for him.  There may be a contending team that would be willing to take on that horrific contract on the chance that Joe could push them through and into the playoffs.  If they Hawks could move Joe, then it would force this coaching staff to structure things around Al Horford and Josh Smith, and I honestly feel the Hawks will be a better team if those two are the focal point.  They also have to focus on getting guys that can defend.

The latest rumors are that Jeff Teague may be getting shopped, and the Sacramento Kings appear to be the team that is most interested.  I’m convinced that the sole reason this staff doesn’t trust Teague at this point is that his shot isn’t falling like they want it to.  It doesn’t matter that he’s far better defensively than either Mike Bibby or Jamal Crawford.  They Hawks are likely to move Teague at some point, and my guess is, they will end up getting an all offense, no defense playing player in return.

Overall, if no moves are made, then this will be a long season.  Poop runs down hill though, and I think the biggest source of the poop at this time is at the top.  When the owners of this team realize that they are the source of the problems, things may start to improve.  I have my doubts that the owners will figure this out though.