Atlanta Hawks: Will Injuries Hamper Kyle Korver This Season?


When the final buzzer sounded on the Atlanta Hawks 2014-2015 season Kyle Korver was not on the court. After Game 2 of the Eastern Conference it was determined that the ankle sprain he suffered in the third quarter would keep him out for the remainder of the postseason. The injury would eventually require surgery in the offseason.

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Atlanta already found themselves in a 0-2 hole against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without their not so secret weapon everyone knew they were toast. The Cavs would go on to sweep them, ending their magical season short of the NBA Finals.

Perhaps even more concerning for Korver, after the season he discovered that he would also have to undergo surgery on his right elbow. The surgery to remove “loose bodies” from that elbow was performed barely one month after his ankle surgery.

It is always troubling when a 34-year-old player has two surgeries in such a short timeframe, and it’s even more troubling when that player is such a valuable part of your team.

Korver was simply outstanding last season. For much of the first half he flirted with a 50/50/90 season. He didn’t quite reach that lofty mark, but he did shoot 48.7 percent from the field, a scorching 49.2 percent from three-point range (best in the NBA), and 89.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Korver’s shooting was a game-changer for the Hawks last season. He’s always been great from outside, he is shooting 43.2 percent from deep for his career, but last season he clearly took it up a notch. The threat of his deadly three-point daggers changes the way teams defend Atlanta.

Korver’s defender can never stray too far from him, even when he is on the weak side. In the blink of an eye a pass could be zipped across the court to an open Korver. When that happens it’s too late. If Korver gets enough to space to get a shot off he is probably going to knock it down. If a team has to change their help side rotations just to limit Korver’s touches that can have an impact on other areas of the court, making it tougher to defend dribble penetration, among other things.

With Korver on the court Atlanta’s offensive rating takes a meteoric rise from 101.5 points per 100 possessions to 113.6. The amount of attention Korver garners opens up the floor for Jeff Teague drives to the basket, Paul Millsap corner three-pointers, and it gives Al Horford room to operate in the paint. It’s clear that Korver’s presence on the court makes the game so much easier for his teammates. If he has to miss significant time next season that could put a damper on their NBA Finals aspirations.

The good news is Korver expects to be ready for training camp. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  he spoke with optimism about his recovery.

"“I’m doing OK,” Korver told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “… Both ankle and elbow are progressing fine. I’m definitely hopeful that they will be ready to go by camp.”"

Even if it is partially wishful thinking, if there was one person I would trust to understand their body and make a full recovery from injury it would be Korver. Consider this passage from a 2014 Zach Lowe article on an offseason training regimen Korver participated in.

"Korver is also willing to test himself in unconventional ways. Elliott introduced him to misogi, the Japanese annual purification ritual some athletes have adapted into a once-a-year endurance challenge. Korver and Elliott stand-up paddled 25 miles from the Channel Islands to Santa Barbara last year. Korver may have one-upped himself with the misogi he did this summer.Big-wave surfers build lung capacity by holding a large rock, sinking to the bottom of the ocean, and running short distances on the ocean floor. Korver and four friends decided to go back to the Channel Islands, find an 85-pound rock, and run a collective 5K holding the thing underwater.4 Each participant would dive down, find the rock, run with it as long as he could, and drop it for the next guy to find. Those waiting their turn wore weight belts and tread in water between five and 10 feet deep."

Recovering from an ankle and an elbow injury seems like child’s play compared to that.

It may be impossible for him to live up to expectations after such a spectacular season, but Korver doesn’t have to replicate that level of brilliance. If he continues to shoot near his career average from three-point distance and defends like he has since joining the Hawks then his impact will still be felt.

I wouldn’t leave Kyle Korver open on the wing even if he was a little banged up. Would you?

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