I can do this General Manager thing…..totally
The Hawks didn’t finish the season the way they wanted. That 30-point blowout was far from ideal but might have been the best thing for Atlanta. We have a tendency to ignore reality and ‘ride the wave’ in this city. (Goodbye Josh Smith) The banged up Cavs, leaderless Wizards and geriatric Nets exposed weaknesses, needs and question marks for the Hawks.
- The Hawks were outrebounded throughout the season and playoffs. The Nets and Wiz aren’t very tall and don’t rebound especially well so it didn’t kill you then, but Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov looked like All-NBA big men in that series.
- Outside shooting can be a very mercurial girlfriend. Atlanta relied on the 3-point shot waaaaay too much in the post season. Defense is ratcheted up in the playoffs and it’s more important to get open than to rely on ball swings to create space.
- The ability to play one-on-one defense can’t be overstated. The Hawks needed to be able to stop star players in the playoffs and weren’t able because of injury and lack of athleticism.
- Players usually are what they are. You can’t coach height, speed or toughness, but you can reward IQ and hustle. Atlanta needs to use free agency to fill in the gaps exposed by these playoffs.
Which brings us to roster evaluation:
- Al Horford –Dude is the undisputed leader of this team and managed to play 76 games this year! That’s huge for him. His points were down slightly but his assists were up which is always great for a big man. Al is good on the boards and great at understanding the small things that must be done down low. Horford has developed a respectable face-up game but he has to continue to round that out. Better ball-handling and a more consistent 12-footer would go a long way to making him an elite Power Forward, his true position. Needs a true center to avoid the beat down of a full season at the five.
- Paul Milsap – This guy is a load to handle and throws his weight around better than any other Hawk. His points and rebounds were down slightly but his scoring efficiency was up and his 3-point shot has become less streaky. He’s much more comfortable getting a pass closer to the basket and taking stock of his defender before posting or facing. He’s the most physical player for Atlanta and their best rebounder. His contract is up and he’ll get more than the $9.5 million the Hawks paid this year. Pay him and you’ve got an awesome 3-4 duo, but he could eat up too much cap space to bring in a true center to help inside.
- Jeff Teague – He’s not a pure point guard, but he doesn’t have the size to consistently finish inside. If he can add some bulk and shoot more consistently, Jeff will become a focal point for opposing defenses. Otherwise, he’ll get banged up and only give you 40-50 games a year. His numbers went up in the playoffs but he was on the bench too much late in the game. Teague has got to show more maturity and leadership, he fell for Dellavedova and Wall baiting him into stupid retaliation. The next two seasons will be huge if he wants elite PG money at the end of his contract.
- DeMarre Carroll – The straw that stirs the drink in Atlanta is now a free agent and I think he’s the most important player to re-sign this offseason. Carroll can clamp down on defense and had the strength to finish or draw fouls inside. He isn’t a volume 3-point shooter but hit on 40% from downtown. He also managed over 5 rebounds a game which is impressive at 6-8. His injury was far more impactful than any other in the postseason but he pushed through like a Boss. If he could improve his ball handling a bit he could share guard duties with Teague, allowing Jeff to play off the ball and get free for shots and cuts. DeMarre was a steal at $2.4 million this year but the Hawks need to make him a priority.
- Kyle Korver – He is a sniper, no doubt! Shooting almost 50% from deep during the regular season is impressive…..averaging just 12 points isn’t. At $5.5 million a year, the Hawks need more from him, especially as a veteran and a starter. Kyle’s biggest problem is his inability to get his own shot or make the moves necessary to get open. His lack of athleticism makes him a defensive liability as well. He doesn’t have the skills to guard a 2 and isn’t physical enough to handle 3’s. If he works on his lateral quickness and defense he could keep teams honest when he gets the ball on the perimeter.
- Dennis Schroder – The young German improved in every category, taking advantage of more minutes and the confidence of his team. He rebounds well for a 6-1/165 guard and has a respectable 3pt shot. He still has a tendency to get a little hyped up and turn the ball over. And when defenses make adjustments he’s a little slow to react and attack. Schroder needs to spend time in the weight room and hit the pasta bar this offseason.
- Kent Bazemore – After seeing his minutes grow during the season, Kent found himself watching for much of the early playoffs. Not sure why since he’s a lean, athletic slasher with a defensive intensity to get in opponent’s faces. His shot is improving and he’s a team guy who doesn’t need touches to be happy. Bazemore could stand to sit in on some coaching sessions to increase his understanding of the game. He could also increase his rebounding by boxing out a bit better.
- Pero Antic – At 6-11, 260; you’d think Pero could fill the need for a big man, but he’s not that dude. He generally looks for pick and pop opportunities and occasionally puts the ball on the floor from 10 feet out. But like Korver he’s a liability on defense where true centers draw fouls or simply go over him. He’s got above average footwork but the last thing the Hawks need is another power forward. And yes, he was a bonehead in NYC with Sefalosha. Both of them should be looking for jobs since they don’t bring enough to the table to justify their dumb moves. Atlanta should let him go in free agency.
- Mike Scott – His numbers were down and, as a result, his minutes. He’s athletic enough to create some problems but he’s got to stop launching threes. Continue to pass, rebound and score on the occasional pick and roll…..and justify your $3.3 million contract.
- Shelvin Mack – This guy is intriguing. He’s not the prototypical point guard but he also isn’t the kind of scorer who can play the 2. Once his shoulder heals from surgery he needs to put in some shooting work and improve his quickness. His strength will be needed with the supermodel thin Teague and Schroder so the Hawks need to figure out how to get him minutes. He gets rebounds and can post other guards.
- Mike Muscala – Another interesting prospect for the Hawks, Muscala has shown potential. He makes good decisions with the ball and is able to defend centers with mobility and length. Mike could stand to eat a few donuts and find a little mean streak. He could easily grab 8 rebounds a night off the bench with some technical work.
- Thabo Sefolosha – SMDH! This guy could have helped against LeBron and on the glass as well. He hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed in OKC and his poor decision in NYC (didn’t deserve a beating!) shows he isn’t ready for prime time. He’s definitely not worth $4 million a year. The Hawks will have to eat that contract……cause no one else will.
Homework for the Hawks:
- Coach up the deeper bench players. If you’re committed to the team concept and ball movement then improve your odds by bringing more players into the rotation. Parker, Ginobili, Leonard and Green didn’t start out as stars but Pop coached them up.
- Get a true center so Al can play power forward. If Al Horford is 6-10 then I’m 6-5. I’ve stood face to face and had a conversation with him—he’s not 6-10. Just because you say it doesn’t make it so.
- Variety is the spice of life. Could we not have a roster of 6-6 to 6-8 tweeners who do lots of average things. There’s nothing wrong with specialists who fill roles.
- Figure out why Atlanta doesn’t attract top tier stars. I’m not saying they should get LeBron, Harden, etc but they should be able to bring in All Stars.
There it is…..the blueprint laid out for Danny Ferry and Coach Bud. Just let me know when and where to pick up my check.