Thursday, December 27, 2007

My First Attempt at Microsoft Paint

15-12! Yes, it's early. Yes, the Hawks have slightly out-performed their point differential, which is even. Yes, the Hawks have played five more home games than road games. Yes, the Hawks are exactly one game ahead of seventh place. Screw it all, the Hawks are not only in playoff position, they would actually have home court in the first round if the season ended today. They've won five in a row! If ever there was a time to throw perspective out the window and engage in some Gamecock-style irrational exuberance, this is it!

A few thoughts on the game last night:

1. The Hawks had six players in double digits with Josh Childress right behind at eight points. A possible explanation for the team's success that is so simple, I hesitate to make it: years of being bad has given the team enough high draft picks that they now have a lot of good players. Rather than one or two superstars, this team is built on the Bulls' or Pistons' model of having six or seven good players.

2. More irrational exuberance: Anthony Johnson's assist/turnover ratio is 3.47/1. Chris Paul's ratio is 3.5/1. Steve Nash's ratio is 3.41/1. Deron Williams' ratio is 2.55/1. Those of you who thought that this would be the case after AJ was dreadful in the opener and banished to the bench for several games thereafter raise your hands.

3. I was going to compliment Al Horford and Shelden Williams for holding Jermaine O'Neal to 16 points and then I checked O'Neal's stats, which reveal that he's averaging, wait for it, 15.9 points per game. Remember when Jermaine was viewed as a star? So instead, the number that jumps out at me in the box score is that Jamaal Tinsley took 21 shots and made six. When did he turn into Allen Iverson? Did he see former teammate Anthony Johnson opposite him and think he could go off? If so, then thanks, Jamaal!

4. Last night marked the seventh straight game that Marvin Williams made at least half of his shots. In contrast, Joe Johnson hasn't hit over half of his shots in 12 games this month. I'll be interested to see if opposing defenses shift more of their attention to Williams in 2008 and if they do, how Williams will respond. Marvin is experiencing his first period of meaningful success in the NBA. Let's hope it continues. FYI, Williams also had a hand in holding Danny Granger to nine points, eight below his average. Williams and Smith have given the Hawks some very good defense at the forward positions. Speaking of which, the Hawks see Nowitzki and Lebron on the road in the next two games.

5. This seems as good a time as any to fellate myself for taking the position that Billy Knight was at least as good a GM as Rich McKay before it was popular to do so.


Anonymous said...

It is possible in your exuberance about the Hawks you might have torqued one minor point. Can you explain how the 7th seed in the conference has home court advantage in their first playoff series? Or, do all 16-teams in the conference now make the playoffs (which would seem about right - they could play well into July that way :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I just realized the Hawks are actually in 4th place!!!

They would get a playoff series home court advantage.

Michael said...

I guess my painting was a little subtle.

chg said...

Gamecock-style irrational exuberance? Is it August already?

The offensive line really seemed to jell late in camp, I've got a good feeling about the quarterback situation, and sources say the defensive players are really fired up about VanGorder's attacking style. Woooo!

I'm already depressed in anticipation of my inevitable let down.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Saying Knight's Atlanta tenure has been at least as successful as McKay's is damnation by faint praise, is it not?

I'm not sure how much credit (if any) Knight should actually get for the resurgence. His best "moves," aside from the Smith pick, have simply been managing to avoid taking a complete bust in the draft (though I don't know of too many No. 5 picks overall who have been on the receiving end of multiple DNP-CDs while healthy in just their second year AND were seniors before coming out). But he's also managed to whiff on multiple gilt-edged opportunities to draft an out-and-out stud (aside from the gift-wrapped Horford), his free agent signings have been beyond awful, and he's basically only succeeded in solving the decade-long PG search because Dallas was looking to dump salary. To me, this looks like a guys who's been handed enough darts that he was bound to hit the dart board eventually, no matter how many times he's thrown a 4 or so.

Fox said...

As a fellow blogger and Atlanta sports fan, I have to say that I hop that our exuberance over the Hawks being three games over .500 and on a five game winning streak is not irrational. It is early but they are a young team with a great deal of talent that seems to be coming together as a team as you have pointed out. I am a skeptic by heart when it comes to Atlanta's teams so I am not too up or too down at this point.

peacedog said...

The Hawks have talent; this is undeniable. Whether they can play well over the course of a season. . . different story all together.

Mike, my sole concern about Marvin right now is his rebounding. I really need to look up some of the meatier numbers on the subject. But it seems like he's had a number of games with high minutes played and deceptively sub par rebounding numbers. I'm not clear that this indicates anything yet, though. Marvin isn't really a 4, just like Josh isn't really a 3. So our lineup combinations might not leave him occupying prime rebounding real-estate.

Michael said...


Saying that Knight hasn't made many good moves aside from the Josh Smith trade is like saying that John Wilkes Booth didn't do anything very important other than assassinate Lincoln. Grabbing a McGrady-esque talent with the 17th pick in the Draft is a major coup. Look at the players who were drafted right before Smith if you want an indication as to how valuable a #17 pick normally is. Knight's other draft decisions have been a mixed bag. Shelden Williams is a bust. I like Josh Childress a lot and he's a perfect player on a team with other scorers. Passing on Chris Paul and Deron Williams wasn't a great move, but Marvin is turning out to be a very good player in his own right. He nailed the Horford pick. I don't like the Acie Law pick.

Knight has also made at least two other moves that panned out very well. The first is signing Zaza Pachulia to a very cheap four-year deal when everyone was shouting that he should sign Sam Dalembert or Eddy Curry for big money. The second is signing Joe Johnson, who has turned out to be worth the money the Hawks have paid him. Now that Boris Diaw is eating croissants five at a time, giving Diaw up doesn't much metter. Knight was lucky not to surrender a lottery pick, I'll grant you that.

As for Speedy Claxton, that was certainly a mistake, but how was Knight supposed to know that Speedy's knees would completely give out. I know that Claxton had an injury history, but nothing to this degree.

One other note: Knight deserves credit for being patient with the rebuilding process. He didn't panic and trade picks or young players for veterans in an attempt to get to the playoffs sooner rather than later. He took a lot of heat for that, but the roster that he has now assembled was worth the wait (provided that ownership lets him keep the roster together).

Michael said...

Peace, Marvin's rebound rate isn't too bad. He averages 7.5 rebounds per 48 minutes, which is 14th among small forwards. Not great, but not bad, either.

LD said...

No draft pick can be scrutinized in a vaccuum.

Josh Smith was an excellent pick, considering who was drafted before and after him.

Marvin Williams was a decent pick, considering that he's already significantly better than Bogut (whom most people thought the choice was between), but considering Williams and Paul we can't go overboard.

Childress was not a good pick. Deng was available, and would've been the better pick then and now. Childress is a decent role player, but Deng would be far more valuable to this team (either on-the-court, or as a trading chip, or as a guy who can play a position that would've led us to take someone else instead of either Marvin Williams or Shelden in the next two drafts). Knight doesn't get as much stick as he probably could for that pick because Childress isn't a bust.

Shelden Williams is a bust, and there are a half-dozen players drafted that year behind that would've been more valuable to the Hawks (Roy, Foye, Gay, Rondo, Farmar, Gibson, Brewer, M. Williams, Balkman, etc.)

As for free agency, I agree that too much is pointed at the Claxton signing. Zaza was a great signing. Tyronn Lue was a mediocre signing. The Johnson trade, to me, is probably an OK deal, but only because the Hawks got lucky in the lottery last year and have turned the corner this year (meaning that the pick going to Phoenix won't be as valuable). If the Hawks don't get in the top 3 last year or don't make the playoffs this year, then it's not a good deal (since Horford is incredibly important to this team and this year's draft could be loaded).

As for the McKay/Knight comparison, there's one additional factor in Knight's support. McKay received 100% of the resources from ownership to mold the team how he wanted. Because of the Spirit ownership dispute, Knight hasn't been free to make trades or add free agent salary in a way that other GMs have. McKay's had some bad luck (Vick), but in terms of limiting the decisions he could make, he's had it much easier than Knight.

chg said...

You can't really list Balkman among the players better than Sheldon Williams. Thomas was absolutely killed by the national media for that pick, and he used a late first rounder. Though Balkman has vindicated that decision and played like a borderline lottery pick, he was not a realistic option for a GM with the #5 pick.

If Knight had traded down for Balkman, pretty much everyone but hardcore SEC fans would've said "Who?" and called for his head. No one would've believed the Knicks were trying to get him, just like no one at the time gave credence to rumors the Suns traded out of the first round only because Balkman was off the board.

Jerry Hinnen said...


1) Smith's obviously an outstanding pick and a great player. But I'm not sure he's quite at a McGrady-esque or, uh, Lincoln-assassination level, either. He has many talents, but he's unlikely to ever lead the team in scoring and you don't want the offense to run through him. He's always going to need a Joe Johnson around, basically. My point is that it's as good as you can expect from a 17th pick, but I don't think that one selection alone completely atones for his other mistakes.

2) Passing on Paul for Marvin would be OK if the Hawks didn't need a point guard and if Paul was merely good, but we're talking about passing on a guy who's already arguably the best PG in the game at a time when the Hawks had no one at the position. This to me is Knight's biggest flaw: his team's biggest hole when he arrived was the point, and after however many years the position is still being held by well-past-their-prime vets (one of whom I happen to think is playing over his head right now) and a rookie who hasn't looked that reliable thus far.

3) No, Knight couldn't have foreseen Claxton completely breaking down, but if you sign a guy who's known to be injury prone it can't be too surprising, can it, when said injuries completely catch up with him?

4) I'll grant that the Zaza signing was a good moves, but let's not give too much credit here: he's been a bargain, but he's still not the sort of guy who's starting for most playoff teams and Knight specifically tried to reduce his minutes with the Lorenzen Wright signing and then outright replace him with the Shelden pick, only to fail with both.

5) You are right that I maybe am not giving Knight enough credit for signing JJ when that money could have been sunk in a contract for the likes of, I don't know, someone like Jermaine O'Neal, for instance.

I guess for me the bottom line is: why are the Hawks a better team than last year? Why are they an apparent playoff team now? And I think the two biggest answers are Johnson's unsustainably good play at PG and the extraordinarily lucky arrival of Horford, both of which I would credit to good fortune rather than Knight. I realize that Smith's improvement and JJ's continued excellent play have a lot to do with it and Knight is responsible for those things, so maybe I'm being too hard on him. But he still strikes me as a GM who's been more lucky than good. (Then again, as half of NBA GM's can't tie their own shoes, maybe I should be happy the Hawks have him at all.)

Anonymous said...

I'll have you know that I've copyrighted the phrase "Suck it." I accept cash, check or money order (no C.O.D.s, please).

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