Day Off Provides Time to Reflect
We are just 12 games into the season and have seen a little bit of everything. With the Hawks taking the day off from practice it gives us some time to evaluate how the team has done during this early stretch of the season.
5-1 Road Record
Six-Game Winning Streak
Leading the League in FG%
3-3 Home Record
Four-Game Losing Streak
Last in the NBA in Steal Differential
Only one defensive rebound in the 2nd quarter of a loss to Milwaukee
No points over the final 3:34 vs. Utah
The buzz around the Hawks entering the season was that Larry Drew’s new offense would be a drastic change from the isolation-heavy sets of the Woodson era. Overall, the reviews and results have been positive after the first 12 games. The team is leading the league in field goal percentage (up 2.5% from last season) and also ranks high in assists per game. Al Horford has arguably benefited the most from the change, as he has gotten more touches and more open looks. He currently leads the league in individual FG% and has increased his scoring from 14.2 ppg last season to 17.2 ppg this year.
As a team, the Hawks are hovering around the bottom of the league in 3-point field goal percentage even after last night’s 8-of-15 performance from behind the arc. Joe has struggled to find his rhythm from long distance, shooting over 10% worse than last year at this point. Luckily, we have all seen Joe play long enough to know that it is only a matter of time before he strings together a few games of making 4-of-5.
On the flip side, Mike Bibby has been solid from 3, currently shooting 43%, and J-Smoove has been very judicious in picking his spots to launch from long range. Smith is currently 7-of-15 (46.7%) on the season, and most of his attempts look to fit naturally within the flow of the offense.
The defensive changes that Coach Drew brought to training camp have received less attention than the offense. Thus far the reviews have been mixed about how the changes have impacted the team’s play. This year the team is switching less, but the Phoenix game showed that teams can still force the Hawks to switch in certain situations.
One area that has been a unanimous bright spot on the defensive end is Josh Smith patrolling the lane. Smith is leading the league in blocked shots with 39 (3.25 bpg) and set a new season-high last night with seven rejections against the Pacers. Switching less allows Smith to stay closer to the basket where he can shift over from help-side to effect even more opponent shots.
This is the area where Coach Drew seems to have the most concern. The Hawks are outrebounding their opponents by a slim margin on average, but it is more the timing and type of rebounds that concern LD. Too many offensive rebounds and loose ball rebounds seem to find their way into the opponent’s hands. These types of plays are especially magnified when they occur late in close games. As we move into the heart of the schedule and face more elite teams from around the league it will become more and more important that the Hawks finish the play when they work hard for stops.