Halfway Home

Friday, January 14, 2011
By Jon Newberry

Well, add one more thing to the list of problems caused by Atlanta’s “Blizzard of 2011″… I was all set to do the midseason update on the Hawks, but Tuesday’s postponement has us one game short of the actual halfway mark. Oh well, we are going for it anyway.

There were a few big questions that Hawks fans had entering the season:
– How will the Hawks adapt to Larry Drew’s offense
– Will Jeff Teague take on a bigger role with this team
– Can the Hawks find a way to compete with BIG centers (aka Dwight Howard)

Let me tackle these one by one.

How will the Hawks adapt to Larry Drew’s offense?

Coach Drew’s offense promised more movement and less isolations, developments that would lead to a more balanced attack.

To help judge how effective the change has been, let me throw a few stats at you.
– The Hawks are one of only two teams (Knicks)  in the league with four different players averaging over 15 points per game.
– The Hawks are one of only five teams in the league that have six players averaging double-digits.

There have been games where the Hawks haven’t been able to hit the broad side of a barn (see Nov. 22 vs. BOS), but for the most part the improvements that were promised have come to fruition.

Recently the offense has looked even better with the team averaging over 107 points during the current winning streak. Both Joe and Jamal are getting plenty of good looks, and the team is shooting an amazing 44% from behind the arc over that same span.

Will Jeff Teague Take On a Bigger Role with this Team?

Not everything can go exactly as planned… and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Jeff Teague has not blossomed as quickly as many Hawks fans had hoped this season. That is partly due to some inconsistent play by Teague, but also due to the impressive play by Mike Bibby.

Teague has had games where he doesn’t take care of the ball as well as Coach Drew would like and he has not proven that he can play the role of a lock down defender up to this point. Jeff has given fans a glimpse of his potential (see Dec 16 @ BOS – 18 pts) and continues to improve.

Bibby has made it tough for LD to take him off the court since he has scorched the nets all season long. He is currently third in the NBA in 3-point percentage (48.5%) and fourth in the league in total 3-pointers made (83).

Can  the Hawks Find a Way to Compete with BIG Centers?

Who would have guessed that a slim “Twin” would have such an impact on the 2010-11 Hawks? Jason Collins has already played more than twice as many minutes than he did during the entire 2009-10 campaign. He has started 14 games and his presence has made a noticeable difference when the Hawks are up against a 7-footer.

When LD goes with the big starting line-up it shifts Al over to power forward, a position that coach feels is much more natural for Horford. On top of that, Collins’ is able to keep even the biggest players in the league out of the lane, which means Atlanta is no longer forced to aggressively double-team when the ball goes into the post.

One final note for those of you out there that love stats, game notes, etc…
The Hawks need to win on Saturday night to stay on pace to improve their record for the sixth straight season.