Defense Takes Precedence

Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Jon Newberry

“He’s playing at a high level.”

It’s not the comment you typically hear from a coach following a 2-of-9 shooting performance from his starting guard.

Coach Drew went on to elaborate about his thoughts on Jeff Teague’s play:
“I’ve always told him that’s what we need from him. I’m not concerned when he makes or misses shots… I want him beinga threat every time he is out there. The biggest threat for him is when he utilizes his speed and his quickness, and when he harasses people defensively.”

LD’s comments are just one example of the Hawks plan to use defense to propel them from playoff participants to playoff contenders.

While every trade is accompanied by debate, one aspect of the Hawks 2011 deadline deal to acquire Kirk Hinrich that has not been disputed is that Atlanta became a much better team on defense. Coach Drew, like many coaches, has been preaching a defense-first mentality all year, but the latest roster move brings it right to the front of the players’ minds.

Hinrich has previously been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team (2nd-Team in 2007) and brings a lot of tenacity to the floor. He annoys the heck out of opposing guards with his pesky defense, and his track record of scurmishes (see Rajon Rondo, James Jones and even Marvin Williams for examples) helps prove his effectiveness.

Kirk was limited to just 17 minutes of action last night as he is just started to learned the Hawks offensive schemes, but the fact that he was brought in seems to have impacted the team. Let’s hope that last night’s defensive performance (the Hawks held Golden State 23 points below their season average) is not just a one-hit wonder and that the defensive mindset takes root.

The  AJC’s Michael Cunningham has been all over the Hinrich/Bibby trade as he follows the team during its west coast swing. His blog posts and commentary have been right-on in terms of how this trade effects the team beyond the box score. Two must-reads if you are a Hawks fan still on the fence about the move:
Hawks to Forge a New Chemistry without Bibby
Interview with Rick Sund and Player Reactions

Meshing with Joe
Some analysts have commented that it is hard to find a point guard that will compliment Joe Johnson’s skill set. It is true that Joe’s game is not dependent on someone setting him up to score. It seems that he often shoots better off of the dribble than off of a pass. That being said, Joe’s backcourt mate should be able to knock down shots when he kicks out of double-teams (check).

Also, Joe’s first evaluation of new players almost always deal with defense and effort, two areas where Kirk Hinrich thrives.