Counting On the New Guys

Sunday, April 24, 2011
By Jon Newberry

With Zaza Pachulia in street clothes tonight (no doubt he will be wearing some sort of designer suit) the Hawks will turn to their trio of big men that were not with the team last season to come off the bench and slow down Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

Josh Powell and Etan Thomas were both signed last summer to provide depth in the Hawks’ frontcourt, and Hilton Armstrong was acquired from the Washington Wizards in the trade deadline deal surrounding that was centered around Kirk Hinrich. All three could see meaningful action tonight to bang inside against Howard.

Jason Collins remains the first option, or as he likes to say, “the first line of defense.” The reality is that Collins is the best one-on-one post defender against Howard and that his back-ups are not as effective. Still, the stat sheets from the series show that Coach Drew prefers to use Collins for just under 20 minutes each game. That means that, whether it is due to fouls, fatigue or strategy, the newest Hawks big men will combine to play about half the game tonight.

Each option offers a little something different for LD. Thomas is by far the strongest and has the biggest body to bang with D-12. Hilton is the tallest and appears to be the best jumper in the group. Powell has the best foot-speed and is probably the does the best job of locking Dwight up early when he tries to establish position.

Here is the truth of the matter, none of these guys could keep Dwight in check for the full 48 minutes. The good news is that all the Hawks need is a 3-5 minute spurt of effective defense here and there.

UPDATE: The Magic are going to replace one Richardson (Jason) with another (Quentin). Q-Rich will start tonight for Orlando, but look for increased minutes for J.J. Redick and Gilbert Arenas as well. Redick and Arenas are better offensive options for Stan Van Gundy, but neither has the size to effectively guard Joe Johnson on defense.