Since December 22nd, the Atlanta Hawks have won five games (Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indiana and New Orleans) and lost one (Houston).
But WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAAAAN??!!!!!
Let's bulletize our findings:
- The Hawks can beat the bad teams, but the good teams still give them fits
These Hawks still do carry wins in Oklahoma City (24-6, 16-2 at home) and Memphis (19-9, 13-3 at home), but the team, when they have lost this year, it's usually at the hands of a stronger team.
That they've been able to beat some top teams and division leaders such as the Pacers speaks to how high this team can play when they work together and are making the three-pointer. It's fun to watch.
When they've lost they given up a considerably higher FG percentage (42 percent in wins, 48 percent in losses), rebounded less, scored less points in the paint and given up more points in the paint.
Let's move on...
- Al Horford has been rushing things, is still fantastic
We've made the point that, when Horford is inside or when he's going bad, it's because he's rushing his shots. Even against Robin Lopez, Horford was seen quickly trying to scoop the ball around Lopez into the basket, as if he was going to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar if he didn't unload that hot potato.
As much as you might think Horford struggled in December, his number were nearly identical to November's, except for an improvement in rebounding rate and raw numbers (averaged over 10 boards a game in December) and his free throw percentage almost couldn't help but to go up (65 percent in December compared to 50 in November.)
- John Jenkins is about as fun as we would have hoped he would be at this point
Deadly shooting? Check.
Capable everything else? Check.
Requisite injuries to free up playing time? Check.
In an admittedly tiny sample size, Jenkins sports an 18.0 PER, driven by the ridiculous efficiency in his Effective and True Shooting % numbers. In short, he's been money from long range where he is 10-21 from three-point range and 26-47 overall.
In the Year of the Shooter for Atlanta, Jenkins adds yet another weapon, so it's no surprise that Jenkins' recent acumen from everywhere on the floor has led to rookie non-advocate Larry Drew looking for more playing time for him.
Quote from Drew from Chris Vivlamore's AJC post:
"He has shown me what I've always thought, that this kid is an NBA talent," Drew said. "It's just a matter of trying to find minutes for him. It's a matter of getting him in the rotation. Getting him to really learn what we do.
"Defensively, he has shown that he can move his feet. I like what I saw against Gordon. He had Gordon isolated a couple times. I like what I saw when Gordon tried to reject the screen, John was there."
The whole post is an excellent read where Jenkins evaluates himself and admits he has heard the fans' internet begging to see him more, which he appreciates.
Hey, I know we appreciate yet another 50 percent three-point shooter. Baller in the house!
- Jeff Teague is another Good/Bad baller on the team
We have long discussed the "Good Josh Smith/Bad Josh Smith" games and everything in between. Now it seems we have another baller on the team that falls into the same Jekyll and Hyde patterns -- Mr. Teague.
Much like Smith, Teague is critical to the Hawks consistent success. The Hawks run on ball movement -- these shooters can't get shots when the ball is stuck to Teague's hands -- the offense requires quick decisions and movement to maximize its power.
He has declined a bit in December from the field, but Teague's shooting isn't what's driving the wins/losses.
Teague is getting beat consistently defensively, a problem that stems from Jeff's tendency to trail the ball handler, looking for an opportunity to steal or block the ball. As a result of that defensive gambling, Teague ranks 300th among all defenders, allowing nearly a point per possession, according to MySynergySports.com
For comparison the player compared to Teague is Jrue Holiday. Holiday gives up only 0.84 per possession. To put that difference in perspective, the 0.12 difference between Holiday and Teague means that Teague would give up almost 135 points more over the course of the season than Holiday, a difference of 1.65 points per game. That's the difference between 300th in the league and 145th, which is Holiday's rank.
Also troubling in losses in a rise in Teague's turnover rate. Teague's turnover rate goes up 17 percent in Hawks losses, and even while his assist rate goes up slightly, the rise in turnovers brings the overall assist to turnover ratio down, mirroring the team's trends in that as well.
Teague has filled out in his role to be a tremendous catalyst in the Hawks win/loss destiny and improvements on the defensive end and more "Good Teague" games will help the Hawks continue this fun run they are on and lead Teague to more dollars in the offseason.
- Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia are awesome -- and their continued excellence makes their pending free agency a concern.
Ivan Johnson has been even better than last season, consistently hitting his jump shot, rebounding like a fool and being a generally impressive individual.
Zaza has been quite Zaza-ly in his 13.9% OREB rate, which is 7th among players averaging 20+ minutes per game, per NBA Stats.
Both these guys are free agents next season. I believe a poll would scientifically show that NOBODY wants to see these guys with another uniform on -- it'll be up to Danny Ferry to balance the books and not overpay for bench talent BUT if these guys go, I think it'll be extremely tough to find two better personalities who can also match this productivity.
Exit Question: What have you learned about this team over the last couple of weeks?