The grass is greener on the other side. How do I know this? Because I only admit to being on the other side when I see greener grass. Change is wonderful until we stop calling it change and start calling it a wrong decision. I am as guilty of falling in love with the different as much as anyone. I can stare fact and reason in the face and say with full sincerity that change is the answer. And the beautiful thing about championing change is there is little counter argument. Hypotheticals are tough to defeat. These what ifs will never go away. No team is perfect so the conversation will always come up. What should the Hawks change? Where should they tweak? Over the course of this week, we will look at different places where Hawks fans (including me) have cried for change. Today we will examine Marvin Williams coming off the bench.
I will admit I like this idea in principle. Not necessarily because, up until the last two games, Marvin has struggled, but because he has a personality that defers on offense. The role he has either been given or self ascribed is one that focuses on defending, rebounding, and making the open shot. Now, Marv is not exceptional at any of those things, but he is not an exceptional player so one could say he plays that role quite nicely. Still, on nights when Marvin's shot is falling or even just falling at the rate we saw last year, it seems he has the capability of being a very good offensive weapon. He is the second most versatile scorer on the team. If the Hawks have to create an environment to take advantage of that due to Marvin's personality so be it. And that leads to people clamoring to bring him off the bench.
It is tough to bring stats into the equation since Marvin has only played about 25 minutes with a unit that consists predominantly of the second team (at least three bench players), and those small samples sway neither enormously negative or positive, but I think logistical points make this change a non issue.
First, the Hawks have a sixth man. Few teams have two sixth men. You have a player who comes off the bench to provide a spark. Giving that role to two players is simply confusing one of the great strengths of the sixth man function. And if those two players are Marvin and Jamal Crawford, it is tough to see Marv asserting himself on offense over the shot happy Crawford anymore than he would as a starter.
Second, Mike Woodson rarely plays the entire second unit for an extended period of time. It is a new thing this season for the Hawks, and we have only seen it for 31 minutes this season. So the idea that Marvin could be more aggressive on the second unit would be switching up a very successful starting unit for a few six minute stretches every third game or so.
Third, the start of a game is important. It is why almost every team but three or four put their best five players on the court to begin the game. For some of the elite small forwards that Marvin Williams guards, two minutes can be all it takes to get in a shooting rhythm for the entire game. Mo Evans would make a fast start easier and provide little work for said opposing star on the offensive end.
Marvin Williams is actually right. The most important thing for him is defense and rebounding. We always want more out of our players, but if he ever could become sensational at one or both of those, the Hawks would be a better team and Marvin would earn his contract money easily. In the immediate, Marv could be most beneficial, not by coming off the bench or getting more shots, but driving the basketball more and hitting the mid range jumper at a similar rate as previous years. The Hawks do not need 15 shots from Marv. They need efficient ones.
Still, that sentiment ignores the underutilized potential that Marvin has, and if he can show his willingness to drive the ball, get to the free throw line, and knock down open shots in the limited moments he chooses to score, Woodson should seek out opportunities for Williams. I think though, instead of bringing him off the bench, playing Marv alongside Jamal Crawford and an actual point guard (Bibby or Teague) and at least one back up front court player could be the best way to provide more offensive sets for him.
In the end, playing Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson side by side is going to limit touches for most people, and the more we see Joe Johnson at the three, the harder it is to get Marvin minutes, let alone minutes as a primary offensive weapon. Still, a problem exists in that the Hawks have yet to figure out how to most efficiently and effectively use the talent they have. Figuring out ways to get players rest, take advantage of the variety of offensive weapons available, and not create drastic mismatches on defense is a Mike Woodson problem, and the answers are plenty. The Hawks versatility means you could call for Marvin to see time at the four or work him more with Joe off the court or move him to work with mostly the second unit. I have no firm resolve on which is correct (if any), but I know figuring out a Hawks rotation that maximizes skill and limits the reliance on any one player will center around what the Hawks do with Mustache Marv.
Still to come: Jeff Teague's minutes, Al Horford at the power forward, Joe Johnson resting, other suggestions?