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Sixer Optimism Spawns Hawk Jealousy

Ok, this is just between bball beaters, Sixers (and now ESPN) Kate Fagan, who in addition to national duties at the WWL, also maintains her Sixer cred at her own site,, and myself.

She notes, excellently, in regards to the Sixers loss against the Trail Blazers some specific silver lining she saw and wanted to communicate to the masses that might have otherwise been down in the wake of that loss.

Such silver lining is repeated here:

If you're a Sixers fan, keep one play in mind: Lou Williams curling around Spencer Hawes for the handoff, not receiving it, and then Williams cutting backdoor, collecting a perfectly-timed bounce pass from Hawes and finishing at the rim.

I know a lot of you jumped aboard the elevator that was carrying Sixers' fans to the 40-win floor, and perhaps last night's performance had you peering down the stairwell toward the lower landings, but don't let your confidence drop too far.

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Let's return to the aforementioned backdoor play between Hawes and Williams. Who cares, right? Monday was one decent night for Hawes; who knows how he'll play Wednesday night at the Phoenix Suns. Sure, I can buy that thinking, but I believe on Monday night we caught a glimpse of how Hawes will play all year; it's building off of the way he played during last year's playoff series against the Miami Heat.

This matters for precisely one reason: Hawes can pass, is willing to pass, and the Sixers' roster is filled with willing recipients.

This opens up the entire floor for the Sixers. It will also boost the Sixers' overall shooting percentage and add points to the bottom line of everyone on the floor. The reason that backdoor play is important is because it created a high-percentage chance, one going toward the rim, for Williams. And the possibility of duplication will be gas in the tank for every single Sixer who will subsequently runs that cut: Williams, definitely, but also Holiday and Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala. Everyone on the floor now knows that when Hawes possesses the ball, movement is rewarded.

This is great, no doubt about it. A passing big with a cutting crew can mean more shots at the rim and a raised free throw theory, of course. This makes for a more efficient offense and opens up the floor for everyone for sure.

Now, let's bring Kate's giddy anticipation of a high post center approach back around to our own Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks have not one, but two bigs that fill this role, Al Horford and Josh Smith. Late in games in the last months of the Mike Woodson era, the Hawks would have Smith at the high elbow and run the offense through him to get the best possible scoring chances and thus close out games. If Woodson had been more committed to this, maybe he would still be helming the team and not Larry Drew. (#digression)

The problem, and thus the envy, is that the Hawks don't have any willing cutters to add to the willing passer part of the equation. Often Horford/Smith have taken the ball in the post, not had an easy move to make, and looked over his shoulder to see if there was another option other than take a tough post shot. Almost always, the lane was empty and all that could be seen were the heads of their teammates, safely covered by a well rested defender around the perimeter, leaving them to either force a tough shot themselves or send it back to the perimeter.

Whether it was Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford, or anyone with speed, size, or just a Hawks uniform, the thought of driving the lane when one the excellent passing bigs had the ball seemed odd or foreign. What? Get an easy hoop? Why do that when there is a 20-25 foot jump shot I can stand here and launch?

Therein lies the jealousy...and some hope, for unto Hawks fans a new starter is called...and his name is Jeff Teague. Teague, as the aforementioned Lou Williams in PHL, is an athletic guard who can both give and go, go, go. Teague can make some easy points if he can fight off the temptation of standing still from the outside and instead attack and pressure the defense. And such easy points would surely relax the pressure of having to run a playoff team full-time for the first time.

Imagine also if Josh Smith, a player custom-made for such an attack, could take notice and cut to the hoop himself, perhaps realizing a 20ppg average, a return to a 20+ PER, and a first All-Star nod. Horford could potentially add to his 4 apg and league leading assist rate among pivots as well as creating some space to make his ridiculously accurate mid-range J more effective as well.

Imagine, indeed. Maybe it wouldn't be as ground breaking as I'm making it sound, but it would surely be helpful, and the Hawks, who

Will it happen---don't know---but I do know that I am as hopeful to see this as Kate was in actually watching it happen once in PHL. Otherwise, I'll have to settle for jealousy.

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