The AJC's Michael Cunningham went in search of answers for the Hawks offensive problems on Wednesday when he asked Joe Johnson if attacking the basket was the way for the team to get back on track. His answer is interesting on a number of levels.
"Maybe," he said. "But you look at a jump-shooting team–we are a jump-shooting team. If shots are falling then, great, we are rolling. But one through five, we all are jump shooters. That’s pretty much what it is. Like I said, if we are making shots then we are probably unstoppable. But when we are not making shots those are the games we have to grind out."
I will stop short of agreeing with Johnson entirely because I don't think I can ever see myself referring to Josh Smith as a jump shooter. If you remove Smith from the equation though, Johnson's quote does have some merit. One of the biggest complaints that frequenters of this site express is that the Hawks don't have an interior presence on the defensive or offensive end. Kirk Hinrich and Marvin Williams are primarily thought of as jump shooters as offensive players. Al Horford has transformed this season from an inside player with a nice jump shot to probably a stretch four or five depending on what position he is playing. It is very likely that it is Johnson that is Atlanta's best post player offensively. Yet is this enough of a reason for the team to swear off going to the basket entirely?
I think a fair analogy would be a football team that never runs the ball. Sure they are going to look good at times but there are going to be days and games when it simply doesn't work. I guess there have been exceptions but for the most part it isn't a proven successful way to go about things.
I for one don't think that the motion offense is only capable of producing outside jump shots. I would rather think that it is the players not trusting in the offense long enough to produce something inside. This is the same offense that produced 23 free throw attempts for Joe Johnson in the first two games of this season. As this season has worn on the Hawks have tipped the scale more towards the perimeter and the results are now catching up with them.
Before the Lakers game, Larry Drew said that he might consider calling even fewer sets in an effort to get his team in transition. I am not sure that is a sound answer. I rather think that it may be appropriate to call more sets that produce post ups for Josh Smith and or Joe Johnson as those two are the more effective post players. Smith in particular has shown a nice passing ability from the post and by putting him there it removes him from the perimeter. Atlanta doesn't always have to attempt a shot inside but those outside shots will be more effective if the defense has to at least respect a player on the interior.
According to Hoop Data, Atlanta attempts the fourth fewest shots at the rim in the league. Surprisingly Miami and Dallas are the two worst teams. Dallas in particular doesn't have an interior post up presence but they will play primarily through Dirk Nowitzki in the high post which works equally effective. Josh Smith or Al Horford are capable of being utilized in the same manner.
These are the type of answers that this Atlanta club needs to be searching for. Even if they know the answer, then it is up to them to carry it out and execute it. They can't afford to simply write themselves off as merely jump shooters that will be unstoppable once those shots start going in again. If they do, the season may be over before one of those mythical hot streaks comes around.