Thanks to everyone that submitted questions to this week's mailbag. Apologies if I didn't get to your question, but we will be doing these at various times throughout the season.
What is your best guess as to what the hell is going on with Tim Hardaway Jr? Is it that he just doesn't get the offense? Is it a bad attitude/work ethic? I understand not featuring him or not being able to get him a lot of minutes but to not see him at all thus far is strange.
Do you think the hawks will eventually regret trading that 15th pick for essentially Tim Hardaway Jr?
When we opened the mailbag I figured that the majority of questions would be about Tim Hardaway Jr. Here is what we know. By all accounts he is healthy, he is working hard and with a good attitude, but is behind Justin Holiday and Lamar Patterson in the Hawks' wing rotation. There may be some other underlying reasons that he is not playing that have gone unreported, but at this point I don't think we can do anything but trust what the coaching staff has said about him and his situation.
I talked to Hardaway at media day and he said that his focus was on defense and getting up to speed with the Hawks' offensive system. I think it is important to note that Atlanta doesn't necessarily do things the way other clubs might. I have already been wrong in thinking that Hardaway Jr would get a shot simply because the team had paid a high price to acquire him. The Hawks constantly refer to the competition that is going on internally for playing time and that factors heavily into who gets opportunities on the court. Atlanta has played a lot of games early in the season and that has left few opportunities for practice time so that could be something that has also worked against Hardaway in the early going. Hardaway had this to say prior to Wednesday's game so it still seems that he is approaching the situation the correct way.
I'm not ready to say the Hawks should regret the trade, but it is fair to point out that it hasn't exactly been ideal so far. Hardaway is still young and Atlanta has enough wing options that they can afford to bring him along slowly.
Horford continues to shoot non-corner 3s at a frequent yet inefficient level that is comparable to Pero's. At what point should he shelve this experiment? Do we need Horford to be launching non-corner threes to be a successful team?
First I think it comes down to what your definition of "inefficient" is. Horford is 18 for 49 from three-point range this season with equals out to about 37 percent which is well above the league average rate. As you can see from this chart, Horford has been a better shooter on above the break threes as compared to the shorter corner shots.
It is interesting that you choose to compare him to Pero Antic when really the only similarity is that they both play the center position. Antic was a career 31 percent three-point shooter with a career-best of 33 percent. Horford is without question a more skilled player and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive past slower defenders who close out too aggressively on his jump shot.
We know that the Hawks are one of the most analytically minded teams in the league. The analytics say that three-point attempts are better than long two-point attempts. Horford has historically been one of the best shooters in the league in regards to making long two-point jump shots. His transition to beyond the three-point line is a natural evolution of his game and he has the perfect coach for it.
I think a lot of this pushback comes from fans who grew up watching traditional centers bang away in the paint in the 80s and 90s. The game is changing and continues to evolve. Centers have to be more than just simply big nowadays. With a lot of the league going small, Horford is the prototype for what a lot of teams are looking for at the center position.
So to answer your question. No Al Horford should not shelve the three-point addition to his game. The Hawks are once again a Top 10 team in three-point percentage and Horford is tied with Paul Millsap for the fourth best percentage on the team. Like any other shooter, he will have some tough nights, but his ability to stretch the defense as a center to the three-point line just gives guys like Jeff Teague that much more room to work.
What do you think it will take to get guys (more specifically the wings) to be more prepared to chase down long rebounds, both offensive and defensive? This is something that I've been complaining about since the Joe Johnson era and the guards still don't help enough in rebounding IMO
Whenever Mike Budenholzer is asked about his team's rebounding he almost always mentions that it is not just the big guys up front, but every player on the court's responsibility to help out on the boards. I know this is something that the coaching staff works on and is focused on. There has been a lot of talk about replacing DeMarre Carroll's defense and even his offense, but it is his rebounding that I think the team misses the most. Statistically, Bazemore isn't too far off from what Carroll was providing on the boards, but this is an area where I think losing DeMarre's size will be felt the most.
Would you say the Hawks perimeter defense and rebounding issues are more a matter of settling into a rhythm & working in new puzzle pieces - or areas of genuine concern?
I think the perimeter defense is something that will get better. We are still seeing a lot of situations where the defense is over helping or not rotating properly. A lot of that has to do with new faces on the club, injuries to regular players and simply the lack of practice time that the team has had through the early part of the season. You have to remember that last year's team really didn't gel and lock in defensively until sometime in January.
I'm a bit more concerned about the rebounding to a point simply because I don't see a lot of internal options for improvement. The Hawks don't have to out rebound their opponents to win on most nights, but they can't afford to get destroyed on the boards and hope to win meaningful games. Tiago Splitter is an upgrade over Pero Antic in that department and his minutes will likely increase as the season goes along. Still it is very much a team effort for Atlanta when it comes to the boards and it is an area that they have to improve if they hope to have playoff success.
In a lot of ways, it is a give and take situation. The Hawks opt not to send multiple players to the glass for offensive rebounds and instead choose to focus on transition defense. Still I don't think the coaching staff is happy with being near the bottom in rebounding yet again.
Are you secretly hoping Baze keeps a lid on his play so we can sign him to a reasonable contract next season?Or would you rather he ‘does a Demarre' and plays exceptionally well this season, giving us a chance at the finals, but ultimately placing himself out of our price range?
Absolutely not. I hope Kent Bazemore has an excellent season and makes everyone completely forget about DeMarre Carroll, but I am not positive that can or will happen. I know some fans look at what happened with Paul Millsap and Carroll's contracts and fear that could happen again, but I really don't see a situation where Bazemore could blow up enough where he priced himself out of Atlanta's price range. If anything, Bazemore is still a bit undersized to be a true small forward and his greatest value is probably at shooting guard.
I think Atlanta can get by with Bazemore as the small forward but I expect to see Thabo Sefolosha's role increase substantially as the season goes on. The Hawks may want to keep Bazemore, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if they aren't looking for wing upgrades again next summer.
Would it be nice to see the hawks experiment for a few games just crashing the O boards at all costs? Just to see what happens?
Not really because I don't think there would be enough gains to overcome the loss defensively. The team is already struggling a bit on the defensive end of the floor and getting back and properly matched up is crucial at this point. Atlanta is currently in the middle of the pack of the league allowing 1.04 points per possession on transition opportunities which I'm sure is something that the coaching staff would like to see improve. The Hawks are dead last in offensive rebounds per game and that isn't ideal either so the question isn't absurd, but I'm not expecting a sudden radical change in philosphy from the coaching staff.