We've all seen it a thousand times -- Teague drives the lane and kicks to the corner to find Kyle Korver for the wide open three. It's automatic. They're going to change the old saying to "death, taxes, and that Korver corner 3." Unfortunately for the Hawks, the rest of the league has been watching as well, and defenses are set in such a way to limit that shot -- and actually to limit any three-pointer from Korver. Something had to be done in response.
Enter Al Horford.
In Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder, the Hawks have the duo with the 3rd most drives in the NBA (behind Holiday/Smith and Harden/Lawson). The drive-and-kick has been a constant weapon since Mike Budenholzer shaped the Hawks into a motion-based offense, which presents lots of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Last year, Kyle led the league in points per game in catch-and-shoot situations, the happy recipient of many of those drives-and-kicks. But with defenses set for Korver, Al has been called upon to handle a larger part of that responsibility.
Hawks fans are well acquainted with Al's pick-and-pop game, making him a prime candidate already:
That kind of play in years past made Al a legit catch-and-shoot threat with 4.9 PPG last year in those situations (tied for 37th in the NBA). But this season the Hawks needed more from him.
Over the summer, Horford spoke about developing his three-point shot. Al had always been a good shooter in the midrange, but expanding your range for a big is usually more lip service to the changing league than actuality. In his first six years in the league, the Boss only shot 18 threes combined. In the past two years, he had a slight uptick by shooting 11 in 2013-14 and 36 last year. While those are higher than his previous numbers, they are not anywhere close to being treated as a legitimate three-point threat. This year, he has obliterated those numbers, shooting 49 threes in his first 14 games alone. Al's work over the summer has been shown not only in play but in Atlanta's willingness to incorporate his shot into the offense.
As with the previous play, the drive-and-kick stays in place, but now Al shows off his extended range:
Horford has made good on his promise. In catch-and-shoot situations, he has made over 37 percent of his threes and his overall percentage is about the same. This added range has made him particularly dangerous. Al has learned to use it against opposing bigs who fear him in the hard roll to the rim after setting a screen. Note here that his defender, Omer Asik, stays in the paint protecting against the pick-and-roll drive, giving Al an easy look from downtown:
Al has even used that same fear to trail the break and get an easy three:
Overall, Horford is shooting almost 45% in all catch-and-shoot situations and has 7.6 PPG in those instances, good enough tied for fourth (with Steph Curry) in the entire NBA. There is still work to do on improving his shot, and while Al will never be able to shoot like Korver, this development has kept the Hawks in games and will give opposing defenses second thoughts about clogging the lane to leave him wide open on the arc.
And that's when the Boss really goes to work.