Coming off of an entertaining game in New York the night before, the Atlanta Hawks were in action again on Thursday night as they wrapped up their preseason proceedings with a 111-93 defeat to the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
Jabari Parker led the Hawks in scoring with 15 points — including a flurry of activity in the second quarter that saw him score 11 second quarter points — while Jordan Sibert added 14 points off of the bench.
Parker himself was a positive on this game and it felt like at times he was the only Hawk capable of scoring on the interior, especially with the absence of Collins in this game.
Earlier in the preseason, I (and many others, I’m sure) wondered ‘Where, and how, does Jabari Parker fit with this team?’ Well, perhaps interior scoring could be an aspect where Parker can contribute a little more consistently.
With the majority of this roster being perimeter based, especially amongst the bigs — Alex Len, who is not an elite interior player to begin with, likes to be on the perimeter, Damian Jones trying to extend his game and John Collins amalgamating inside and outside — this could be an area Parker can contribute to: being able to drive, spin and score, getting to the rim.
Without Collins on the floor last night — and of course when Young isn’t on the floor to play pick-and-roll and get to the rim — Parker seemed to be the only player to be able to do it last night consistently, particularly in the second quarter where the Hawks, other than Parker, struggled for baskets inside as the Bulls began to bring the clamps.
For the Bulls in their final preseason outing, rookie Coby White’s second half burst led to a 29 point showing while Zach LaVine added 23 points.
Putting into perspective...
Realistically speaking for the game itself, there’s not a ton to say about this game.
The Hawks arrived into Chicago on the second night of a back-to-back and the third road game in four nights — the NBA earning an A+ in bizarre preseason scheduling — having had their two ‘rehearsals’ so to speak in Miami and, probably to a greater extent, New York.
Trae Young played 35 minutes in New York and, to be honest, it was a surprise he featured at all on Thursday night but that didn’t stop him scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 17 minutes before sitting for the second half. While De’Andre Hunter also featured predominately in the first half exclusively, he also would sit in the second half (more on Hunter later).
John Collins did not play in this one due to flu-like symptoms (and probably would’ve only played the first half similar to Young anyways). Cam Reddish did not feature in this one either while Kevin Huerter missed his fifth straight game as he continues to rehab ahead of the Hawks’ regular season opener next week.
On the Chicago side of things, they did treat this like a regular season rehearsal, perhaps not so much in minutes for the key members but certainly in rotation, running with a 10-man rotation themselves before garbage time in the fourth quarter — as the Bulls galloped away (pun intended, sorry) — allowed the likes of Adam Mokoka (shouts to Adam Mokoka), Denzel Valentine and company to see some court time.
In many ways, it was similar to the Hawks’ rehearsal against the Heat on Monday where they ran a 10-man rotation before garbage time/the blowout nature of the game allowed Pierce to go deeper to his bench.
But we’ll chat about the game itself briefly before breaking down some of finer points of this game (as always, if you missed the game, the post-game recap here at Peachtree Hoops is a great place to start and one I’d recommend if you want an overview of how the game actually unfolded).
As mentioned above, Jabari Parker’s second quarter burst (11 points) was a factor in this game, helping the Hawks stick around in the second quarter, a quarter where things began to unravel as the second unit of the Bulls took it to the Hawks’ second unit defensively.
Without Trae Young, as it has been at times during the preseason, the second unit offense has been poor but this time around there’s a few factors to consider.
Obviously the Hawks were down on personnel: Kevin Huerter as mentioned was out, obviously, as well as Collins and Reddish — the result of that from a big-man perspective is that both Bruno Fernando and Damian Jones both featured together, which you will not see regularly. Evan Turner is still limited, playing just another 10 minutes which led to more minutes for Brandon Goodwin (more on him later).
A lineup of Brandon Goodwin, Evan Turner, Vince Carter, Bruno Fernando and Damian Jones is always going to struggle on offense and the Bulls’ second unit, to their credit, began to turn the screw defensively and forced the Hawks into turnovers in the first half, such as this one on Goodwin:
The Hawks did not shoot the ball amazingly in this game (just under 42% from the field) but matters scoring the ball are only compounded by the Hawks’ very poor free throw shooting in Chicago.
The Hawks shot just 15-of-34 from the line for a whopping 44% — the lowest percentage output of any team from the free throw line in the preseason so far, and unless something dramatic occurs tonight in the final night of the preseason, it’s going to be the worst percentage from the line from this year’s preseason.
Jabari Parker shot 2-of-7 from the line to lead the way in that department, Brandon Goodwin shot 3-of-6 while Alex Len, DeAndre’ Bembry and Trae Young all missed their few free throw attempts. Obviously a blip, you wouldn’t expect nor see this kind of shooting night from the line too often — nor would you want to.
The second half was largely unwatchable and not really relevant to anything, especially the fourth quarter. I say it was irrelevant because, even though the Exhibit 10 guys got to see extended time, it would be a surprise if any of the Exhibit 10 guys (Jordan Sibert, Armoni Brooks, Tahjere McCall and Marcus Derrickson) are signed to the Hawks’ free roster spot.
Yeah... Not a lot else to say on the game itself. Just a formality the Hawks had to go through — they probably already got everything they were going to get from the preseason before this game and the scheduling was a joke.
De’Andre Hunter continues to impress
As mentioned, Hunter did not feature in the second half (well, NBA dot com has Hunter listed for three glorious seconds of the second half) but in the 16 minutes that he did feature in, Hunter continued to impress and capped off his preseason in a positive manner.
Offensively, again, Hunter showed solid prowess as he scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from three.
Perhaps more impressively, the two threes Hunter made came off of contests/closeouts:
From the, to be fair, smaller, defender in Coby White in the corner:
And from the opposite corner:
Hunter seems to be a level-headed person by nature and personality and his composure on these two plays certainly reflects that coolness — both impressive three-pointers. For the preseason, Hunter shot 39% from three (7-of-18 in total) and that can only be taken as an encouraging sign heading into the preseason.
Hunter also continued to impress with his ability to pass, dropping some solid dimes for Alex Len in this game.
In the pick-and-roll, Hunter probes before finding Len with his weaker left hand and Len finishes with the dunk:
Again in the pick-and-roll with Len, Hunter is able to find Len over-the-top, with Len having to do a little bit more this time to finish at the rim:
Defensively, there’s a lot you expect from Hunter and he comes in with that reputation, but you have to remember that he is an NBA rookie: generally speaking, rookies aren’t good defenders but Hunter still continues to impress in this regard.
Here, he showcases his ability to switch: from LaVine (blink and you might miss it), to Lauri Markkanen, banging with Markkanen and back onto LaVine, who steps out of bounds:
On this possession, Hunter does a good job cutting off LaVine’s drive, forcing the pass:
Again, some good defense on Zach LaVine, showing good footwork to stick with LaVine before reaching in and committing the foul:
A reach-in wasn’t needed from Hunter here, he was doing a fine job sticking with anything LaVine was trying in an effort to shake Hunter.
Hunter, I think, has surprised many with his offensive showing so far but also his ability to pass the ball too. The Hawks paid a high price to acquire the rights to Hunter but you have to love the early returns so far, but also bear in mind that it is exactly that: early.
Alex Len’s struggles continue
There surely can’t be many others as delighted to see the end of the preseason as Alex Len, because, whoo-boy, it’s been a struggle.
Len produced another poor showing (a very poor one last night) as he scored four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field, 0-of-3 from three, 0-of-2 from the line to go along with four turnovers.
Honestly, you can pick out so many things wrong with Len’s game last night, it would almost be cruel to do it, because there’s so much to choose from.
To put it simply, Len has to be better in the regular season. He can’t shoot 27% from the field as he did in the preseason (and he won’t, but yikes...) and he needs to shoot higher than 20% from three.
One of the few good things Len did do last night was grab 11 rebounds, but still comes away from preseason with an average of 5.4 rebounds per game — that needs to be higher.
Len has to finish at the rim at a higher level of efficiency:
Obviously, a small sample size (it’s only five games of preseason after all) but the overall performance from Len in the preseason has been thoroughly disappointing.
It’s a big year for Alex Len, not only is he heading into a contract year but the Hawks need him to produce: Damian Jones can’t stretch the floor like Len can and Bruno Fernando is still very raw and, realistically, isn’t ready for a consistent role right now in the NBA (but with the Hawks’ situation, he’ll find one). The Hawks already miss Dewayne Dedmon enough already, the last thing they need is a regression from Len this season.
To be fair to Len, he was coming off of two injuries (which he talked about on media day) and that may be part of the reason he has struggled and, honestly, I hope it’s still bothering him, because at least it would give a logical reason as to why he has been as poor as he has been in this preseason and now he has a week to try and recover. But given the fact he hasn’t been listed on the Hawks’ injury report, health may not be an explicit factor.
Again, Len is an important player for the Hawks — the Hawks are better when Len is firing from the outside and when he is, simply put, not awful as he was last night.
Brandon Goodwin’s strong effort
One of the few bright spots from this game came from two-way player Brandon Goodwin, who enjoyed his best game with the Hawks so far — 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting and 2-of-3 from three in just over 22 minutes.
Goodwin has seen some boosted minutes in games where Young has been rested (in Miami and Chicago, for example) but also because Evan Turner is still restricted in his playing time. Once Turner has hit his criteria of minutes, the backup point guard role is passed about between various players (such as DeAndre’ Bembry, Cam Reddish at times) but last night it was Goodwin.
Offensively, Goodwin impressed and had some good plays, even if he couldn’t score, so that 4-of-10 shooting mark doesn’t fully reflect his game.
I liked the drive by Goodwin on this play, even though he is blocked by Wendell Carter Jr. at the rim:
On this play, Goodwin rejects the screen, drives and beautifully gets to the rim only to blow the layup:
Goodwin did everything beautifully on that play, other than the easy part: the finish.
Again, Goodwin is able to use his handle to get into promising positions but is deterred by length on this play near the rim, but loving how he got there to begin with:
In garbage time, Goodwin almost goes full-court, weaving by the defense as if it wasn’t there en-route to the rim:
On the drive, Goodwin switches hands, is slowed down in the paint before going to his right hand hitting the tough runner in traffic:
And lastly, one of the two three-pointers Goodwin hit, hitting this one after having to quickly set his feet and fire before the shot was contested effectively:
Overall, I was really impressed by Goodwin last night, and he may have a role to play early in the season.
Backup point guard Evan Turner has played on a minutes restriction in every game he has participated in during the preseason and it remains unclear if this will still be the case as the regular season starts as Turner recovers from the pain in his Achilles, and we (collectively speaking) have absolutely no idea of the status of Kevin Huerter ahead of the regular season having now missed the entirety of the preseason.
There’s a week between now and the Hawks’ regular season opener in Detroit: if Turner is still limited and Huerter still out/limited in what he can do, the Hawks may need Brandon Goodwin to supply some early-season minutes at point guard and last night can only have helped his case in that regard.
We’ll see what the story is and how the Hawks recover in their time-off before the regular season tips-off, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Goodwin with the Hawks to start the season.
The Hawks finish 1-4 on the preseason with plenty to work on before they begin their 2019-20 NBA regular season on the road in Detroit next Thursday (October 24th).
It’s almost time...