Blazer Banter

The Scouting Report: Atlanta Hawks

( AP Photo/Matt York)

( AP Photo/Matt York)

Projected starting line-up: Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Caroll, Mike Scott, Elton Brand

Key injuries: Al Horford (pectoral muscle) is out for the season and Paul Millsap missed their last game in Phoenix on Sunday.

Relative to the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks were a team that was both good and fun to watch.

In their first season under former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks have changed at least stylistically.

They played a more open style, unleashing Jeff Teague as a poor man’s Tony Parker, flying around screens and attacking the paint hard. However, he wasn’t as efficient as Tony Parker and suffered some major shooting slumps.

He’s having one of his better stretches of play right now though and Portland has been beaten by attacking point guards a few times this year and Teague, even while he may not have the quality of a Parker, presents problems to any defense.

Another reason that Teague is able to find space is the spacing that the Hawks play with. Some folks refer to the Hawks as Spurs East for and it’s because they play with the same emphasis on spacing and execution.

You’ll see them run a lot of the same stuff and they will like to run the Spurs patented baseline hammer play for Kyle Korver to get a look at a corner three off a back screen.

Actions like this:

There are a lot of Spurs-y things that the Hawks do and while they play entertaining team ball with a lot of three-point shooting, they don’t have the caliber of players or the experience to duplicate the Spurs’ success.

They started off well, going 16-15, which was good for third in the Eastern Conference. They were one of the few teams in the middle ground between Indiana and Miami and the rest of the awful East.

Then Al Horford injured his right pectoral muscle on December 26th, which required surgery and he is out for the season. Horford isn’t the only Hawks player that’s missing extended time.

Backup center Gustavo Ayon is out for the year, guard John Jenkins is out indefinitely and Macedonian rookie Pero Antic is also out due stress fracture in his foot.

The team has gone 10-19 since the Horford injury and they are hanging on to 8th place.

The injuries did allow them to convince second round pick Mike Muscala out of Bucknell to leave his Spanish club Blusens Monbus Obradoiro. In their last game against the Phoenix Suns, Muscala did display a smooth midrange jumper with his feet set.

However, there is a lot of opportunity with the amount of injuries and complete lack of size for the Hawks.

Lou Williams isn’t the same Lou Williams as he was before he tore his ACL last December. The Hawks offense suffered without him and this year he has still shown an ability to make shots but he’s having a tough year from the field overall.

Paul Millsap is easily their most dangerous offensive weapon without Horford. Budenholzer has turned Paul Millsap into a high volume three-point shooter as a big man and he’s also a tough cover as a screener in pick and roll situations.

If they have Millsap they will be very tough and even if they don’t, their three-point shooting, ball movement and execution could put them in a position to beat the Blazers if they don’t bring the defensive energy like they didn’t against the Lakers.

 

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He started writing about NBA Basketball for SwishScout.com before being the Sports Reporter Intern for TrailBlazers.com. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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