trail blazers @ hawks

ladies and gentlemen, we welcome back guest blogger scott “scootz” tennant as our group gets ready to attend the trail blazers vs. hawks basketball game tonight.  scootz is our resident nba expert as you may remember from his first guest post.  this time he has pulled out all the stops, leaving no stone unturned and no question unanswered.  buckle up for a pre-game analysis that would impress even bill simmons.

first, an overview of the starters



and the reserves


and then the deep reserves

deep reserves


atlanta hawks roster analysis:

jeff teague:  in the driver’s seat for coach bud’s offense, teague has shown the ability to distribute, shoot the 3, and create his own shot off the pick and roll.  a crafty defender, teague jumps passing lanes well and can man up similarly sized guards.  struggles defending larger guards due to slender frame.

kyle korver:  this ashton kutcher lookalike is the best set 3-point shooter in the league and is having a record-setting shooting season (shooting an unreal 52% from 3-point) after leading the league in 3-point percentage last year.  most of the hawks’ offensive sets revolve around getting korver open.  he works screens well but cannot create his own shot.  great transition shooter with range out to 25 feet and no fear.  pretty good rebounder considering he’s generally a perimeter player.  atrocious defensively as he is both a poor athlete and gives moderately low effort.  often hidden against the worst opposing perimeter player.

demarre carroll:  the junkyard dog earned his nickname with gritty defense and high energy on the court.  one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, carroll is often tasked with defending the opposing team’s best player.  a good, not great, rebounder.  offensively limited, most possessions find carroll comfortably sitting in the corner waiting for a kickout or to crash the paint on a drive.  surprisingly capable 3-point shooter but not spectacular.

paul millsap:  multi-talented offensive threat, his versatility leads to good offensive matchups regardless of the opponent.  can shoot the 3, put the ball on the floor and drive, or play the post, making him a tough player to guard.  voracious rebounder and has developed a nice passing game as he has become more central to the offense.  defensively, millsap is average.  he is not a rim defender and can be overmatched by large pf’s.  can match up with most forwards in the league.

al horford:  longest tenured hawk, but due to multiple injuries, horford has lost a step and has had to redevelop his game.  great high post player, horford is an awesome passer for a c and can nail the 12-16 foot jumper.  still has low post moves but that isn’t a focal point of his game.  defensively capable in one-on-one post defense. he is a great pick and roll defender, but horford is not a rim defender.  minutes are down because of mileage and injuries, but horford is still critical to the hawks’ success.


mike scott is the sixth man and is a talented, versatile scorer and solid athlete but doesn’t put up the effort to be a successful defender or rebounder.

dennis schroder has proven to be a very good point guard; he’s a risk taker but a great athlete.  still developing shooting ability.

thabo sefolosha has lost a step from his prime with the thunder but is still a very good perimeter defender and rebounder.  truly awful 3-point shooter.

pero antic is a euro-big man who spends most of his time on the perimeter where he is a strictly average shooter.  he’s a physical defender and the closest thing to a rim defender the hawks have.

shelvin mack is a solid, unspectacular pg.  pretty much the opposite of schroder, takes few risks, is an alright shooter and an alright defender.

kent bazemore was once voted the worst player in the nba.  while he isn’t the worst player in the nba anymore, he certainly is low-impact for the hawks.  below average defender, rebounder, and shooter, bazemore is an alright athlete and has good size.

portland trail blazers roster analysis:

damian lillard:  in his short nba career, damian lillard has proven to be one of the most deadly offensive threats in the league.  lillard is able to spot up and hit the three on both the catch and shoot and isolation sets.  he drives into the paint with reckless abandon and is a skillful finisher through contact, drawing lots of fouls.  lillard is among the league leaders in a myriad of offensive statistics and is critical to the trail blazers’ offense.  lillard’s defense has improved throughout his nba career and in this, lillard’s third season in the nba, he has developed into one of the top defensive pg’s in the league.  using his extreme quickness and athleticism to mark the most dominant pg’s in the league, lillard is an all-star on both ends of the court.

wesley matthews:  wesley matthews is an nba ironman, having not missed a game in 4 out of the last 5 seasons.  he has evolved his game this year to become an sg worthy of near-elite status.  matthews leads the league in both 3-points made and 3-points attempted and is shooting a stellar 41% from 3-point this season, making him an invaluable offensive tool.  known throughout his career as a great defensive player but a solid – albeit unspectacular – offensive player, matthews finds himself with a career high 16.6 points per game on the season while continuing his usual great defense.

nicolas batum:  the frenchman is one of the most interesting and versatile players in the league.  batum, formerly known as simply a 3-point threat, has seen his game evolve into a more well-balanced tool for the offense.  his outside shooting has degenerated to the point of being below average, but he finds himself in more of a distribution role in this offense, ranking second on the team with 5.0 assists per game.  batum also crashes the boards well for a perimeter player, with 5.1 rebounds per game.  batum uses his length (6’8″ tall with a 6’11” wingspan) to disrupt opposing offenses and creates turnovers on defense.  batum is the last player in the nba to achieve a “5 by 5,” which is getting at least 5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals in a game (achieved in 2012).  this is perfectly symbolic of his game because he contributes a little bit of everything to this trail blazers team.

lamarcus aldridge:  lma is a truly elite pf offensively and boasts one of the best midrange jumpers in basketball.  aldridge has attempted more 16-18 foot jumpers this year than any other player in the league.  he has a high usage rate and is not adept at distributing the ball, but he has a low post game and this season he has even added a limited 3-point shot (1.1 attempts per game at 47% shooting) to expand his offensive game.  aldridge is a talented rebounder who uses his size well to get lots of defensive rebounds, but due to his mid-range tendencies, finds himself out of position for offensive rebounds.  defensively, aldridge utilizes his size to body up most pf’s in the post and handles them well.  much like horford, he is a strong individual defender but not a rim defender.  good but not great.

chris kaman:  this neanderthal was once somehow an all-star early in his career; a former double-double machine, years in the nba have turned him from an energetic offensive rebounding machine and shot-swatter into a lethargic, lazy defender who has developed some old-man offensive moves.  his nba resume includes being the best player on terrible teams for years, but he is now stumbling into minutes thanks to his 7-0 frame and memories of times past.  these days you will mostly find kaman banking in layups and taking awkward old man jumpers while his pizzazz for rebounding has all but faded from his life.  defensively, he is slow yet massive and, like the glacier that he is, occasionally swats a shot (or sinks a ship).  keep gettin’ ‘dem checks, chris.


steve blake is the nba player who least looks like an nba player if you saw him on the street, but he is a solid, fundamentals-focused backup point guard.  low turnovers, high defensive energy, and the occasional 3-point shot, like a classic church ball player.

sg cj mccollum is portland’s attempt to dip into the small-school well once again (lillard hails from weber st. university and mccollum from lehigh, traditional basketball powers).  mccollum has struggled with injuries early in his career, but the toolset is there to be an undersized shooting guard with a good 3-point shot and the ability to get hot on the right night.

allen crabbe is a talented 3-point shooter and has great size.  he has begun to carve out a role for himself and is looking like a high-value second round pick.

thomas robinson has had an unfortunate nba career so far and has yet to have a chance to settle into a role/team.  having been traded his rookie year and unfortunately being drafted by the kings, many people already count t-rob out.  he is young and may yet find the skills to develop into a great player.  he also has a great story about raising his little sister if you all want to bing that.

joel freeland was a grocery bagger in great britain that played basketball for two years before being a first round pick for the blazers four years ago.  it’s really unclear what he offers outside of a 6’11” frame at this point in his young career.  probably nothing.

team analysis – atlanta hawks

the hawks play a team-oriented offensive game that utilizes skillful passing from all five positions and versatile weapons to develop easy baskets.  the hawks are often referred to as the ‘spurs east’ because coach bud was a longtime assistant to gregg popovich, one of the best nba coaches of all time and the creator of a beautiful offensive system.  the hawks are cut from the same mold with coach bud.  most set plays that the hawks run are based around korver as the first option and working through down screens and picks to get him clean looks.  defenses key in so much on korver that it helps out the other offensive players; in isolation sets, teague will often take control with korver and carroll in the wings, millsap bouncing around for an open look, and horford being ready in the high post.  millsap also gets isolation looks where has developed a triple threat game; he can hit the open jumpers, post up smaller defenders, and drive past larger defenders.  nobody on the hawks boasts a very high usage rate, which is a testament to the hawks’ brand of team basketball.  the hawks aren’t afraid of running either and will take advantage of transition opportunities with teague driving the offense and korver spotting up for transition 3’s, carroll ready for transition layup/dunk opportunities, and millsap as a secondary ball handler.

key stats:

pace:  94.1 (13th in the nba)

effective fg%:  52.7% (4th in the nba)

true shooting %:  56.7% (3rd in the nba)

offensive rating:  109.0 (5th in the nba)

defensive rating:  102.3 (5th in the nba)

team analysis – portland trail blazers

the blazers stand in stark contrast to the hawks in that rather than embracing a team approach, they are built on the popular theory that nba championships are generated on star power.  damian lillard and lamarcus aldridge are together one of the nba’s top dynamic duos and drive the offense for the blazers.  the pick and roll game between lillard and aldridge is potent and a challenge for any team defensively.  lillard has proven to be one of the nba’s best clutch shooters and thrives in such situations.  matthews and batum prove to be perfect fits for this team alongside the lillard-aldridge duo.  matthews is a deadly 3-point shooter who benefits from opposing defenses’ focus on lillard and aldridge and drains set shots from the corners.  batum is a secondary ball handler who can take the ball and allow lillard to maneuver picks and screens away from the ball and find an open shot that way.  he is also a versatile scorer who needs to be managed in isolation situations.  kaman can largely be ignored on the pick and roll, and the focus can squarely be on hedging the screen so lillard doesn’t get an easy drive to the hoop and so that the guard defending him can make his way back.  the trail blazers have proven this year to be a strong defensive team thanks to solid perimeter defense from batum and matthews with lopez emerging as a rim defender, though with him out due to injury, the team has had to shift a bit into more help defense and less one-on-one’s.  the blazers are a very athletic team and will rarely switch on screens unless the situation calls for it.

key stats:

pace:  94.2 (11th in the nba)

effective fg%:  50.9% (10th in the nba)

true shooting %:  54.5% (12th in the nba)

offensive rating:  108.5 (9th in the nba)

defensive rating:  101.1 (2nd in the nba)

relevant terminology

keep gettin’ ‘dem checks:  generally shouted whenever an old player who is past his prime rolls off the bench to do something in the game; signifies the player’s commitment to getting paid.  notable examples:  elton brand, chris kaman.

going ‘2-for-1’:  going 2-for-1 is a bit of a pet peeve of mine; when there is ~40 seconds left in a quarter, the offense has the opportunity to take a relatively quick shot (when there are around 30 seconds left) and then, regardless of what happens on the other team’s possession, they will have a chance at a fairly decent look at the hoop before the end of the quarter.  this allows the team to get an extra possession.  i will get unreasonably upset if either team passes up an opportunity to go 2-for-1.

hand down man down:  often uttered when kyle korver drains a 3-point shot, ‘hand down man down’ generally means if you aren’t closing out/actively contesting the shot, that the shot will go in.  the term became famous in ncaa basketball with jimmer fredette’s famous 24-foot 3-point shots and steph curry’s money shots on davidson’s tournament run.  notable example:  kyle korver, damian lillard.

relevant media

kyle korver:  an offense unto himself:  a great read on how coach bud has utilized kyle korver.  zach lowe is the best nba writer on the planet right now, and i recommend any of his pieces.

the unassuming, unknown superstar status of al horford:  another great read from mr. lowe.

q&a:  damian lillard:  a fun interview with one of the nba’s brightest young stars damian lillard.

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