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  1. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this installment, we take a glance at Seton Hall guard Myles Powell. Myles Powell will be one of the more recognizable names in the 2020 NBA Draft thanks to the four productive years he put in at Seton Hall. Powell operated as a starter for the Pirates for three seasons and he evolved into an elite scorer by the end of his tenure. Powell recently garnered the 2019-20 Big East Player of the Year award while being named as a consensus first-team All-American. The guard also won the Big East Most Improved Player award earlier in his career but, as he returned for a final run, Powell wanted to do something special at Seton Hall. So, naturally, when this season was cut short due to the COVID-19, it was devastating for the senior guard, especially with the reality that he could have began his professional career last season but opted to return for a final run at the national title. The 6’2, 195-pound guard did not make huge strides in his 2019-20 campaign, but still profiles to be an NBA player once all is said and done. Powell was at his best as a junior back in 2018-19 when he put together a season average of 23.1 points per game, four rebounds and nearly three assists to go along with two steals per game. At this time Powell was at the top of his game particularly in the three-point shooting department as he shot 36-percent on almost nine attempts per game. Powell’s senior season dip can really be attributed in a minutes regression as his playing time decreased by an average of around five minutes per game. There isn’t too much to be startled about besides possibly a lack of advancement in the efficiency department. Powell’s FG% took a dip this season from 44.7% in 2018-19 to 39.8% in 2019-20. His three-point percentage is the most concerning point as he shot just 30.6% from deep this year on over nine attempts per. However, there should be enough solid historical data to suggest that these percentages are only outliers and that his actual ability is somewhere around 35-37% from three and 42-44% from the field overall. Powell has some decent attributes going for him. He is a 6’2” point guard that can stand taller on defense when he needs to, but he also comes with some drawbacks. Since he decided to return to college instead of taking his talents to the NBA in one of his younger seasons, he is going to be 23 years old when drafted and that is really going to hurt his stock as an NBA rookie. One of his biggest strengths, though, is his ability to make difficult shots. It probably isn’t an asset that we can expect will translate to the NBA where the competition is just slightly better than it is in the Big East. However, Powell is a guy that can just be handed the ball and will somehow end up with points in the end. He is also good at shooting off ball screens, curls and pin-downs. This is the skill that he will need to hone the most at the next level if he wants to be successful in the NBA. Right now, he is used to being the main option for Seton Hall, but he will be lucky to make it as a role player in the NBA and his ability to shoot from deep so well coming off of picks is a tool he should embrace wholeheartedly. Some of the things that are going to hinder Powell include his lack of athleticism and what seems to be a lingering ankle problem. Of course, his style of playing below the rim could be exacerbated by the ankle problem which is an even bigger concern. These are issues as well as the aforementioned old age as a rookie. It is going to be a challenge for Powell, but there definitely is a path to him becoming a rotation player in the NBA. He is going to have to make some changes in shot selection and really learn to specialize in his shooting ability, while also making significant strides as a defender. Powell seems to be a guy that could be slated for a mid-to-late second round pick, but if a team fell in love with his scoring ability, he could possibly go in the early second round. View the full article
  2. Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images With little-to-nothing going on in terms of competition in the sports world, 16 prominent NBA players are participating in an NBA 2K20 tournament, with the winner bringing home a $100,000 charity prize for COVID-19 relief. Young led by 30 for the bulk of the second half and eventually took home the 101-59 win. The quarterfinals will be played Tuesday, Apr. 7, beginning at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2. Young’s second-round opponent is not yet known as the rest of the first round is set to be played Sunday. Barnes and Young chatted about various topics, from relationships with other players, to what they have each been doing in the down-time during the quarantine period. It was a fun, light watch, and despite the score, it was entertaining to see some sort of NBA competition for a couple hours. Stay tuned. View the full article
  3. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images More than three weeks have passed since the NBA announced the suspension of the 2019-20 season. The Atlanta Hawks were in the middle of a home game against the New York Knicks when the announcement arrived but, since then, the team has been out of action and, in accordance with social distancing practices implemented from coast to coast, Lloyd Pierce and his team are operating in an altered state along with the rest of the country and much of the world. On Friday morning, Pierce caught up with a small media contingent, providing a window into what life is currently like for the head coach and some insight into how the organization is functioning during these challenging times. Though there were myriad topics discussed in the conversation — one that extended for more than an hour — one of the top-line thoughts reflected what many die-hard basketball fans are pondering at the moment. Namely, Pierce was asked whether believes the NBA will be able to resume the season. “I think my answer, at best, is hypothetical,” Pierce said. “You go back and forth every day in terms of what you think, and I honestly feel that. I spoke to a number of coaches last night on a group chat session just like this — David Fizdale, J.B. Bickerstaff, Phil Handy, Jamal Mosley — there was a crew of us on this, and we’re all different. It’s really a hypothetical answer, it’s a hypothetical question. “My gut feeling is, based on just seeing when we think there will be some form of normalcy, when will the curve flatten, I think there will be an attempt to resume the season in some capacity,” Pierce continued. “I think the NBA is probably having conversations on a daily basis as to what that attempt may look like. I don’t know what those conversations are, but I think there will at least be an attempt to resume the season.” At a different point in the discussion, Pierce acknowledged that everyone wants basketball to return, with varying incentives, but there is an obvious and overarching feeling of uncertainty in how that transpires. “I think everyone, for a lot of different reasons, wants the season to resume,” said Pierce. “I think everyone does. There’s a financial component, there’s a basketball component, everything. Some days I just look at it and say ‘I have no idea how this is gonna happen.’ The team is meeting regularly through Zoom which, ironically, was the same medium in which Pierce met with reporters on Friday. Those gathering include a now-weekly meeting with players on Sundays and the reality that Pierce, as a linchpin of the organization, is participating in virtual gatherings that feature many different components. “I’ve become a master of this Zoom app,” Pierce said. “It’s been a constant. I think I’ve literally had a meeting every morning for the past ten days of some capacity. Whether it’s our team, our coaches, front office, town hall, we met with some other coaches from the league last night, just playing catch-up. This is the new reality. I’m adjusting well and enjoying some family time.” As far as the players are concerned, logistics are challenging. Pierce noted that younger guys, with Cam Reddish as a specific example, don’t have access to gyms due to apartment living, whereas Trae Young is able to get shots up at his home in Oklahoma and some players — Jeff Teague, Kevin Huerter and Brandon Goodwin, to name a few — are at least able to get to a gym in some capacity through various connections. Pierce, who said that he is “probably 30-40 percent basketball, at most” right now in terms of his attention and time, made it clear that it would be “bad management” for him to push players to attempt to find gyms. Instead, the coaching staff is trying to influence players to expand their horizons, with basketball study of film and an injection of learning that could help them on and off the floor. “They want that feeling back,” Pierce said of the players. “They want that routine back. They want that discipline back. They want that competition, that challenge back. … When we get back to normalcy, hopefully we’re all a little bit better in taking it less for granted than we may have before.” When prompted, Pierce did reflect on some basketball-related activity, shedding light on the established process with President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk and how the pairing is accustomed to essentially traveling together for draft preparations, beginning in May, over the first two years of their partnership. He indicated that, as of now, Pierce isn’t digging deep into the draft, though Schlenk and his staff are breaking the draft class up into five-prospect sessions to discuss them, with different staffers leading each gathering. Still, there is a league-wide question when it comes to how the pre-draft process will materialize, even if the NBA (like the NFL) continues its offseason programming on a relatively “normal” schedule. “We won’t have the same access that we’ve had in the past, in terms of bringing in players, working out players, evaluating players,” Pierce said. “We missed that window of opportunity with Travis (Schlenk) and his staff to go out and scout. So there’s one element that’s already gone. “At best, we’ll be able to see a group of guys in the gym one day, like they do in Chicago,” Pierce continued. “I don’t know. I think the draft has to continue. I think, like everything else, the reality of when that will be is gonna be the more important question. We all want to get back to normalcy, we all want to move forward. Whether it’s games being played, the draft occurring, the season ending and we just start preparing for what next season looks like. Whatever the return to normalcy looks like, all of those things still have to go into play.” From a roster standpoint, Pierce was open in saying “we need to add shooting and we need to improve shooting,” all while bringing things back to an emphasis that includes the team’s “core five” of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and John Collins. Pierce shared that “there’s gonna be a major shift for our team moving forward, and the focus starts with our core five and the evaluation is about each guy’s growth individually.” Basketball was certainly not at the forefront of the interaction on Friday, however, and that was impossible to ignore. Even in light-hearted moments discussing Netflix’s mega-hit documentary series Tiger King — with a hat-tip to SI’s Ben Ladner, the AJC’s Sarah Spencer and The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner — there was a sense that, well, nothing was exactly normal about the format. In some ways, Pierce seemed to be happy to engage with the media in a friendly setting and, to put it plainly, Atlanta’s head coach is an excellent conversationalist, especially when compared to the majority of people that hold his current position across the league. In the end, though, it was a reminder of the uncertainty that awaits the NBA world, even if it is an uncertainty that stretches well beyond professional sports. In one simple reflection on what his summer was supposed to hold, Pierce may have summed things up best. He shared that the entire summer was essentially planned to a meticulous degree but, well, none of that is going to happen — at least on schedule — at this point. “All of those things are now erased,” Pierce said. “It’s a new timeline, whatever the timeline may be, and we have to adjust.” View the full article
  4. Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will profiled in this space and, this time around, we break down Penn State forward Lamar Stevens. Penn State isn’t exactly a basketball factory. In fact, the Nittany Lions haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2011, and Penn State has only two appearances in the Big Dance during the 21st century. In 2019-20, however, Pat Chambers’ team was legitimately strong and, if not for the pandemic-related cancellation of the 2020 tournament, Penn State would have been participating. Though the Nittany Lions weren’t led by a sure-fire first round pick, senior forward Lamar Stevens can claim to be a key cog on Penn State’s two best teams of the last decade. Stevens, who stands at 6’8 and 230 pounds, actually declared for the 2019 NBA Draft before electing to return to school and, if anything, he seemingly helped his draft stock. Though Stevens will be 23 years old in July (a datapoint that probably isn’t great for him), there is a lot to like about his game, and second-round consideration should follow. In four years at Penn State, Stevens was quite productive, averaging double-figures in each campaign. In his final two seasons, the powerful forward averaged a combined 18.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and, against Big 10 competition, one can’t simply stumble into that level of production. Finally, Stevens was named first team All-Big 10 this season, which is quite an honor in what was the nation’s best conference. It should be noted, though, that an overarching weakness does follow Stevens as professional teams attempt to project him for the future. Stevens converted only 86 of his 312 three-point attempts across four seasons, translating to a 27.6 percent clip from long distance. It wasn’t as if things improved during his collegiate tenure either, with Stevens actually sinking to an ugly 24.2 percent in his final two seasons. While there are a number of positives — and we’ll get to them shortly — every discussion of his draft stock has to include the questions about his jump shot. Simply put, there isn’t a lot to hold onto when it comes to projecting a favorable outcome for Stevens as a floor-spacer, with the potential exception of a respectable 74 percent clip from the free throw line. It is at least possible that Stevens could find his footing in a small NBA role without the development of a semi-reliable jump shot but, at the same time, it might be hard for him to garner the opportunity to establish himself unless a team buys into potential improvement from the three-point line. On the more positive side, Stevens is quite athletic and powerful, using his 230-pound frame effectively to blow past and through defenders offensively. He has good quickness for his size and, as you may expect given his physical frame, Stevens proves to be quite strong on the floor. He uses that strength and power to draw fouls effectively, attempting more than 11 free throws per 100 possessions as a senior, and that allows Stevens to maintain better efficiency than you may expect given his shaky shooting from the floor. Stevens does need to improve as a passer to make further gains offensively, however, with the four-year player committing more turnovers in his college tenure than he generated assists. There is probably room for Stevens to be a solid ball-mover, though, and he generally displays a solid feel for the game on the offensive end. Defensively, there is a lot to like, beginning with his frame and physicality. There is some disagreement on Stevens’ potential ability as a switch defender in space, but he certainly has the profile of a prospect that can hold up against forwards. Stevens also posted strong steal (2.0 percent) and block (3.8 percent) rates as a senior, with that kind of baseline being a positive overall indicator of defensive potential. From there, Stevens has proven himself to be a very strong defensive rebounder and, while that can’t singlehandedly buoy his prospect pedigree, it will help as NBA teams attempt to assess his abilities as a power forward. Lastly, Stevens seems to be a willing defender, in a variety of matchups, and he has the reputation of someone with strong character makeup, which can pay dividends. All told, Stevens has clear positives, ranging from his ability to attack the rim to his projectable 6’8 frame and defensive potential. That might be enough for the soon-to-be 23-year-old to garner a late second-round landing spot, though a Two-Way contract may be a more likely goal. Ultimately, though, it is at least somewhat difficult to see Stevens reaching his potential without tangible improvement in his long-distance shooting performance, and he wouldn’t be an ideal fit for the Atlanta Hawks as a result of that uncertainty. Stay tuned. View the full article
  5. Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images It will likely be a while before NBA players are taking part in live, on-court action and, as a result, there is an appetite for any kind of basketball content to pass the time. That hunger was on full display when the sports world clamored for ESPN to move up a release date for the upcoming “The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and, after the worldwide leader announced that the documentary will premiere two months early, the NBA is also making moves to put present-day players in the spotlight. On Monday evening, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the league was planning what he described as a “players-only NBA 2K tournament” that would feature some prominent players. By Tuesday morning, names began to leak out and a bracket appeared — via Kevin Durant’s The Boardroom — that featured Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young as the No. 2 seed in the 16-player field. Young is often seen on social media playing NBA2K and, given that he is (easily) the most prominent member of Atlanta’s roster, it also makes sense to include him from an exposure standpoint. Obviously, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but, at the same time, it is a good opportunity for the league to market some of its stars and basketball-minded consumers will assuredly tune in for the broadcasts. Further details — headlined by a schedule and official confirmation — will likely emerge in the coming hours but, for now, it appears as if there will be player-driven video game content showcased on ESPN’s airwaves beginning on Friday. Stay tuned. View the full article
  6. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games. The fifth edition centers on soon-to-be free agent forward Treveon Graham. 26-year-old forward Treveon Graham was acquired by the Atlanta Hawks in the January trade that sent Allen Crabbe to Minnesota and brought Jeff Teague, along with Graham, to Atlanta. The main haul of the trade was supposed to be Teague’s ability to stabilize the Hawks as a backup point guard, but Graham was a piece nonetheless. In short, the Hawks lacked anything resembling a backup point guard early in the 2019-20 season, and Teague was perceived as a godsend in that regard upon arrival, but things did not quite play out that way. Graham, a strong, athletic 6’5 wing defender, has bounced around the league so far in his career. He would be a perfect ‘3-and-D’ guy, if only he could knock down the three-point shot with consistency. Through four seasons, Graham has shot just 33% from the three-point line, and that number is slightly inflated by his 2017-18 campaign in which he shot 41% from behind the arc in 63 games for Charlotte. Graham was solid enough in terms of shooting in 22 games for Atlanta this season, shooting 35% but on a low volume of 1.7 attempts per game. He mainly takes threes and layups, so if he can maintain a mid-30s percentage, he does fit the Atlanta system by not needing the ball. Whether or not he can consistently space the floor likely determines if he becomes a rotation player in the NBA. Cleaning the Glass Treveon Graham shot chartOne thing Graham always provides is tremendous effort. He was one of the better wing defenders on the roster, perhaps the best one after Cam Reddish. The veteran is a physical presence for wings to deal with, and his effort in transition sometimes thwarts what appear to be easy fast breaks for the opponent. Graham is actually an exciting player when transition occurs, on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he flies down the floor with his speed and fills lanes, often being available for a layup or a tip-in if he’s trailing. Defensively, his speed and physicality allow him to cut off long passes or stay with anyone off the dribble. If Graham could shoot, he would be a coveted player in today’s NBA landscape. The fact the Hawks didn’t just cut him on arrival shows they at least believed enough to get a look, and quite frankly, he did provide depth, especially defensively, that they sorely needed on the wing. Given the offensive prowess of Trae Young and John Collins, one could argue Graham should have played more to give the Hawks more of a chance defensively. Going forward, Graham is likely just what he was for Atlanta in 2020, wing depth. He could be back for the Hawks, but given the playoff declarations made early this month, it’s likely to be as a 12th or 13th man, opposed to being the third or fourth guy off the bench like he was a lot of the time for Atlanta this season. With his general lack of prolific shooting ability and/or offensive creation, it’s going to be tough for a team with an eye on the playoffs to promise Graham an established role for next season. He is most likely going to be in store for another year of floating towards the end of a team’s bench, waiting for an opportunity to prove he’s improved his perimeter shooting. So far, Graham hasn’t be able to find that consistency, but his ability to play defense and run the floor probably keeps the 26-year old in the association for at least another season, whether back in Atlanta or otherwise. View the full article
  7. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects are profiled in this space and this handy guide exists to compile each player review in a single place, for your reading pleasure and reference. Desmond Bane (TCU) Anthony Lamb (Vermont) Yam Madar (Hapoel Tel Aviv) View the full article
  8. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images A prospect whose defense will certainly turn heads, but what about the rest? In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will profiled in this space and, in this edition, we evaluate Israeli guard Yam Madar. Having turned 19 years old in late December, Israeli guard Yam Madar is one of the younger prospects to potentially be available heading into this year’s NBA Draft. Madar’s 2019-20 season comes on the heels of what was a big summer for the 19 year old. Madar was a key contributor during Israel’s U-20, ultimately successful, showing at the FIBA European Championship in 2019 (beating Spain in the final), starring alongside one of the draft’s top prospects in Deni Avidja (who won the tournament’s MVP award. Madar scored 17 points in the final and was named as part of the tournament’s ‘All-Star Five.’ Domestically, Madar plays for Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv, and while they didn’t feature in the EuroLeague this season — like compatriots Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv did — they are still one of the more reputable sides in a competitive Israeli league, even if this season hasn’t gone to plan. For the season, Madar averaged 8 points per game on 43.8% shooting from the field on 6.5 attempts per game, 28.9% from behind the arc on 2.1 attempts per game, 77.8% from free throw line on two attempts per game — if you’re curious for the advanced shooting numbers: 53.6% true shooting an 48.5 effective field goal percentage — 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.6 turnovers and 0.9 steals per game, mostly coming off of the bench in 21 games played this season, per RealGM. Madar is listed as a point guard but I wouldn’t feel comfortable categorizing Madar purely as a point guard — I think it’s just simpler to categorize Madar as just a guard that. At 6-2, his size isn’t the most ideal for, what I believe is, a combo-guard but I think he can make it work for himself, certainly defensively. With that said, it’s time to talk about Madar’s on-court game and delve into the film. Now, before we get started, some disclaimers from myself are necessary. I am not an expert nor have I watched all 21 of Madar’s games this season, I will not claim that — this is just what I saw, what I felt and an attempt to amass that together. For your sanity (because Hapoel Tel Aviv’s numbers are stupidly hard to read from afar), Madar wears number 11 and rocks a tight haircut (which makes him far more distinguishable than his jersey number, especially in the white uniform). Oh, and shoutout to the camera quality, which is worse on the wide shot than the cameras used for close-ups (which look pretty good). Always appreciated. The one thing that stood out far and away beyond the rest of Madar’s game was his intensity on defense — I wouldn’t use the word ‘relentless’ but he’s pretty close. In the NBA, players don’t like it when players pick up full-court — it just makes life a pain in the ass for players. Madar makes life a pain in the ass for offensive players. Off of the made basket, Madar extends the pressure on the ball-handler, making life uncomfortable and eventually has to pass: On this possession, Madar picks up full-court, harasses the offensive player, forces him to pick up his dribble, but not only that, Madar gives multiple efforts on this one defensive possession, even if the bucket was ultimately made in the end: Here, Madar — after a missed free throw — extends the pressure to the offensive player, moves his feet well as the ball is advanced, forces a pass after it becomes clear progress will not be made, switches onto the receiver of the pass and, again, causes disruption and knocks the ball out of bounds: Against old friend Tyler Dorsey, Madar extends the pressure and with how well Madar moves, the offensive player isn’t able to progress very far in the half-court, meaning he needs to pass and from there Hapoel manage to create a little bit of havoc defensively, knocking the ball loose for Maccabi recover possession: Faced with fellow compatriot Deni Avidja, Madar makes life difficult, harassing him as he progresses up the court, eventually forcing Avidja to pick up his dribble and lay the ball off to a teammate: You get the general idea: Madar will press very often and it disrupts the offense of the opposing team. Sometimes, it works against him, and he’s left trailing the play but these seemed to happen few and far between (and he did make an attempt to contest too): When the opposing team tries to hit Madar with screens to try — in an attempt to free the ball-handler of him — Madar will fight to try get through/around them and back to his man. Starting off of the ball, Madar gets through the down-screen and ensures his man isn’t open to receive the ball and a potentially open shot: Here, Madar does well to get around multiple screens to stick with his man and returns to the three-point line after getting around the second body and prevents an open look at a three: Coming off of an out-of-bounds play, Madar has to go around the screen after taking the hit but gets back in front of his man, forcing the pass and then tries to reach in as a help defender before the shot is missed: One thing you can definitely say about Madar is that he’s not scared, he’s not scared to take the hit of the screen, to take the contact. On this possession, he takes multiple hits but isn’t slowed massively and still hustles to get back to his man: On this play, Madar picks his man up at half-court, restricts the progress of the ball-handler and when the screen comes — despite it being an illegal screen (which was called) — Madar gets through it and was ready to get back in front to continue the defensive possession: Of course, he doesn’t get over/through every screen, and sometimes he can’t recover, such as this play where the ball-handler needs a screen to free him up and Madar gets a good hit on the screen, but shows his versatility to switch (you also get a little insight for the zone defense Hapeol Tel Aviv play, and they play a lot of it): Madar just excels at staying in front of his man, and there’s so much to be said for a team’s defense for the point guard being able to stay in front of his man. It changes so much for your defense. On this play, Madar stays in front of his man and forces a three-point attempt which he contests: On this possession, Madar faces off with his opponent at half-court, loses a bit of ground on the drive and has to take the long way to get back in front of his man but eventually does so, and forces the pass: Things get a little murkier when it comes to team/help/secondary defending. Hapoel Tel Aviv played a lot of zone defensively and this certainly put Madar in a position to succeed but there were times where it obviously led to him being punished from the outside, such as here as he gets sucked in: Generally speaking though, Madar was a positive force in terms of help/secondary defense. Here, while Madar is driven past — into traffic, mind you — he makes the second effort to rotate to the next man, and manages to get to the corner to prevent the open three before contesting the eventual shot: I wish Madar would contest shots better (I don’t know his wingspan measurements but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were lacking), because this isn’t the most effective contest, but the effort to rotate over and prevent an open shot is what I wanted to focus on here. On this play, after the primary defender is overtaken by the ball-handler, Madar races in to get a hand on the ball and knock it out of play: As Hapoel double on the post, Madar rotates to the man underneath the rim and knocks the intended pass away from what would’ve been a certain two points: Physically, I have some concerns about Yam Madar. At 6-2, he’s obviously not the tallest guard in the world, and that always creates problems in the NBA but, to be fair, that matters a little more offensively than perhaps defensively. Length wise, again, his wingspan is unknown at this juncture. I also wouldn’t call Madar especially athletic. He has pace and good footwork, but I wouldn’t call him an exceptional above-the-rim athlete. This can lead to some problems when rebounding the ball. Madar occasionally mixes it up on the glass but can find himself a little overwhelmed at times. Let’s move on from the defense, and things, sadly, aren’t as positive from here on out. In assessing his offensive, Mader is averaging 8 points per game on 43.8% from the field on 6.5 attempts per game — nothing too wild or unusual from a backup guard. 28.9% on threes on 2.1 attempts per game isn’t ideal, but it’s also not a ton of attempts either. We’ll start with the some of the better stuff, however, and that’s Madar’s ability with the ball and on the move. Madar has an OK runner/floater to him, which is especially useful when having to face zone defenses as he often does in Israel. Here, Madar receives the ball at the three-point line, drives into the space, fakes the pass to the corner and rises into the runner, which he sticks: As the clock winds down on this possession, Madar receives the ball after the double on the block and he drives from the three-point line and hits the runner: Generally speaking, within the three-point line, Madar doesn’t fare too badly. On this play, Madar drives inside, spins and hits the free throw line jumper, plus the foul: On this possession, Madar is fortunate to be in place as the ball rebounds into his lap but Madar rises and drills a clutch jump shot to give his side the lead with under two minutes to go: After a miss, the ball is worked around and it ends up in the hands of Madar, who drills the slightly hesitated and contested baseline jumper: After the dribble hand-off, Madar drives into the paint, is forced to stop, turns and hits the contested jumpshot: Not a very good shot, but he made it nonetheless. It was half-highlighted in that last clip, but Madar doesn’t really excel at driving past his man and collapsing the defense, and perhaps nothing highlighted that more when he wasn’t able to shed Amar’e Stoudemire on a switch: Granted, the Maccabi Fox defense prevented Madar from making the best of that opportunity but anyone with any decent athletic abilities should be able to whizz by Amar’e by now. On another switch, Madar, again, has issues getting by. Granted, there’s a help defender ready at the rim should Madar win, but at no point is that defender any way worried about Madar’s drive. Madar is forced to stop and his attempts get out of the situation are compounded by a turnover: On this play to start the fourth quarter, twice, Madar can’t break through the Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv line, forced to pass and Hapoel Tel Aviv come up empty on the offensive possession: That’s concerning. I know the zone aspects of the defense don’t help for penetration — especially when the defender in front doesn’t have to back-pedal so much with another man sat right behind him to fall back on, ready — and I know Maccabi Fox are one of Europe’s better teams but the fact Madar can’t get to the rim on a consistent or even somewhat regular basis is concerning, at least in the half-court. In transition/the open court, Madar does fare a little better. But this isn’t saying a ton, because the one thing nearly every single prospect — raw or otherwise — can do is run in transition, can receive a pass in transition and then finish in transition. This is not hard. There’s more when it comes to Madar offensively, and it’s not good. Madar, at times, gets a little sucked in and sometimes this leads to poor decision making, specifically with his shooting. Here, Madar takes the ball up the court and the possession ends up with no one else other than Madar touching the ball and eventually ends up turning the ball over: Granted, there was a lot of standing around on offense here but this is still not ideal. A similar story here on this play, where Madar the ball up the floor and, again, not a lot else happens to get it to a teammate, even though Madar gets a good look at a three-pointer, which is long: Speaking of three-pointers... they’re not a strong aspect of Madar’s game. A lot of them were just too long — Madar just doesn’t have that part of his game refined yet. Some of them do look pretty decent, such as this one: But generally speaking, 28.9% from three does sound correct after evaluating him. The effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage numbers (48.5 eFG%, 53.6 TS%) I think tell a fair story of a player who just doesn’t thread the needle a ton on offense. Finally, let’s move on to playmaking, since Madar is technically a backup point guard for Hapoel Tel Aviv. Madar averaged three assists per game on 1.6 turnovers per contest, and there’s not a ton to say really because Madar’s playmaking is not massively advanced — he’s not going to beat the world. On this play for instance, Madar tries to get to the rim but (as we know from before) he has trouble achieving this. When Madar is forced to pass, the offense tries to set up again and Madar recieves the ball and makes the simple pass to a teammate for a three-point attempt: Nothing wild here, Madar orchestrates the play, makes the pass and the three-pointer is hit: Nothing huge on a number of assists/set-ups from Madar but he can sprinkle in some flavour. Here, Madar picks up the loose ball and executes a nice, on the move, chest-pass, leading to a three-point attempt: On the out-of-bounds play, Madar receives the ball and delivers a pass behind his back — with his weak hand — for the assist the rim: That was a risky pass, but Madar completed it on this occasion, and he got another lucky break as his risky drop pass in the paint is collected by a teammate, who scores the bucket: Here was an assist I really enjoyed, as Madar stops on a dime and delivers a nice, direct pass to a teammate, who finishes at the rim: When it comes to pick-and-roll, Hapoel Tel Aviv could certainly stand to run a little more of it because it really didn’t seem that they ran a ton, but Madar did run some and he ran it well enough. It’s fine. Here, Madar operates the pick-and-roll, sees an extra body, swivels and drops a pass to his teammate, who hits the shot as the defense shifts around: On this play, Madar operates the pick-and-roll, draws the defense as the ball-handler, the roll-man draws the extra defender and Madar finds his teammate behind the arc for a three-pointer: Here, Madar comes off of the screen, gets near the paint and again kicks it behind to a shooter for a three-point attempt: Working more so with the roll-man on this instance, Madar finds his teammate for a three-point attempt in the corner: It would certainly help Madar’s averages if teammates could hit shots and they don’t run a ton of pick-and-roll going toward the rim. Zone defenses don’t help those opportunities. Honestly, the offense that Hapoel Tel Aviv run is pretty tragic — it ends up in many three-point attempts that are not great, not a lot of looks at the rim, not a ton of pick-and-roll heading to the rim. They try create with penetration but they struggle to actually get by, and things stall. So, in some ways, I’m willing to give Madar somewhat of a pass on offense because he’s not really in a system that allows him to really succeed offensively. Let’s try land this thing. Yam Madar is an interesting prospect. Defensively, I love what he brings and there’s really not a lot to not love there. I think he’s going to succeed in his career defensively, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a top-tier defender in Europe for a EuroLeague team. I love the intensity and the pressure he creates in full-court situations — it really makes the defense uncomfortable. There’s a few question marks as to what the zone defense opens up for his ability as a help/secondary defender, but as a one-on-one defender, Madar excels with Hapoel Tel Aviv, especially at age 19. Obviously since this is a NBA draft scouting report, you have to obviously ask the question: would this defense translate to the NBA? Could he excel defensively there? I think perhaps he could, yes. But defense is not the issue when it comes to Madar — it’s everything else. The NBA, as we know, prioritizes offense. There’s a job for only a select few that can’t provide offense but provide stout defense, especially when it comes to guards. There are far many more job for guards who can excel offensively who don’t add defense than the reverse. This puts Madar in a difficult position. He’s not a good three-point shooter right now, and that’s at least a small problem. He struggles to create for himself off of the dribble, which is also a problem. He struggles to do anything, really, at a high level offensively right now, nothing really stands out. These are all big problems. From a playmaking point of view, Madar can make some plays but they’re fairly basic, it’s nothing spectacular. He’s not helped by having to run what looks like a pretty poor offensive system that generates plenty average/below average three-point looks that aren’t made and not a ton going toward the rim in terms of pick-and-roll, so I’m willing to give him somewhat of a pass. Other issues include athleticism — Madar is not necessarily unathletic, but he’s not jumping out of the gym either. He does have some pace on his side, but struggles to utilize this (again, there are some factors that don’t help him when it comes to this). But the one thing Madar does have going for him is that he is young — turning 20 in December. He also already has a solid role in a league that is pretty competitive and in a professional league, and there’s always something to be said for that. For 19 years old, his foundation is solid. Is it enough for the NBA? I’m not sure... View the full article
  9. Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images The former All-Star found himself back with the team who drafted him after a mid-season trade. The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games. The fourth installment focuses on veteran point guard Jeff Teague. The Atlanta Hawks were always rolling the dice heading into the 2019-20 season with their point guard situation. On media day, prior to training camp, both Hawks President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce talked about Atlanta’s backup point guard position, and how Evan Turner could serve as a backup point guard, how two-way player Brandon Goodwin could act as their point guard, in addition to the ‘committee’ approach the Hawks would take with regard the backup point guard position. “One of the things I’ve said repeatedly is my ideal vision of our team is having multiple guys who can handle the ball, that can make plays,” said Schlenk on media day. “You’ve seen that in the way we’ve drafted and the guys we’ve signed. So maybe we don’t have, quote-unquote, a traditional backup point guard. We did sign Brandon (Goodwin) to a two-way contract and we kind of have him penciled in as our third point guard but when you talk about a guy like Evan (Turner), who’s not a point guard but he’s best with the ball in his hands, posting up smaller guards, making plays, good facilitator all the way back to college. “I talked about Cam earlier in the draft process, he played a lot of point guard in college and AAU so he’s used to playing with the ball. Kevin Huerter, last year Lloyd gave some opportunities there — we want to try to expand his game. And DeAndre’ Bembry played some there last year. So we feel real confident that maybe we not one guy but do it by platoon so to speak.” “...the bottom line is we have a bunch of guys in Cam, DeAndre’ Bembry, Kevin Huerter, Evan Turner, Brandon Goodwin in addition to Trae,” Pierce said. “If three or four of those guys are on the court together, two or three — Jabari Parker is another guy — you can put the ball in their hands and they’re able to make plays for other players, that’s the most important part. It’s not a matter of who’s initiating the offense, it’s how many guys within your offense can make plays for others. So that’s really the key focus. I have no worries about the depth of what it looks like.” This, perhaps, sounded fine in theory but in actuality...it just didn’t really work out. Evan Turner’s lingering Achilles issues meant his appearances in the opening month of the season were limited, but truth be told even after that, it became clear that Turner just didn’t fit in Atlanta — nor did he play especially well — so it didn’t take long for him to be removed from the fray and rack up the DNP-CD’s. Huerter battled some injury issues throughout the early part of the season and his time was limited, and Goodwin was a two-way player, meaning his time with the Hawks be limited due to the nature of his contract and the Hawks would be limited in their use of Goodwin. The upshot was that the Turner experiment didn’t work and the Hawks weren’t able to get the job done by committee. It also meant that when Trae Young off of the floor, the Hawks’ offense was, to put it lightly, not good, sporting an offensive rating of 90.7 when Young was off the floor (as of the Jeff Teague trade report on Jan. 16). When Young left the court, you’d just pray that the Hawks wouldn’t be beaten too badly, and anything other than that was a win for the Hawks when Young was off the floor. On Jan. 16, news broke that the Hawks had acquired Teague, in exchange for Allen Crabbe. This was a win-win for the Hawks, as Teague was not only an expiring contract — like Crabbe — but it meant that the Hawks, finally, had a competent backup point guard, and a starting calibre point guard at that, to provide a boost for the Hawks. While Teague, as one would expect for joining mid-season, struggled a little at the beginning, the veteran proved to be an excellent pick up for a player who was always going to leave in the summer in the form of Crabbe. One of the things the Hawks seriously lacked this season was a group of veterans who were an actual part of the rotation. The Hawks, essentially, only had Vince Carter as a veteran presence on the court (Turner’s time was limited, as were Crabbe and Chandler Parsons, to be fair, did eventually see some playing time). With the addition of Teague, it gave the Hawks a player who has run competent offenses as a starting point guard and has had playoff experience. Teague’s stats with the Hawks won’t wow you: in 25 games with the Hawks, Teague averaged 7.7 points per game on 41% shooting from the field on six attempts, 33% from three on 1.2 attempts per game, four assists and two rebounds per game. The Hawks can be thankful that Young didn’t miss a ton of games but when he was sidelined for a game, the Hawks had a reliable option in the form of Teague to fill in. One of Teague’s strengths is his assist/turnover ratio. In his time with the Hawks, Teague averaged four assists and 1.6 turnovers per game — one of his better qualities, especially for a team, like the Hawks, who just die when it comes to turnovers (ranking dead last in turnovers per game). Teague also helped give the Hawks’ offense a lift when Young wasn’t on the floor, which is obviously the big reason for the trade. From Jan. 16, the Hawks’ offensive rating when Young was off the floor was 103.2, up from 90.7. The net rating for when Young was off the floor was still -9.4, but that figure marks a significant increase from the -14.1 net rating prior to the trade — though, it is of course worth mentioning that the figure with Teague in the mix comes from a smaller sample, 41 games compared to 26. Teague also ended up becoming a dependable member for the Hawks in his short time back with the team. Towards the end of the season, Pierce often ran with a shortened rotation in the second half of games. Usually this involved Young, Huerter, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon and Teague — these were the seven players that Pierce would depend upon and lean on more in the second half and in a close game. One fault you could have with Teague is his three-point shooting — 33% on 1.2 attempts per game. Much is made of three-point shooting but just because Teague doesn’t take a ton nor make a ton shouldn’t detract — arguably not much as some people make it out to be — from his game and what he brings as a point guard. It hurts less in a backup role than a starting role but for what the Hawks need, I don’t think Teague’s shooting is a disaster. The Hawks and Pierce were in the process of trying to extract more from Teague from this point of view. Pierce talked about how the Hawks wanted Teague to attempt four threes a game, and how Pierce would get onto Teague for not shooting it more. “There’s still this untapped part of Jeff’s game that we’re trying to get out,” said Pierce of Teague after a February victory over the Miami Heat. “He was tremendous tonight. He hits the three but he was also 3-for-3 in the first half. He’s 3-to-1 in assist to turnovers in our team right now. I think there’s so much more we can get out of him and that’s what I’m doing. I’m challenging him every day. He’s supposed to shoot four threes a game, so I’m yelling at him all the time to get them up. He’s been good, we just want him to be better. We just want him to be great.” Reluctance was an issue with Teague when it came to shooting. It’s admirable that a player knows his strengths and weaknesses but there were times where Teague turned down some good looking shots and passed the ball away. As well as searching for a little more shooting from Teague, Pierce wanted Teague to use his speed to attack more. “One of the things we’re trying to do is get him to play downhill more where he’s not probing but attacking,” said Pierce of Teague after a loss in Boston, where Teague started alongside Young. “I thought he did a good job. He got himself going with some steals and deflections which got him some easy layups, and from there in the half-court, tried to carry-over that same momentum and that same attack mentality. I think his speed is tremendous, I just want him to use it a little bit more.” Teague’s future in Atlanta is obviously uncertain. Teague is a free agent this summer and is at an interesting point in his career, where the best option for a team employing him might be to have him back up another point guard off of the bench but still play 25-27 minutes a night. I definitely think the Hawks could stand to benefit from re-signing Teague, and they have the Bird Rights and cap space to bring him back if the price is right. It’s unclear right now how the Hawks feel about Teague returning and it’s also unclear where Teague himself stands at this point in his career. Anyone who watched the Hawks with and without a competent backup point guard will know what Teague brought to the fold, and I certainly think the Hawks could look to bring him back. Will Jeff Teague’s second stint in Atlanta be a layover or something more? Time will tell. View the full article
  10. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Even prior to the 2019-20 season, there were murmurs that the Atlanta Hawks simply didn’t have enough shooting prowess on their roster. While the top of the heap wasn’t a concern with Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and others, the roster wasn’t built with high-end shooters and, after a 2018-19 campaign in which the team finished 16th in the NBA in three-point accuracy (35.2 percent), shooting threats like Taurean Prince and Dewayne Dedmon weren’t coming back to stabilize the team’s overall spacing. On the bright side, Atlanta did have a quartet of players that performed at least reasonably well from three-point distance in the first 67 games. Even after a cooling period just before the campaign was suspended, Young connected on 36.1 percent of his three-point offerings and, considering the volume (9.5 attempts per game) and difficulty of his shots, he is clearly a high-end shooter. From there, John Collins saw a huge uptick, knocking down 40.1 percent of his three-point attempts, and Huerter continued his high-end shooting, burying 38.0 percent in his own right. From there, De’Andre Hunter was essentially a league-average three-point shooter (35.5 percent) on almost five attempts per game and, even if it wasn’t incredibly consistent, his shooting was perfectly adequate, especially for a rookie. Everyone else, though, didn’t exactly pull their weight. In fact, the three-point shooting efficiency rest of the roster was downright disastrous. Treveon Graham did end up connecting on 35.1 percent of his attempts in a small sample and, thus, it would be at least somewhat unfair to include him in the collection of rough shooting. With that said, he isn’t an established floor-spacer and, after Graham, the next-best three-point shooter on Atlanta’s roster in 2019-20 was Jeff Teague, who made only 33.3 percent of his long-distance shots. Without going through the entire roster in individual detail, the overall numbers are damning. The top four shooters combined to convert 36.9 percent of their three-point attempts and, when compared to the league average of 35.7 percent in 2019-20, that foursome is exempt from this exercise. The rest of the team combined to make only 306 of their 1,063 three-point attempts. To make things simpler, 17 players not named Young, Huerter, Collins and Hunter combined to shoot just 28.8 percent from three-point range. 28.8 percent. Anyone paying even marginal attention to the NBA world in 2020 would recognize that is problematic but, in examining the full picture, we’ll take things a step or two further. The Hawks did manage to take plenty of three-pointers and, as discussed in this space on myriad occasions, Atlanta’s overall shot profile is very good, with a lot of attempts at the rim and beyond the arc. In fact, the Hawks sit eighth in the NBA in three-point attempts per game (36.1) and 13th in three-point attempts per 100 possessions (34.6). Those aren’t overwhelming numbers, but it isn’t as if the team is having trouble generating enough three-pointers. As noted previously, league-average in the NBA this season is 35.7 percent and the Hawks, even with the top four shooters included, converted only 33.3 percent of their attempts from three-point range. That figure is good for dead-last (30th) in the NBA, albeit only percentage points behind the cellar-dwelling Golden State Warriors in the battle for 29th. One might assume, if told nothing else, that the Hawks may have attempted a difficult brand of three-point shot, especially with the local and national focus on Young’s penchant for 30-foot bombs. Still, he was able to bury more than enough of those exceptionally long attempts and, more importantly, Young is one of the NBA’s best passers, regularly creating open looks for teammates that simply weren’t able to knock them down with enough regularity. While the 2019-20 season may continue at some point, the campaign-long numbers paint a picture that the Hawks simply didn’t make enough shots, even though they were able to generate quality looks. The good folks at NBA.com describe “open” shots as having the closest defender between four and six feet away, and the Hawks ranked 11th in the NBA in producing those attempts from three-point range. Unfortunately, Atlanta was dead-last in converting them, making only 31.1 percent of what were, again, open looks. Things were a bit better in the “wide open” range — described by NBA.com as having the closest defender six feet or more away — but that is only a small consolation. Once again, the Hawks did a great job, headlined by Young, at creating these attempts, landing eighth in the league in “wide open” three-point attempts per game. However, Atlanta made only 37 percent of them and, while that number may seem good in a vacuum, it ranks in a tie for seventh-worst in the NBA when remembering that the attempts were “wide open.” Ultimately, it was plainly evident throughout the season that the Hawks simply didn’t have enough shooting, even when putting a more optimistic spin on things. For instance, Cam Reddish improved massively as a long-distance marksman during the season and, moving forward, it would be very reasonable to expect him to make more than the 33 percent of three-point attempts that he managed over the full 2019-20 campaign. The same could probably be said for Dewayne Dedmon (22 percent), especially when remembering his three-point exploits from two previous seasons in Atlanta. Overall, though, the Hawks have to find better shooters to surround their core nucleus, even while acknowledging that Atlanta’s central, future-facing pieces (aside from Clint Capela) are all legitimate three-point threats. Free-agent options like Brooklyn Nets wing Joe Harris (as only one example) have made the rounds for months and the Hawks absolutely should be on the hunt for plus shooters, in the draft, free agency or both. It is more than fair to point out that a lot of Atlanta’s three-point issues during the 2019-20 stem from players that aren’t a part of the team’s future. From there, it isn’t wrong to suggest that five members of Atlanta’s six-man core have the ability, as soon as the 2020-21 campaign, to be three-point shooters that are described as average or better. Still, it is wildly important for the Hawks to fill out their roster with competent pieces, especially when taking into account the team’s public-facing focus on making the 2021 playoffs. Shooting isn’t the only consideration and, because of Atlanta’s roster makeup, it is possible to sure up some areas of need without plugging in an elite shooter at every spot. What is inescapable, however, is that the Hawks are in need of more than one addition to the roster that can stretch defenses and take full advantage of the tremendous shot quality generated by the gravity of Young as a heliocentric creator. View the full article
  11. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will profiled in this space and, in this installment, we take a glance at Vermont forward Anthony Lamb. College basketball aficionados likely recognize the name Anthony Lamb, with the Vermont forward leading one of the best mid-major teams in the country in recent years. As a junior in 2018-19, Lamb was fantastic, earning unanimous player of the year honors in the America East Conference and garnering enough recognition that he elected to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft despite having a year of additional eligibility. Ultimately, Lamb returned to Vermont for one final run but, after a season that saw some struggles, on and off the court, his NBA Draft stock is interesting to monitor. At his apex, Lamb put together an intriguing statistical profile during his aforementioned junior season. The 6’6, 225-pound forward averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in 2018-19, posting a 60.6 percent true shooting and a sky-high 33.7 PER. It has to be noted that the competition level in the America East isn’t comparable to a major conference but, in short, Lamb earned notoriety by dominating on the floor. While that season was easily his best at the college level, Lamb was already established as an efficient scoring threat as a freshman and sophomore, making his senior-year struggles even more of an outlier. Lamb has been very open about his mental health struggles — reading a profile of Lamb from CBS Sports would be a wise choice — but his stock has dipped a bit after his senior performance. Lamb posted perfectly adequate counting stats and he was still the best player on the best team in the America East in 2019-20. However, his efficiency dropped markedly, headlined by a 52.7 percent true shooting, and Lamb got to the rim less, opting for more three-point attempts. In terms of his ultimate NBA destiny, that decision may have been warranted but, unfortunately, the results simply weren’t there, as Lamb connected on only 29.3 percent of his long-range offerings. After withdrawing from the 2019 draft, Lamb shared that NBA teams provided feedback that he needed to develop as an off-ball player. That isn’t a shock due to his perch as the “go-to” guy for a very good team but, to put it plainly, Lamb’s path to professional success needs to include role player tendencies. Given his size and physicality, it is possible that Lamb could hold up when defending forwards and he’ll need to prove that he can do so. He is a fairly limited athlete, leaving some uncertainty as to his true position in an NBA context, and Lamb’s path to a role needs to include an uptick in his overall defensive effectiveness. Offensively, Lamb is a proven scorer at all three levels, using a rare combination of post acumen and mid-range marksmanship. With that said, Lamb hasn’t had to deal with NBA length and athleticism on a regular basis and, as noted previously, he simply isn’t going to be given the “all you can eat” opportunities to score as a primary initiator. Lamb is a quality free throw shooter, knocking down 79.3 percent of his attempts in the last three seasons combined, and he does have some pedigree as a shooter. Overall, the “3-and-D” descriptor is often overused but it exists for a reason. Lamb does have the stature and basketball IQ/feel to hold up defensively, but he will need to thread the needle in terms of making enough shots and becoming an adequate (or better) defender, all while landing in a situation that will accentuate his gifts. The 22-year-old will absolutely have to prove to teams that he can provide spacing to garner draft consideration, though, and he seems to be headed for a late second-round perch or an undrafted situation in which he might be in search of a Two-Way contract or a training camp invite. View the full article
  12. Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images Not the fourth year the former St. Joe’s guard needed. The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games. The third installment centers on soon-to-be free agent wing DeAndre’ Bembry. After a successful 2018-19 campaign where he overcame the injury problems that plagued his sophomore season (playing all 82 games in 18-19, having played 26 games in 17-18), DeAndre’ Bembry entered his fourth season having emerged as an important part of Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce’s rotation, with Pierce in particular leaning upon Bembry’s defense throughout the 2018-19 campaign. With Bembry entering his fourth season — and, of course, a restricted free agency — it was important that he followed his strong 2018-19 season with a strong showing in 2019-20. Bembry began the season, pretty much, where he left from last season: still a key figure in Pierce’s rotation, playing 26 minutes per game in the first 10 games. His three-point shooting numbers, however made for a bad reading, shooting 11% from three in the first 10 games. Bembry finally broke out, somewhat, of his three-point slump when he hit 4-of-5 from three-point distance against the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 22. Well, slump may be the wrong word to use... Prior to that game, Bembry hadn’t hit more than one three in a game for the season before he hit those four. In fact, Bembry had only made one three-pointer for the entire season prior to that Detroit game, a game where Bembry also scored a season-high 22 points. For the season, Bembry’s three-point percentage before that Detroit game was a lowly 9% on 0.9 attempts in 14 games (and you thought Cam Reddish’s early-season three-point shooting was bad) but after that Detroit game, it rose to 31%. Bembry’s three-point shooting has always been a concern and the fact that these struggles had, again, carried into another season is very problematic for his future. In a year where Bembry was is set to be a restricted free agent and the Hawks drafting two wing players in the form of De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, Bembry had to build on from last year. Instead, it was a year of regression. The fourth-year wing may have been one of the few players for the Hawks who could play defense but that trend wasn’t going to last forever, and eventually players would come who could play defense and add on the offensive end, not to mention his playing time once the rookies — the future — became more acclimated to life in the NBA. Additionally, there comes a point where you need to offer something on offense, and since the Hawks have to hang their hat on offense and shooting to win games — especially in the absence of John Collins — rather than defense, that leaves Bembry in a tough spot. From December onward, Bembry’s playing time dipped, playing 17 minutes per game from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, but this wasn’t the the only dip that Bembry suffered. In this time, Bembry averaged just three points per game on 35% shooting from the field and 20% from three. Bembry, to be blunt, just wasn’t fantastic when he was on the court, and with Reddish’s rookie season steadily improving, and with the Hawks’ ball-handling responsibilities outside of the point guard position shifting away from Bembry each season (it was Kevin Huerter last season, with Huerter continuing into this role this season, in addition to the Hawks trialling Reddish’s abilities), his role continued to decrease. Having played all 82 games during the 2018-19 season, Bembry would receive his first DNP-CD in over a season. To be fair, he had threatened to do on a few occasions prior, as he fell out of the rotation, but given the blowout nature of games involving the Hawks, Bembry’s ‘streak’ lived on longer than it probably should have as he got to contest in garbage time. The turn of the new year did not mark a turn on fortunes for Bembry. Rather, things got worse. While he wasn’t playing very well, Bembry at least had his health, but in 2020, this faded away as well. Bembry would play his last game of the season on Jan. 20 in a loss to the Toronto Raptors. On Jan. 24, the Hawks announced that Bembry had undergone a non-surgical procedure on his right-hand to “to address symptoms of neuritis.” Bembry ended up missing nearly a month due to that injury and even though he was available to play by mid-February, he simply didn’t feature as the Hawks chose to run with Brandon Goodwin among their wing collection of Huerter, Hunter and Reddish (with the Hawks having traded for point guard Jeff Teague, pushing Goodwin to what was basically a wing rotation member)) — by that stage, there wasn’t a thing that Bembry brought to the table that those players couldn’t bring themselves. Some could shoot, some could play defense and, worryingly for Bembry’s future, some could do both. Bembry would later struggle with abdominal pain, which resulted in him missing the remainder of February, and when Bembry neared a return in March, the season was suspended before he could do so. So, while Bembry was available to play in February, his last game ended up being in January. Sadly for Bembry, as it turned out, the better moments of his season came early in the season. On the Hawks’ only appearance on TNT this season, Bembry produced one of the Hawks’ better dunks as the first quarter drew to a close: He also contested an interesting game against the Phoenix Suns at home, where he engaged in trash talk with Suns All-Star Devin Booker, before being ejected. All in all, sadly, it was not a great season for Bembry. A combination of injuries and, well, time, meant that he slid out of the rotation. For the season, Bembry averaged 5.8 points per game on 45% shooting from the field (on five attempts), 23% from three and 54% from the free throw line. The question that stands out is: where does Bembry go from here? He’s an impending restricted free agent, should the Hawks tender a qualifying offer (worth $3,752,339) to him, but it really felt like there was no massive future for him on this team as the season progressed — even when Bembry was available to play but simply did not get the opportunity to do so. Again, the issue going forward in Atlanta is while Bembry, I believe, is a good NBA defender who can create problems on that end, he is arguably surplus to requirements in Atlanta, with the continued growth of the Hawks’ younger core, such as Reddish and Huerter to name a few. He simply doesn’t have the offensive game to bring forward those other good qualities onto the court and there are others who can do that while bringing the defense too. Would I be surprised if Bembry returns to Atlanta next season? Perhaps, yes. Is it possible the Hawks sign Bembry to a short-term deal? Absolutely, and they’ll obviously have the cap space to do it. In addition, it is far from a lock that’ll even be tendered a qualifying offer, considering the relatively lucrative number attached to the former first-round pick. In short, I think we’re (collectively) past the point where Bembry’s name is included as part of what the Hawks are doing going forward. Bembry is, currently, the longest tenured Hawk at the club right now, but his position is certainly under threat after a difficult season — some that was in his control, and some that was not... View the full article
  13. Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will profiled in this space and, in this edition, we examine TCU wing Desmond Bane. For years, TCU wasn’t exactly seen as a basketball factory. In fact, the Horned Frogs failed to post a single 20-win season in the 11 years prior to Desmond Bane’s arrival in Fort Worth. In the four seasons Bane spent at TCU, however, the program saw a marked uptick under Jamie Dixon, averaging 21 wins per season, thanks in part to the contributions of Bane. Though he isn’t exactly on the mainstream radar for purposes of the 2020 NBA Draft, that tune changes when taking a deeper look at what could be an intriguing profile for teams to evaluate in the coming days. Because Bane was a four-year player in college, he is on the older side, with his 22nd birthday approaching in June. That isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t disqualifying for a player that could check a lot of boxes and fit into a role at the next level. After garnering second team All-Big 12 honors as a junior, Bane was named as a first team All-Big 12 inclusion for his senior season, averaging 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Those numbers paint a picture of an effective player but, in short, Bane’s most important trait is his three-point shot. After knocking down 38 percent of his long-range offerings in a small role during his freshman season, Bane converted more than 40 percent from three-point distance in each of his final three campaigns. Across those three seasons, he buried 44.2 percent on 4.9 attempts per game and, even with the shorter college line in play, Bane distinguished himself as a high-end shooter. It is fair to point out that Bane’s mechanics are not exactly prototypical, leading to at least some question as to how his shot may translate. Still, he had no trouble getting his shot off, both on the move and off the catch, during his time at TCU, and the results were tremendous. Bane’s principal appeal will be his jump shot but, with an official listing of 6’6 and 215 pounds, Bane does bring enough to the table to fill out his overall profile. His overall efficiency dipped as a senior, largely due to an uptick in usage. To put it plainly, he was asked to carry what was probably too large of a workload as an initiator but, in the NBA, that won’t be an issue as he transitions into more of a pure 3-and-D construct. Bane isn’t a massive threat as a pure creator, but he has flashed the ability to attack closeouts with at least moderate effectiveness. His ball-handling markedly improved during his college stint and, if nothing else, there is reason to believe in his decision-making — especially as a passer — and the ability to execute simple plays with the ball in his hands. As a finisher, though, he struggled a bit at the college level, which is a red flag for anything going toward the basket. Defensively, Bane wasn’t a full-blown standout in college, but he flashed more than enough to provide a solid baseline for his future. He likely won’t be considered as a “lock-down” guy at the NBA level, but Bane is thick and strong, projecting the potential to switch effectively when asked to do so. He is also a reasonably intelligent team defender, usually in the right place and able to communicate effectively. From there, Bane has solid rates in blocks (1.6 percent as a senior) and steals (2.5 percent as a senior) that won’t overwhelm anyone, but also shouldn’t be seen as negatives. Bane also has reasonable rebounding instincts and, with his size and stout frame, he shouldn’t be a negative there either. Depending on who you ask, Bane might be a complete unknown that is a long-shot to be drafted or, in some circles, a player that should even garner consideration at the end of the first round. Reasonably, Bane falls somewhere in the middle, as a player that should be drafted based on his shooting potential and the chance that he can take very little off the table as a 3-and-D role player with one high-end skill. Many words will be assigned to the overall weakness of the 2020 NBA Draft and, well, most of them won’t be inaccurate. There is a pool of potential role players that can be quite interesting, though, and if Bane can combine his projectable shooting with average(-ish) defense and a quality feel for the game, an NBA team might be able to unearth a contributor somewhere in the second round. Considering the Hawks project to have a pick somewhere in the back half, Bane would be a (very) nice player to target if he was still on the board for Atlanta. Stay tuned. View the full article
  14. Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games. The second edition focuses on soon-to-be free agent big man Damian Jones. After three seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Damian Jones landed with the Atlanta Hawks — in a swap for Omari Spellman — prior to the 2019-20 campaign. Before he arrived, Jones had appeared in only 61 NBA games, with 49 regular season appearances and 12 playoff showings, and the former first-round pick saw fewer than 700 total minutes of court time with the team that drafted him. While Jones saw a significant uptick in deployment during his first season with the Hawks, his performance saw peaks and valleys, with a significant evaporation of playing time after Atlanta acquired Dewayne Dedmon in February. Offensively, Jones provided real value at times for the Hawks. The 24-year-old ranks near the top of the NBA in terms of finishing efficiency, posting a 68.5 percent effective field goal percentage and a 71.2 percent true shooting. It should be noted that Jones effectively only shoots in the restricted area, providing a bit of a rationale for how he is able to maintain ludicrous efficiency, but the 6’11 big man is legitimately impact as a pick-and-roll dive threat. Coupled with Trae Young’s genius-level passing, there were moments of brilliance for Jones as a lob catcher. In fact, he would be a part of a short list of big men that can help to bend the defense when unaccounted for, and Jones’ best NBA skill, by a wide margin, is his ability to put pressure on the rim. The rest of his game, however, wasn’t as positive. Offensively, he compiled almost as many turnovers (28) as assists (35), and while he grabbed a reasonable amount of offensive rebounds (8.9 percent), Jones didn’t provide much value outside of the restricted area as a finisher. Defensively, it was more than a little bit of an adventure for Jones. While on-off splits can have some noise involved, the Hawks were at their worst with Jones on the court, allowing 117.3 points per 100 possessions. That led to the worst net rating (-12.6) of any player on the Hawks roster with more than 600 minutes played, even with his reasonable contributions on the offensive side. Jones wasn’t always put in the best position to succeed defensively, especially when paired with Young in pick-and-roll resistance. In addition, he posted reasonable numbers in rim protection — including a solid 3.8 percent block rate — when he was positioned correctly. Still, it would be (very) hard to argue that the fourth-year center wasn’t a substantial negative in terms of defensive awareness and execution. In addition, the Hawks struggled mightily on the defensive glass during his time on the floor, garnering only 69.4 percent of the available rebounds. From a future-facing standpoint, Jones will see his contract expire at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. At that point, the Hawks will have the option to present him with a qualifying offer for $3,457,586 and, if Atlanta does that, Jones would be a restricted free agent, allowing the Hawks to match any offer. With that said, it would be relatively surprising if the Hawks were to present the qualifying offer for that amount and, if anything, Jones’ path to an Atlanta return would seemingly be for the league minimum salary. It remains to be seen as to where Jones’ career path will take him, and it should be noted that there is a plausible scenario in which he isn’t in the NBA at all next season. Still, he is a former first-round pick — and first-rounders often second and third chances — that managed to stay largely healthy this season, and Jones has a firmly marketable skill in his rim-running. In order to make a larger positive impact, he will need to address his defensive weaknesses, though, and with the Hawks projected to employ Dedmon, Bruno Fernando, Clint Capela and John Collins in 2020-21, it would be at least a mild surprise if he was back for another run. View the full article
  15. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images Mock draft wasn’t supposed to fully arrive until May but, with the NBA in hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft is very much in limbo. On one hand, college prospects have now completed their seasons and, as a result, it is almost easier to evaluate them as “finished products.” On the other, pre-draft activities will be at the mercy of nationwide best practices (and the revised NBA calendar), leaving a great deal of uncertainty. With that as the backdrop, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic put forth a new mock draft on Thursday morning, noting that “the only certainty right now is uncertainty.” That definitely feels true but, through the lens of the Atlanta Hawks, we’ll examine many scenarios in the coming months and, in this mock exercise, Vecenie sends Auburn wing Isaac Okoro back to Atlanta with the No. 7 pick. The Hawks need two things: help on the wing and more defensive talent. Those are the skills they have to put around Trae Young. At the trade deadline, they went about shoring up the center position defensively by acquiring Clint Capela. Now they can do that in the draft by taking Okoro. Really, Okoro is just a winning player. He makes all of the little plays across the court, including playing great defense both on ball and in a team construct. In fact, I think he’s one of the best defenders across college hoops despite only being 18. That Auburn won a lot of close games this year isn’t an accident. The Tigers got timely scoring from some of their older guards, and Okoro helped them manufacture points through effort, athleticism and an incredibly high feel for the game. It’s also not an accident that they looked like a mess when Okoro missed a few games due to injury in February. Okoro is a local product, playing high school basketball at McEachern, and Vecenie is accurate in describing the freshman as a “winning player.” He is a fantastic defender, both currently and looking forward, and his passing and basketball IQ really jump out when evaluating him. With that said, there is at least one glaring weakness (as with many prospects in this weak draft) that will scare people, and Vecenie addressed it. I really can’t imagine someone better for the Hawks, even if I do have some real questions about Okoro’s offense long-term. While he is one of the best above-the-rim finishers in the country, his jump shot is still kind of a mess. He shot 29 percent from 3 this year, and has some real mechanical questions that he’s going to have to work out. Shooting is the key skill for him. Offensively, he’ll go as far as the jumper goes. Still, given the way that he impacts winning, I’d expect someone to take the plunge on him somewhere in the mid-lottery. Atlanta desperately needs shooting and, well, Okoro wouldn’t fix that need. What he would bring, though, is aptitude in virtually every other area and that is worth mentioning. If the Hawks were to get unlucky and slide down to No. 7 overall, Okoro would very reasonably be in play. He projects as a high-quality role player in the future but, in this class, there is nothing wrong with that outcome with the No. 7 pick. In addition, Vecenie very clearly notes that this mock “is almost entirely about what I’m hearing from sources about draft ranges on specific players, as opposed to it more being about where I am on players.” That seemingly indicates that Okoro is someone who could very much land in this area of the board and, with the hometown connection and his defensive tools, it probably won’t be the last time Okoro is pegged to Atlanta. Stay tuned. View the full article