Before every playoff series this season, we’re going to do some rundowns on the opposing roster for each team. We’re starting with the Hawks, but hopefully we’ll do a lot more! Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Jason Collins, starting/backup C: With Zaza Pachulia potentially out with a foot injury for the beginning of the playoffs, Collins could easily start Game 1, which would be a relief for Udonis Haslem because then he wouldn’t be the worst starting center on a playoff team anymore. Collins is 33, his elbow’s all messed up, and he took 25 shots this season and missed 19 of them. As a center. As long as Collins is in the game, KG is going to be able to roam on defense like he’s on a T-Mobile Unlimited Plan.
Collins is not an awful defender. You may remember that Collins guarded Dwight Howard pretty effectively in their justly underrated first-round playoff matchup last year. He’s big and chunky and swallows other big, chunky guys. But KG is not his ideal matchup. KG isn’t trying to back anyone down. He’s trying to pick-and-pop and dink 5-foot fadeaways off the backboard. KG is hugely important in every series, but especially this one, because he’s got the most exploitable matchup on both ends.
I learned today that Collins was backed up by Jason Segel in high school at Harvard-Westlake in LA. I’ve never been sure about how I feel about him (Segel, not Collins, who I am sure I am indifferent to). But I watched The Muppets on a plane two days ago and enjoyed myself. Solid. These scouting reports are off to a good start.
Erick Dampier: The only center in basketball less efficient than Jason Collins. 77 minutes, eight shots, one field goal. His family must be at least a little hurt at how passionately Dampier is refusing to just retire and be with them. This is unrelated but: does everyone agree that nobody really referred of a “contract year” as a thing until Erick Dampier’s 2003-2004 season? Like, that Dampier basically invented the term? I’ve had a few short, uninspired arguments about this that I would like to settle.
Willie Green, backup SG: Green is part of Atlanta’s widespread NBA Cares project to accumulate all the players in the NBA that make people say, “Oh, I remember him. Didn’t realize he was playing for them.” Green’s maybe the first case where this strategy actually worked. Green’s a pretty traditional three-point gunner off the bench, but he’s boosted his percentage for his only marketable skill by ten points this season. This probably has something to do with his shot selection, which was historically awful in Philly when he was starting and playing big minutes, sometimes even running the point to everyone’s confusion. So he can shoot, but he certainly won’t give Ray much trouble on defense, and Ray won’t find guarding him to be super complicated.
Kirk Hinrich, starting SG: Kirk Hinrich is a natural point guard. He’d rather pass than score, and he’s traditionally had a superb turnover rate for his position. Naturally, the Hawks have chosen to start him at shooting guard, even though A) he can’t shoot, B) his skills complement Jeff Teague’s not one bit, and C) shooting guard is the natural position of the team’s highest-paid player.
As you might expect, Kirk Hinrich is not having a great season. Ten points off his three-point shooting percentage were stolen by Willie Green. His shoulder continues to be completely janky. And today Tony Parker committed to UCLA over Kansas, continuing a lackluster year for Jayhawk recruiting.
Hinrich is traditionally a solid defender, especially known for keeping up with rotations. That’s the thing that primarily justifies his starting at the 2: Larry Drew probably thought he and Jeff Teague would be a nasty combo for the other team’s scoring guards. But Hinrich looks very, very old and slow this year. Maybe it’s the stink of his Wizards uniform still lingering. In any case, I’m not concerned about him keeping up with Bradley’s baseline cuts, let alone Rondo’s anything.
Al Horford: Al decided not to participate in the NBA this season because he felt his position as a scout for the Sprite “Uncontainable Game” initiative was too important. As you know, Sprite is personally sending the not-at-all-weird-or-arbitrary scouting team of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Omri Casspi, Serge Ibaka, Andrea Bargnani, and Horford to every basketball court in the world to discover “the world’s most creative undiscovered ballers on the planet.” The scouts are split into teams that are named, in another marketing decision that totally makes sense and is explicable, “Team Intense” and “Team Sudden.” Seems like something that could have waited until the end of the season, his decision though.