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! Here’s Part I and Part II. Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Vladimir Radmanovic, SF/PF: The Hawks added Vlad Rad in the offseason for his unique brand of looking bored as crap while being a three-point specialist with a barely league-average three-point percentage. He’s only 31, but years of complaining about not getting enough minutes have taken their toll on his game. This is the highlight of his season. I doubt he plays a single meaningful minute, but Larry Drew loves finding new ways to confuse fans.
Josh Smith: Smith is the best player on the Hawks in spite of himself. He’s a productive offensive player while displaying maybe the game’s worst shot selection. He’s a dominant rebounder, but he never bodies anyone out. He’s one of the top three defenders at his position, but he’ll take long stretches off with seemingly no provocation. It’s usually boring and straight-up wrong when pundits accuse players of getting by on talent alone, but Josh Smith is doing more than that: he’s excelling while actively sabotaging himself.
As scary as Smith can be in a playoff series, he’s less scary against the Celtics than any other team, because KG totally knows how to play him. Smith takes the third-most long twos per game of any player in basketball, behind only Kobe and Monta Ellis. He shoots more from there than anywhere else on the floor…but he only hits at 35%. KG knows all this, so he uses a simple system of punishment and reward to get Smith to take the terrible shots he wants to take anyway.
When Smith is more than 16 feet from the basket, Garnett abandons him, getting almost obnoxiously involved in help defense. But when Smith wander inside, Garnett smothers him, putting two hands on his torso and nudging him back out to the perimeter. Smith is most dangerous with a head of steam, so if he’s anywhere near the rim, KG gets right up on him so he can’t receive a pass in motion.
Smith’s best game against the Celtics this year was March 19th: 2o points on 9-19 shooting. He hit something like seven of his first eight jumpers in that game, because Garnett was deploying the strategy above and giving him space. But he kept shooting, even after he went cold in the second half, and ended up wasting important crunch time possessions because he’d gotten too confident in his jumper. That’s the beauty of Garnett’s defense: he knows what game plans work in the long run, and when they don’t he’s not afraid to run them until they do. That’s why he, not Smith, is still the best defender at his position.
Jerry Stackhouse: Jannero Pargo tweeted a few days ago that Jerry Stackhouse was the funniest guy on the team. I guess they all think he’s joking when he says he’s going to play three more years.
Jeff Teague: It’s hard to know what kind of player Jeff Teague would be if he were actually allowed to play point guard. His assist rate is 45th in the league among point guards, but most of the passing he does is entering the ball to a motionless Joe Johnson or Josh Smith with 22 seconds left on the shot clock. He’s almost always on the floor with a player more important than he is, which is why his usage rate is lower than Jerry Stackhouse’s. He does have weapons, but they’re usually kept in a shed that Larry Drew locked up and forgot the combination for. Still a step up from when Drew started Mike Bibby ahead of him for 80 games only two seasons ago.
Teague is most dangerous on the pick-and-roll, because he’s fast and has a second gear that burns backpedaling guards. He’s not much of a shooter: he hits a much lower percentage of his long twos than Rondo (and Rondo takes more). Defensively, he can shut down the league’s best PGs when he’s on his game (I remember him putting Derrick Rose in a Hefty bag when the Hawks beat the Bulls in Game 1 of the Semis last year). But he can also disappear or lose interest, although that’s less likely to happen in the playoffs because Hawks fans actually go to those games.
Marvin Williams: Quietly, without much fanfare, the last “This Could Be Marvin Williams’ Breakout Year” Year came and went. Some speculated that he’d take a bigger share of the offense once he started coming off the bench and didn’t have to give up shots to Smith and Joe Johnson anymore. Instead, Williams managed to maintain almost the exact same usage rate he did last year (even with Horford out), and just gave up shots to Jannero Pargo and Ivan Johnson instead.
Kind of sad, because Williams does most things reasonably well. He can shoot and post up (although he hasn’t converted efficiently at the rim this season, and he definitely won’t be against Boston with KG or Stiemsma on the floor). He rebounds nicely for his position. He defends competently because he’s big for an SF but not that slow. Williams can produce against the right opponent (poor interior defense, an individual defender who’s smaller and weaker than he is) but he will find nothing right about the Celtics.