Hawks vs. Bucks preview: Larry Drew due to meet Atlanta's skeleton crew

Kevin C. Cox

Larry Drew will have an opportunity to meet his former team on Saturday night; or at least what's left of his former team. The bruised and battered Atlanta Hawks are in town for a matchup against the Bucks.

2013/2014 NBA Season
(22-20, 7-13 road)
vs.
(8-34, 4-15 home)
January 25, 2014
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:30 CT
FSWI / NBA League Pass | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Shelvin Mack PG Brandon Knight
Kyle Korver SG Luke Ridnour
DeMarre Carroll SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Paul Millsap PF Ersan Ilyasova
Gustavo Ayon C Larry Sanders
2013/14 Advanced Stats
95.0 (11th) Pace 91.4 (26th)
105.9 (14th) ORtg 98.3 (30th)
105.5 (13th) DRtg 108.0 (22nd)

On the HawksPeachtree Hoops / HawksHoopAtlanta Journal Constitution

On Saturday night, Larry Drew will reacquaint himself with Atlanta Hawks for the first time since Danny Ferry declined to renew his contract over the summer. I'd be surprised if either party can even recognize the other at this point.

Drew's respectable 128-102 record as Hawks head coach has meant nothing in Milwaukee, where the Bucks have squirmed their way to unsightly 8-34 mark and failed to string together a single winning streak. Meanwhile, the Hawks look completely different than the team Drew led in Atlanta; a transformation brought on by bold offseason decisions and in-season attrition. Josh Smith's exit in the summer felt as unceremonious as Drew's, and his new struggles have grown to be just as real and even more urgent. New head coach Mike Budenholzer has leaned on Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap to help his sqaud stay afloat in the playoff race despite injuries to Al Horford, Pero Antic, John Jenkins, and now DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague.

Teague, who has distributed the extremely ball well and shot it poorly since the Hawks decided to match Milwaukee's four-year, $32 million offer sheet in July, will miss the contest due to a left ankle injury he suffered in a loss to the Spurs on Friday night. The injury looked ugly, and Teague hobbled to the locker room, but x-rays on the ankle came back negative. Savvy offseason signing DeMarre Carroll is dealing with a hamstring injury, and he is listed as a game-time decision, according to the Hawks' twitter feed.

All of this movement leaves the Hawks with a starting lineup that doesn't look too intimidating. Shelvin Mack is expected to get the start at point guard, but this game feels like an opportunity for rookie Dennis Schröder to step up and secure some minutes in the rotation -- though Schröder's 4.97 PER, 43.9% True Shooting and 28% Turnover Rate in 223 total minutes may signal that he needs more time to develop his game behind the scenes.

The early struggles of an intruiging prospect like Schröder only serve to magnify the unexpected success of Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, Gumby has quietly hit a rough patch in his impressive rookie campaign. In the month of January (11 games), Giannis has committed 30 turnovers to balance his 30 assists and his scoring efficiency has dipped considerably (49.4% TS) from his early-season surge (57.5% TS in previous 26 games played). His January numbers have been dragged down by 10/36 shooting beyond eight feet; hopefully he finds a way to stay aggressive and attack the rim in both transition and half court sets.

Our favorite rookie took a hard spill in Cleveland on Friday and may have tweaked his back, but he finished the contest and there's no indication that Giannis would be unavailable against Atlanta. If Drew throws out his hodgepodge of a starting lineup again on Saturday, it will be very interesting to see who Antetokounmpo tracks on defense. He probably isn't quick enough to stay in front of Lou Williams, but he sure seems like a perfect player to try on sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Then again, Ersan probably has to (attempt to) guard someone in his lower athletic realm. Hopefully this potential matchup problem is what forces Drew to rethink the "jumbo" starting five, because I can't make much sense of it in theory, let alone in practice.

Speaking of Kyle Korver, this game is an opportunity to sit back and watch one of the greatest three-point shooters in the history of the NBA. Consider this: The Bucks are converting a lower percentage (44.7%) of two-point shots from anywhere on the floor than Korver is hitting from beyond the arc (45.7%). Almost impossibly, Korver has made at least one three-point shot in 111 consecutive games. A Bucks win would certainly be nice, but I will definitely be rooting for Korver to extend that streak in Milwaukee.

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