On the Hawks:
Peachtree Hoops / Hoopinion / Hawks Str8Talk / Atlanta Journal Constitution
Starting swingmen hurt. Carlos Delfino's sore neck and Marvin Williams' bum knee will deny both team's their usual starters at the 3 spot. Though both guys are complementary players, Williams' absence has a more tangible impact on Larry Drew's lineup since he's been opting to go with a bigger starting five in Williams' absence. The usual 4/5 combo of Josh Smith and Al Horford become the starting 3/4 in Williams' absence, with Jason Collins sliding in at the five. Why Drew insists on starting Collins is somewhat of a mystery to me considering he's one of the least productive players in NBA history--he hasn't had a PER above 4.00 in five years and is an atrocious rebounder to boot. So don't expect him to see a ton of minutes even if he does come out with the starters. Though he was also a starting PF most of last season, Luc Mbah a Moute will again be matched up against Smith in Delfino's absence, and the Bucks will hope that he can frustrate Smith as much as he did in the playoffs last spring. Unfortunately there's only one Luc, so John Salmons will have to do a credible job defending Joe Johnson at the 2.
Men in the middle. Though he's listed at center, Collins figures to match up with Drew Gooden at the outset, allowing the vastly superior Al Horford to defend Andrew Bogut. At least that's how I would play it if I was Larry Drew. Though Horford was long cast as a PF being forced to play center, the truth is that he's developed into one of the best defensive centers in basketball; his post points-per-possession allowed last year was the best among regular big men and he outplayed Bogut in both games against each other last season. Moreover, Horford's quickness and outstanding touch from mid-range make him an exceptionally tough cover for less mobile centers. So can we just admit he's one of the league's best overall centers and move on? The only thing I can see holding back Horford's ascension into the league's elite bigs has been the difficulty getting touches with guys like Joe Johnson and Smith around.
One thing to watch out for is how the Bucks attack Collins and Zaza Pachulia when both players are in the game. Remember that the Hawks have typically switched liberally on P&R, allowing players like Horford and Smith to fend for themselves against smaller guards rather than letting Bibby and JJ to fight through screens. That strategy works reasonably well for the Hawks' usual 4/5 starters, but we saw last spring that it can be easily exploited against slower guys like Pachulia. If Collins is checking Gooden early on, look for the Bucks to go at him in P&R just to see how the Hawks react. I'd be surprised if they let Collins switch onto someone like Brandon Jennings without help, but you have to test them.
Squad Six'ed. Plenty of good stuff about Squad Six's trip to Indy last Friday: Paul Imig has video while Jeremy Schmidt also made the trip.
Those Comical Knicks. Garbage Time All-Stars has a nice cartoon summary of last night's action against the Knicks.