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Bucks vs. Hawks Preview | Larry Drew and Zaza Pachulia make their Atlanta returns

Kevin C. Cox
2013/2014 NBA Season
(27-35, 17-11 home)
(13-51, 5-25 road)
March 13, 2014
Philips Arena | Atlanta, GA
6:30 CT
FS Wisconsin  | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Jeff Teague PG Brandon Knight
Kyle Korver SG Nate Wolters
DeMarre Carroll SF Khris Middleton
Paul Millsap PF John Henson
Pero Antic C Zaza Pachulia
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.9 (12th) Pace 91.7 (26th)
106.3 (15th) ORtg 101.9 (27th)
107.3 (19th) DRtg 110.5 (30th)

On the HawksPeachtree HoopsHoopinion /  Atlanta Journal Constitution

Hawks update. On February 1, the Hawks were 25-21 and looking primed to push for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Five weeks later, they've lost 14 of their last 16 games and find themselves clinging to the eighth seed in the East, which is basically the equivalent of being a D-League affiliate out West (for reference: the Phoenix Suns are 36-27 and a game outside the Western playoff picture).

What went wrong? Well, not having Al Horford's season-ending pectoral injury in December didn't help, though the Hawks did manage to keep things together for a while even without their all-star big man.  But since the start of February Atlanta is posting efficiency splits of 102.1/110.0, ranking them 27th offensively and 28th defensively.

What if? Jeff Teague nearly became the Bucks' starting point guard last July, but ended up back in Atlanta when Hawks GM Danny Ferry ultimately decided to match the Bucks' four-year, $32 million offer sheet.

Still, the decision to go after Teague proved a critical turning point for the Bucks: the Bucks' interest in Teague effectively killed off any illusion of Brandon Jennings returning to the team that drafted him, which you could argue was for the best even if the Bucks had simply let Jennings walk without compensation.

Thankfully, the Bucks did get compensation in the form of both Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton, the two players Detroit was willing to part with in order to acquire Jennings via sign-and-trade. Both players have made major strides while winning starting jobs in Milwaukee, while Jennings and Teague have both suffered through mostly up-and-down seasons in Detroit and Atlanta, respectively.

Taking on more of the scoring burden with Josh Smith gone and Al Horford injured, Teague has seen his usage, scoring (15.9 ppg) and free throw rates spike this season in Atlanta--but at the cost of overall efficiency. Teague's PER (16.0 vs. 16.8), true shooting (51.6% vs. 54.3%), three point shooting (27.9% vs. 35.4%) and win shares/48 (0.070 vs. 0.111) are all down from a year ago, while Knight has pushed past him in most categories outside of assists (6.9 apg for Teague vs. 5.0 for Knight). The hope in Milwaukee was that Knight would improve under the tutelage of Nick Van Exel and Larry Drew just as Teague did over the course of four seasons in Atlanta, and so far, so good.

Giannis and the Starters. Giannis Antetokounmpo's first road trip through Atlanta had a nice perk: time to hang out with NBA TV's The Starters (aka the Basketball Jones gang) and otherwise make himself at home in Turner's NBA studios. Go right here for some clips from Giannis' visit with fellow Greek celebrity Tas Melas and Miroslav Raduljica lookalike Trey Kerby:

In other news, the Twittersphere brings news that O.J. Mayo is (AGAIN) on the outside looking in, John Henson also put in some time at NBA TV, Gary Neal mysteriously got himself benched in Charlotte, and Ersan Ilyasova returns to the starting lineup after missing Tuesday night's loss with a sore ankle. Contain your enthusiasm, people.