The Atlanta Hawks are as close to an easy first-round victory as we have ever seen them. They are up 3-2 and heading into the safe confines of Philips Arena, but they are making me uneasy.
As an unapologetic fan of this Atlanta team, it is frustrating to listen to the talk about flaws in the commentary about the Hawks, but there is something key that neither John Barry, Dominique Wilkins or any of our former coaches-turned-analysts are saying.
These Hawks are soft as expensive toilet tissue, and it is Joe Johnson's fault. The first stat that you have to understand are the physical dimensions of Joe Johnson. He is a 6'7" shooting guard that tips the scales at 240 lbs. This is very comparable to a LeBron James that is 1 inch taller and only 10 lbs heavier. The big difference is that LeBron plays forward.
This matters for one major reason:free throws. The difference between going a five-minute stretch and scoring zero as opposed to scoring 6-10 is the ability of your best player to get to the free throw line at will. Joe Johnson is definitely the only 6'7" guard in the NBA whose best shot is a floater. That is not a compliment.
Why is a 6'7" guard shooting a floater? A floater? A floater? Try initiating a little contact and maybe getting fouled! There is a a five-letter synonym for cat that comes to mind when I think of this.
A floater is a shot used by small players to get the ball over the outstretched arm of bigger, taller defenders. The problem with the floater is two-fold: 1) It is inconsistent, and 2) it takes the whistle out of the mouth of the ref. The offensive player takes the pressure off of the defensive player and the official by stopping short and avoiding contact. No one EVER is called for a foul when the shooter chooses a floater.
Jamal Crawford is also a fan of the floater. With his frail physique, it is more tolerable a shot selection, but still not acceptable on a regular basis. His ability to win off the dribble is dulled by his lack of desire for physical contact.
Josh Smith's floater is of a different sort. His high-arching jump shot has the look of a floater and the precision of a belly-flop. I must give Josh a bit of a compliment in that he is the leading free throw shooter on a team that ranks 13th out of the 16 playoff teams in free throws taken.
What makes the following stat worse is that the 13th ranked team at getting to the line is the worst team at actually converting on those attempts!
Though the head-butts and the late-game brawls of the season may get the attention of the fans, the most telling statistic to a team's toughness is its willingness to get hit as opposed to its willingness to hit.
The floaters being put up by the Atlanta Hawks just don't pass the smell test and if they can't find the "dog" in themselves to withstand a bit of contact, they will find themselves labeled "cat" by at least this fan.