1) Paul Millsap has been playing rather great for the Atlanta Hawks this season - 17.4 points, 8.5 boards, 2.9 dimes, 1.1 triples, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks. Whew... let me catch my breath. However, this January (six games), perhaps as a consequence of not having Al Horford drawing defenses away, other than assists (4.0) and free-throw percentage (90.3 percent on 5.2 FTA), Millsap's numbers have dipped; most frightening, the 32.6 percent shooting from floor on 14.3 FGA. Could this decrease in production be a push to trade Millsap as he's been mentioned in more than a few rumors?
I think you hit the nail on the head when you noted Horford's absence as a potential primary cause for this slight dip in effectiveness. In a short stretch after Horford's injury, Millsap looked the best he ever has in a Hawks uniform. He put up over 30 and 10 twice in the first few contests without his front court mate, and while he's plateaued a little, that might just simply be a regression to the mean. I think he was a viable trading chip before Horford's injury, but Ferry and Budenholzer want this team competing in the playoffs; shipping Millsap out at this point would really just harpoon the whole operation. I think Paul is in this one with Atlanta for the long haul.
2) The point guard position is probably as good as it's ever been and is clearly the deepest position (when they're all, you know, actually healthy; hello, CP3, D-Rose, D-Will, Russ W and Jrue to name several). Where do you see Jeff Teague when you place the lead guard position in tiers?
Jeff Teague is the new enigma. With Josh Smith and his unwarranted jumpers now in Detroit, fans have looked for a replacement-- something new over which to debate; the relative merits of the young point guard seem to be the topic of choice. Teague started the year off to a ridiculous start, just as he did last season, only this time it was even more ridiculous. I mean, he looked like the absolute real deal when November rolled around. It was scary. We were thrilled. But most figured he'd slowly drift back to reality and, he has. Even worse, the loss of Al Horford has taken away Teague's most effective attacking mechanism: the pick-and-roll/pop with Horford.
So, despite the inevitable statistical regression from the season's start and dealing with the recent loss of his running-mate, I still believe Teague to be an upper-echelon point guard. Where would I rate him with some of the other PGs in today's game? That's tough, but the way I see it, there are a few different tiers. Here's what I came up with:
Tier 1: Chris Paul
Tier 2: Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose (from 2 years ago), Tony Parker, John Wall
Tier 3: Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo
Tier 4: Ty Lawson, Deron Williams, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, Eric Bledsoe
Tier 5: Kemba Walker, George Hill, Michael Carter-Williams, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Jose Calderon
Tier 6: Mario Chalmers, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Burke, Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, Brandon Knight, Jameer Nelson
That's every starting point guard in the league, assuming healthy rosters. Now, I did rank those in order from 1-30 from my own personal opinion, but I generally believe everyone in a tier is for the most part on the same skill level, or at least playing at a similar level of efficiency so far this year. I haven't checked any of this statistically at all-- I just looked through the teams and came up with this off the top of my head. But, you'll notice I put Teague in Tier 4 and at 14th overall. I think that's about right. I think he's an above average starting point guard who shows some incredible flashes, but also has some real issues-- especially defensively.
Side note: I hope the readers aren't too disgruntled with my low ranking of D-Will.
DV's note: I know there are a lot of Nets fans that are unhappy with D-Will, so it won't matter much. Ha!
3) One player that impressed a bit the last time the Hawks and Brooklyn Nets played, where the Nets won 91-86 at Barclays Center was DeMarre Carroll. In that game, he scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. For the season (36 games), Carroll is at about those numbers - 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. Is my admiration much ado about nothing or has he been a great pick-up for the Hawks?
Of all the people to ask about DeMarre Carroll, I'm probably the worst one. Not because I know the least; probably the opposite, in fact. I'm smitten. See, Carroll went to the University of Missouri and is a beloved basketball figure there. I currently go to Mizzou and associate my first good-feelings about my University with watching Carroll play like a rabid animal in the NCAA tournament. I've tracked him ever since. Obviously I was thrilled when he signed with Atlanta this offseason.
But, let me remove my bias for a moment and talk about him realistically: he's an incredibly useful player, but he can also be super frustrating. Carroll is an elite defensive wing who uses a relentless energy to hound his opponents. His nickname is the "Junkyard Dog." He does the nitty-gritty work and that's made him a fan favorite. He's not an abysmal shooter, but he looks like one at times. For instance, he was 0-4 the other night from beyond the arc against Houston-- that is until he hit the go-ahead three-pointer with under 2 minutes left (he took another shortly after and air-balled it. Go figure). Sometimes it feels like he can't dribble and sometimes it feels like he can't finish, but the Hawks need him. He didn't travel to London because his wife just delivered a child (congrats, DeMarre!), but Atlanta is a much better team with him on the court because, frankly, there is little depth at either wing position on this roster capable of guarding an elite offensive player.
4) I'll steal one of your questions that you asked me for Peachtree Hoops - What is your favorite move with an English setting? "Pride and Prejudice" doesn't count because everyone loves all 529 moving picture iterations of that book.
There are so many to choose from! I'll have to go with either Snatch or Braveheart as my current favorite. But if you asked me when I was eight, I'd have said Dragonheart.
5) What are three to five things that Nets fans should know about the Hawks? And give us a final score!
1 - The Hawks front office (probably) and Hawks fans want the Nets to lose every game. I'm sure your readers will know this, but the Hawks can swap draft positioning with the Nets this year. There was no real hope to start the season, but after Brooklyn's rocky start… well, we check the scores every night hoping to see another Nets loss. Nothing personal, it's strictly business-- sticking with the movie theme here. We (the Hawks, Hawks fans, the city of Atlanta, Andre 3000 and Big Boi) just want a really high draft pick.
2 - I'd say most Hawks fans still love Joe Johnson. We don't really miss him because wow, the $$ cap hit $$, but he gave us some good times. Sometimes when I'm bored I just watch videos from the Hawks first round match-up with Boston in 2008. It probably has no significance to Nets fans, but Johnson went nuts on the eventual champs, especially in Game 4, and forced a seven game series out of nowhere. It's odd that Johnson, Pierce, and KG are all on the same team now.
3 - Hawks forward/center Pero Antic has a very spirited group of Macedonian that show up to almost every game. Watch for some in London. They're crazy about their home-country guy.
4 - Elton Brand is still good. He has some nights where he just can't bring it because of his age, but he's been a huge help to this team's front court defense. His impact has only been accentuated with Horford's absence.
Final score prediction? I'll say the Hawks 107, Nets 100.
DV's Prediction: Atlanta Hawks 89, Brooklyn Nets 97. What do you think the score will be, Nets fans?