Tag: Damien Wilkins

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Four

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: The Atlanta Hawks


Last season: It was the end of an era. Josh Smith’s final season in Atlanta ended the only way it really could: with plenty of ill-advised shot attempts, tons of highlight-reel plays, and probably most importantly, another early playoff exit. After a first round loss to the Indiana Pacers in six games, it was fair to yet again classify the Hawks as a very good team that just didn’t have enough weapons to hang with the league’s elite in the postseason.

Signature highlight from last season: Jeff Teague summons Spud Webb. Nastiness ensues.

Key player changes:

IN: Paul Millsap (Jazz), Elton Brand (Mavs), Dennis Schroeder (17th pick), DeMarre Carroll (Jazz), Gustavo Ayon (Bucks),  James Johnson (Kings), Jared Cunningham (Mavs), Damien Wilkins (76ers), Pero Antic (Greece).

OUT: Josh Smith (Pistons), Devin Harris (Mavs), Ivan johnson (China), Dahntay Jones (Bulls), Zaza Pachulia (Bucks), Johan Petro (China), Anthony Tolliver (Bobcats), Deshawn Stevenson.

Paul Millsap should be able to replicate Josh Smith’s offensive numbers with shots from smarter locations, but replacing Smith’s rim protection and defensive abilities will be a much tougher task. To help Millsap out on that end, the Hawks brought in quality defenders like Brand and Carroll to help fill the void. Schroeder, meanwhile, should quickly cement himself as one of the best on-ball defenders in basketball. He’s a weapon in the mold of Avery Bradley defensively.

Although Smith was a highly underrated passer, Hawks GM Danny Ferry made sure to bring in big men highly capable of operating from the high post, which should be a great fit if new head coach Mike Budenholzer’s offensive system resembles what the Spurs ran while he was in San Antonio.

Keys to Atlanta’s season:

1. Can San Antonio’s blueprint work in Atlanta?

The Hawks have moved on from a period defined by stagnation to become “Spurs East” with Ferry and Budenholzer at the helm. Financial flexibility has been at the heart of most of the major decisions thus far, but the Hawks have still managed to do a fantastic job molding a team in the Spurs vision on the fly. Jeff Teague’s raw speed and ability to score in the paint with floaters is reminiscent of Tony Parker, and Al Horford’s bankable production and reliable 18-footer are a little Tim Duncan-esque. You don’t have to strain much to see the similarities.

It’s no wonder why after 17 seasons under Gregg Popovich, this was the team and situation Budenholzer left the nest for. The Hawks have the shooting with Kyle Korver and John Jenkins to spread the floor for their multi-talented big men, which could make this offense dynamic — particularly if sixth man Lou Williams comes back healthy off a torn ACL.

2. Can the Hawks defend well enough to take down the beasts of the East?

The East is littered with great defensive teams like Chicago, Indiana, and Miami. Will the Hawks defend well enough to approach that level of play? Ferry loaded up on intelligent players this offseason, but there will certainly be challenges on the defensive end. Can Millsap help protect the rim? Can the wings (Korver, Jenkins, Williams) close out against shooters after finishing 28th in three-point percentage allowed last year?

The Hawks did finish 10th in defensive efficiency last season, but the system this year will have to be greater than the sum of its parts. Depending on size and athleticism to clean up the messes simply won’t cut it anymore.

3. Can Jeff Teague make the big leap?

With the ball in his hands more than ever before, Jeff Teague enjoyed the best season of his career with averages of nearly 15 points and 7 assists a game. Is an even bigger breakout year on the horizon?

If you believe in the Parker comparison, the answer is yes. Through four years, Teague has put up nearly an identical PER as Parker did (15.6 to 15.5) along with a better true shooting percentage and a better assist percentage. Parker really blew up in his fifth season, however, earning his first All-Star bid while shooting a ridiculous 54.8 percent from the field.

Asking that of Teague is a little much, but the dynamite young point guard could be in line for a big leap this year. For the Hawks to really contend in the East, they’ll need it.

Why you should watch the Hawks: Korver’s jumper belongs in a textbook, Millsap and Horford’s post passing will be a treat, Teague’s crazy athleticism will make for plenty of highlights, and Schroder’s minutes will be must see TV. The Spurs play beautiful basketball, and so should the Hawks. If you get only five League Pass teams this year, make the Hawks one of them and thank me later.

Prediction: 49-33. This is an extremely intelligent basketball team that should be able to recognize and account for shortcomings elsewhere. With solid depth, good specialists, and a core that could be in line for big improvements in a new system that should better accentuate specific skills, I’m bullish on the Hawks improving from their 44 wins last season.

Damien Wilkins has free agent workouts with Spurs, Hawks

Luke Walton, Damien Wilkins
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Damien Wilkins has played nine NBA seasons, and just finished his best statistical year in his past five with the Sixers last year.

Wilkins is looking for a home for next season, however, and has had received interest from at least two teams recently.

From RealGM:

Free agent Damien Wilkins has been working out for his former team – the Hawks – in Atlanta and worked out for the San Antonio Spurs last week, sources told RealGM.

Wilkins has exhibited impressive moments in the workouts, and the Hawks have shown interest in free agents who can complete their depth at the wing. No deal is imminent for Wilkins, a source said.

The Hawks would seem to be a better match than the Spurs, just given the makeup of each respective team’s roster. Players like Wilkins with experience but limited skill sets can be of value at the end of a contending team’s bench, or as a mentor to younger players in a rebuilding situation.

The 6’6″ Wilkins averaged 6.4 points on 45.9 percent shooting in 61 appearances for the Sixers last season.

Andre Iguodala a riskier free agent than meets the eye

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets

Which of these players would you have most liked on your team last season: Andres Nocioni, Baron Davis, Brendan Haywood, Charlie Bell, Chris Mihm, Corey Maggette, Damien Wilkins, Earl Watson, Elton Brand, Fred Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, Joel Przybilla, John Salmons, Lamar Odom, Mehmet Okur, Metta World Peace, Michael Redd, Rashard Lewis, Rasual Butler, Ricky Davis, Ronald Murray, Stromile Swift, Tracy McGrady, Trenton Hassell or Walter Herrmann?

It’s hardly an inspiring list. World Peace was an alright starter for the Lakers. Brand took a lesser role with the Mavericks, and though his production slipped from previous years, it was still pretty good. Lamar Odom fit in well as a Clippers backup. Otherwise, the list is comprised of bit players or guys out of the NBA.

But all those players have something in common. They were 29 years old during the 2008-09 season. Four years later, they’re not nearly as appealing.

It’s a lesson to keep in mind as teams pursue Andre Iguodala, who opted out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him more than $16 million in order to seek a long-term deal.

Iguodala is an excellent defender and great in transition, two skills that typically don’t age well. He’s a good passer and a passable shooter, so it’s unlikely he’ll completely fall off the map, but any team pursuing him won’t be doing it for his passing and shooting.

A larger sample provides a reasonable expectation for Iguodala. Between the 1999-00 and 2008-09 seasons, 274 players have played a season at 29 years old. Here’s how their production, as measured by win shares, progressed from their 29-year-old seasons into the four following (adjusting for the lockout shortened 2011-12 season):


If Iguodala declines at the same rate – and the cracks already began to show last season, when his win-share total fell to 5.6 – his production will mirror, in order, the 2012-13 production of Tony Allen then Corey Brewer then Wayne Ellington then Evan Turner during the next four years. These aren’t stylistic comparisons, just using current players to set a comparison in production only.

Of course, this method for determining expected value includes players who fell out of the NBA counting as zero, but that’s intentional. Quite often, players can no longer play at an NBA level as they get into their 30s. We see the players like Steve Nash who defy age and remember them, forgetting about players like Chris Mihm who fall by the wayside. That inaccurately shifts our perception of how big a deal age is in the NBA.

I don’t expect Iguodala to fall out of the league before his next contract ends, even if it lasts four years, because he’d be beginning the deal with a higher starting point. But the relative decline of lesser players still informs an expected track for Iguodala.

Iguodala has plenty of value, and a team looking to win right now might knowingly accept the risk of his contract becoming an albatross just to get his immediate production. But teams should enter long-term negotiations with that risk in mind.