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If someone has ESPN insider, then there are a few articles on ESPN right now. If someone would post the insider articles, I know it would be greatly appreciate. :)

The first one is free:

Horford's Presence Equals Wins

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12069264/nba-healthy-al-horford-spells-jump-wins-hawks

No Cooling Off Hot Atlanta (insider needed)

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12071007/nba-atlanta-hawks-key-success-al-horford-deep-bench

The Big Bang-Bang Theory (insider needed)

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12048777/why-atlanta-hawks-analytic-darlings

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Monday, December 22, 2014
Updated: December 23, 10:58 AM ET

Horford's presence equals wins

By Jeff Goodman
ESPN Insider

For some reason, Al Horford just doesn't get the respect he deserves. His former teammate at Florida explains why succinctly.

"Because he plays in Atlanta," Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah told me earlier this season.

People seem to forget that the Atlanta Hawks -- with a healthy Horford -- resided in third place in the Eastern Conference on Dec. 26, 2013, the day Big Al suffered a season-ending pectoral injury against the Cavaliers. Then it all fell apart.

The Hawks were 16-13 with Horford, 24-31 without their unassuming big man.

A year later, Atlanta is tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with a 19-7 record -- just one game behind Toronto in the loss column. And Horford is back to help lead the charge.

"He's one of the elite, maybe the best, two-way big men in the league," one general manager said of Horford. "Without him, the Hawks are a fringe playoff team. With him, they can finish third in the league."

"Shoot, they may even be able to win the East the way they are playing," added another GM.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the preseason Eastern Conference favorites after picking up LeBron James and Kevin Love to go along with Kyrie Irving. Noah's Bulls were a close second thanks to a healthy Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol and rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

The Hawks are in front of both.

"We're a completely different team with him," admitted Hawks guard Shelvin Mack.

Horford is a two-time All-Star in his prime at 28 years old. He was averaging 18.6 points and 8.4 rebounds at the time of his injury, and his numbers have dropped off a bit this season (14.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG) -- but his impact on this team goes well beyond numbers.

"He's a diligent worker, sacrifices for others and is a terrific leader," Hawks second-year coach Mike Budenholzer said of Horford. "He's just so unselfish."

He's also someone who has the reputation around the league -- and it began in his college days -- for rarely taking a possession off. Remember, this is a guy who was critical to two national title teams at Florida. He and Noah both sacrificed for the betterment of the team, and Horford took a backseat for much of his tenure. This is a guy who was fine with finishing fourth on the team in scoring during the team's 2006 run.

"He's all about winning," said former Florida assistant Donnie Jones, now the head coach at UCF. "That's what makes him so special. He's rare these days."

"His presence just gives everyone else confidence," added Mack. "He doesn't care about his own numbers. He just wants to win."

The Hawks have some nice players, but you don't win without stars in the NBA, and Horford is the star of this team both on the court and off. Sure, Jeff Teague has made tremendous strides over the past couple of years and leads the team in scoring. The addition of Paul Millsap a year ago was huge. Kyle Korver is as effective a pure shooter as there is in the league, and guys likeDeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott are both playing well again this season. And second-year man Dennis Schroder has upped his game.

But the only way this team is going to remain near the top of the league is if Horford stays on the court.

"When he's healthy, he's one of the top 25 players in this league," another high-ranking NBA executive said. "He plays both ends of the court, and that's what separates him from some of the other big men. Sure, Dwight Howard is better defensively -- but he can't really score. Kevin Love is a better offensive player, but he doesn't guard. Horford does it all."

One NBA executive put the difference between Horford in or out of the lineup over an 82-game schedule at about 10 victories. Another said that figure might even be a bit conservative. That makes sense since last season the Hawks were three games over the .500 mark with him and seven games under without him. During one stretch from Feb. 4 to March 8, Atlanta dropped 14 of 15 games. This season, Horford's started all 27 games and look where they are now.

"No one is scared of playing them without Horford," one NBA GM said. "They could be a lottery team without him. I know that Millsap put up better numbers last year, but Horford is the better player when he's 100 percent -- and it's not even close."

Horford still is getting back to full strength. His minutes are just below 30 per contest, and he's not quite as aggressive on the offensive end. Remember, this is a team that was learning a year ago -- a new system under a new coach.

"We were all thinking too much," he said. "This year we don't have to worry about that. We can just go out there and play."

"Can they win the East?" asked one NBA executive. "Probably not, but they can be a factor in the league and get to the Eastern Conference semifinals. They have a nice young point guard, a shooter and one of the top front-line tandems in the league. But the key to their entire team is Horford."

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Monday, December 22, 2014
No cooling off hot Atlanta

By Kevin Pelton
ESPN Insider

Since the calendar turned to December, the Atlanta Hawks have emerged as the NBA's hottest team. After a 7-6 start, the Hawks have won 13 of their past 14 games, capped by Monday night's win over the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The victory vaulted Atlanta into second place in the Eastern Conference, just a game behind the East-leading Toronto Raptors.

In the context of everything in the previous paragraph, this fact beggars belief: Atlanta's starting five has been outscored in the month of December. Per NBA.com/Stats, the Hawks' typical starters (Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford) are in fact a minus-4 in the 146 minutes they've played together this month, when Atlanta has outscored its opponents by a mere 132 points.

To explain this seeming contradiction, we must turn to the Hawks' bench. Because head coach Mike Budenholzer came from the San Antonio Spurs, where he was an assistant to Gregg Popovich, Atlanta is frequently compared to San Antonio -- but usually in the context of the team's emphasis on ball movement and shooting. It's another trait shared with the Spurs, depth, that is helping the Hawks' rise in the East.

Atlanta has done it without one of this year's leading contenders for the sixth man award. The Hawks dealt Lou Williams to the Toronto Raptors over the summer, and have seen him bounce back two years following ACL surgery to average 22.9 points per 36 minutes. Yet the trade has been a win-win because it created an opening in Atlanta's backcourt for second-year guard Dennis Schroder, who has improved as much as anyone in the league.

As a rookie, Schroeder combined sub-40 percent shooting with turnovers on more than one in five of his possessions, leading to a 5.8 PER that was the second lowest in the NBA among players who saw at least 500 minutes of action. Schroeder has trebled that mark this season to 17.5 thanks to 54.3 percent accuracy inside the arc while using nearly a quarter of the Hawks' plays, along with an assist rate that has improved from 5.2 to 6.8 per 36 minutes.

Though Schroeder has been the most productive Atlanta reserve, the Hawks also have gotten effective floor spacing from stretch bigs Mike Scott and Pero Anticand elite defense from long-limbed wing stoppers Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore. The second unit is largely responsible for Atlanta posting the NBA's best defensive rating in the month of December (95.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/Stats); with at least one reserve on the floor, that defensive rating drops all the way to a stifling 91.9.

Hawks' Lineup Breakdown Starters Min ORtg DRtg Net 5 146 102.4 105.4 -3.0 4 130 111.4 87.3 24.2 3 78 108.5 95.4 13.0 2 104 106.5 97.0 9.5 1 83 101.1 85.6 15.5 0 31 104.7 102.7 2.0

Unlike some coaches, Budenholzer has rarely used all five bench players together -- just 31 minutes all month. But Budenholzer has done a fine job of mixing and matching his starters to complement the strengths and weakness of his reserves. Lineups with anywhere from one to four starters on the floor have been dominant in the month of December, as the chart at right shows.

The Hawks benefited, certainly, from a relatively easy schedule early in the month. But even with Schroeder filling in for an ailing Teague in the starting lineup, the bench has played a major role in a 3-0 road trip with wins over the Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets. Last Wednesday in Cleveland, Atlanta reserves combined for 73 points in a 29-point blowout of the Cavaliers that tied for the largest margin of victory on the road this season.

Wins like that have forced us to start considering Atlanta an East contender. The Hawks now rank sixth in the league in schedule-adjusted point differential, behind only Toronto in the conference. It might be last year's Raptors, not the Spurs, who are really the best analogue for Atlanta. I made that comparison on last week's Lowe Post podcast, noting that Toronto finished third in the East by ranking in the top 10 in the league in both offense and defense. (The Hawks are seventh in both categories right now.)

Like that Raptors team, it might be tough for casual fans to take Atlanta seriously because of a lack of star power. But there's more than one way to build a winning team, and a deep bench can carry the Hawks through the regular season.

News and notes

• The team on the other side of the Atlanta win Monday night, the Mavericks, experienced some growing pains integrating Rajon Rondo into the offense. While the Hawks have been shutting down everyone lately, Dallas' 38 points were a season low before halftime -- and their next-lowest effort, 42, came in Rondo's debut Saturday night against the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavericks managed just eight points in nearly eight minutes in the first quarter with Rondo on the floor.

Rondo

Atlanta was aggressive about playing off Rondo and daring him to shoot, which meant he took a team-high 13 shots during the first three quarters. In turn, the Hawks' sagging defense clogged things up inside, particularly for center Tyson Chandler, who had just four shot attempts in 34 minutes. Dallas found more success in a fourth-quarter comeback by turning Monta Ellis loose and playing Rondo largely off the ball, a strategy that may serve as the fallback until Rick Carlisle can implement more offense that utilizes both guards' ability to create.

• Let's talk some more about Rookie of the Year. Last week, after Jabari Parker's season was ended by a torn ACL, I noted that Andrew Wiggins' combined averages in points, rebounds and assists per game make him the clear front-runner for the award. On the aforementioned Lowe Post podcast, I discussed the race with Zach Lowe and voiced my support for Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, the rookie leader in wins above replacement player (2.1) by a wide margin (James Ennis of the Miami Heat is a distant second, at 0.7).

Since then, Mirotic only strengthened his candidacy with a huge 27-point effort in a win at Memphis, including 6-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Still, as we pondered on the Lowe Post, a Mirotic victory would be unprecedented. Per Basketball-Reference.com, just two rookies of the year have averaged fewer than 30 minutes per game (Mike Miller in 2000-01 at 29.1 and Tom Heinsohn in 1956-57 at 29.9). Mirotic is currently averaging just 18.6 minutes, and that number could drop if the Chicago frontcourt gets (and stays) healthy. It will be fascinating to see what the voting panel does with Mirotic, who is clearly the most productive rookie in the league this year.

• Second-year wing Sergey Karasev has quietly emerged as a starter for the Brooklyn Nets. Karasev has started the past six games, playing nearly as many minutes (174) as in his previous season-plus in the NBA (191). Karasev has yet to find the touch from 3-point range, but he's displayed good feel for the game, and the Nets are plus-19 with him on the floor (as compared to minus-2 with Karasev on the bench) during that stretch.

The performance is encouraging for Karasev's future. While he's just weeks away from nearly being part of a trade (as part of the package the Philadelphia 76ersmight have received in the Andrei Kirilenko deal the teams completed this month), Karasev is barely 21 and could be a rare cheap contributor for Brooklyn on his rookie contract.

Weekly top five: Festive NBA names

5. Winston Garland; 4. DeMarre Carroll (also Joe Barry Carroll, Matt Carroll); 3. Emanual Davis (also Emanuel "Manu" Ginobili); 2. Nerlens Noel (also Noel Felix, David Noel and Paul Noel); 1. Dionte Christmas

Honorable mentions: Raja Bell (also Charlie, Dennis, Troy and Whitey Bell), Eric Snow, Rudolph "Rudy" Tomjanovich

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Updated: December 23, 11:07 AM ET

The Big Bang-Bang Theory

By Peter Keating
ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Jan. 5 Championship Drive Issue. Subscribe today!

IF THERE'S ONE lesson that has made its way from analytic spreadsheets to NBA courts, it's that shot location matters. But it turns out that when you shoot can be as important as where you shoot from. And this season, one team is riding that insight to playoff contention -- and is a lot of fun to watch besides.

Since last season, every arena in the NBA has had SportVU optical-recognition technology in its catwalks, generating a slew of new player-tracking statistics that you can find, for free, on NBA.com. And among all the data, one split really leaps out: It's typically far better to shoot off the pass than to shoot off the dribble. When a player has the ball for two seconds or less, doesn't dribble and takes a jump shot from more than 10 feet, SportVU calls that a catch and shoot. Catch-and-shoot leaders include Klay Thompson, Wesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki, who has quickened his release and led the NBA with 8.1 catch-and-shoot attempts per game. On the other hand, SportVU defines a pull-up shot as any jumper outside 10 feet after a player takes at least one dribble before shooting, and you can guess who tops the league by a whopping margin in those. (Right, Kobe Bryant, at 10.9 per game.) According to my calculations, NBA players have an effective field goal percentage of 50.6 percent on catch and shoots this season versus just 41.1 percent on pull-ups.

Of course, players tend to shoot when they're open, so a team might not expect to gain much just by ordering players to throw up a J whenever they touch the rock. But the team could keep players constantly moving off the ball to find a point guard who can pass accurately to them. Or instruct guys who are driving to stay hyperaware of opportunities to dish back outside. Or encourage anyone prone to isolation play to get rid of the ball, even if that means taking the kind of midrange jumpers statheads usually frown upon. The Hawks are trying all of the above, and they have built a new kind of offense based on the catch and shoot.

In Atlanta's second season under Mike Budenholzer (who previously spent 19 years with the Spurs), a kettle of Hawks constantly screen and cut off the ball. Point guard Jeff Teague pinpoints open men. And the entire starting lineup releases quickly and effectively from anywhere, led by Kyle Korver, who might be the best catch-and-shoot man in the NBA. (Korver's effective field goal percentage when not dribbling is an astonishing 78.0 percent. He's over 50 percent on all field goals this year, over 50 percent on threes and over 90 percent on free throws -- a combination no player in NBA history has sustained over a full season.) One particularly beautiful sequence came in the second quarter of a game against Brooklyn on Dec. 5: Teague timed his passes to create secondary opportunities; the ball flew across and around the horn as if it were seeking out Hawks blue; Atlanta hit four 3s; and over a four-minute span, a one-point contest turned into a 15-point blowout.

Overall, Atlanta is taking 30.3 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, the most in the league, and scoring 34.6 points per game on those attempts, 3.2 more than any other club. The Hawks rank sixth in the NBA at 109.4 points per 100 possessions, up from 18th last season. And after a 19-7 start, including a 127-98 demolition of LeBron James and the Cavaliers on December 17, they're ready to shed their status as one of the NBA's best-kept secrets.

The Hawks' emphasis on the catch and shoot has generated benefits beyond these basic numbers too. For one thing, it has allowed the team to rework big man Al Horford, back from a torn pectoral muscle last season, into the lineup in a smart way. Horford likes to take long-range 2-pointers, usually the most inefficient shots in basketball. But rather than forcing him to change or limit his game, Atlanta has focused on getting him open. Nearly 40 percent of Horford's attempts are coming from 16 feet from the basket out to the 3-point arc, according to Basketball-Reference.com -- but that's OK because he's sinking 50 percent of those shots. Another example: Because they position so well, the Hawks are outstanding on transition defense, limiting opponents to just 9.2 fast-break points per game, the fewest in the league, according to TeamRankings.com.

Atlanta, in short, is operating creatively within the discipline of a whole new system. You can see it in the numbers. And if you have the chance to see them in person, do as the Hawks do: Show no hesitation.

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I totally agree with the third article. I'd say 3/4 of our missed threes are because they wait to shoot. Korver, DMC, Scott, and even Al when he gets there have quick triggers. But Pero(he's just the worst at this), Paul, and Jeff always wait about 4-5 second before launching a three. Just stop hesitating and hoist it up! Little mistakes like that bother me the most. We should be leading the NBA in 3pt percentage.

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