The key for the Hawks in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series will be controlling the Wizards’ backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke to an NBA scout about the matchup to get insight about what the Hawks might do strategically against one of the more dynamic backcourts in the league.
Here is the scout’s-eye view:
On John Wall: “As far as stopping John Wall, it’s tough. He is so fast. One thing I always talk about with him is just to try to stay in front of him the best you can. A phrase I use is to build a wall. You have multiple guys that it takes. The nearest big man that is around needs to get over and build a wall — build a wall on Wall. Just containing his dribble drives and keeping him out of the lane. You can’t reach. You can’t gamble. Which is hard for these Atlanta guys because that is what they want to do a lot of times.
“Make him finish at the rim without fouling. He is really good at drawing fouls. He is making jump shots better than he did when he was younger. Just making it harder. Try to contest those shots the best you can. The ones he makes are open ones. Try to get a hand up and challenge shots.”
On Bradley Beal: “Try to stay as attached to him as you can. They use him a lot running off of pin-downs and screens and moving from one side of the floor to the other. He is really good at coming off screens. One of their best plays in Floppy, which is the most basic play in basketball. Everybody’s got it, but teams don’t use that play as a go-to scoring play. They run that play for him. The big guys pin down on each side and the guard underneath the basket can go either way and use the big guys for screeners. He is just terrific at that. You have to stay attached to him and as close as you can and not get caught on those screens. You have to be with him when he catches it, so he’s not able to just rise up and shoot a jump shot or keep you on his hip and get into the lane.
“Also, knowing where he is when they are bringing the ball down the floor because he is seeking out shots. It a lot like Kyle Korver. He has the same type of mentality where the ball is coming down, and he’s looking for a place to go where he can be open and get his shot off.”
The job won’t fall just on the shoulders of Hawks starters Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. The Hawks could use bigger wings to such as Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore to defend Wall and Beal. It’s a strategy they have used before. In doing so, the scout warned, the Hawks must be able to live with the size disadvantage it creates at the small forward position.
The Hawks must take care of the ball to have a chance against the Wizards, the scout noted. Turnovers will be perhaps the biggest key of the series. The Hawks are the third-worst team in the league in turnovers per game at 15.8. The Wizards are tied for second-best, with the Hawks, in forced turnovers per game at 15.2. The Wizards are also second-best in steals per game at 8.4, third-best in points off turnovers per game at 17.7 and fifth-best in fastbreak points per game at 15.9.
“They are really good at forcing turnovers,” the scout said of the Wizards. “Which is another dangerous thing for Atlanta because those guys kind of throw the ball all around at times. You have to keep them out of turnovers because they just push it down your throat when they get steals and can go on a quick run. That will be a key for Atlanta is taking care of the ball.”