Around the NBA: Atlanta vs. Cleveland (11/7)

Around the NBA: Atlanta vs. Cleveland (11/7)
Nov 08, 2006, 03:10 am
By Matt Kamalsky

In a game that was surprisingly close, the Atlanta Hawks pulled out an overtime victory behind the momentum of a game tying floater by Tyronn Lue at the end of regulation. Even though they didn’t play in crunch time, a number of rookies saw significant playing time.

Given the directions of both of these teams, you can expect that each of their rookies will see their role change over the course of the season. On one hand, you have Shannon Brown, a player who many thought was better than the 25th selection he ultimately fell to. On the other hand, you have a player who was selected significantly higher than most expected in Shelden Williams. Another Atlanta rookie, Cedric Bozeman, also saw significant playing time. Even though Bozeman didn’t hear his name called on draft day, he didn’t play like an undrafted rookie during this game.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Shannon Brown didn’t see a lot of minutes in his professional debut, but his play was encouraging regardless. Although he is yet to legitimately crack the Cleveland rotation, his playing time should increase as the year goes on. At only 6-3, Brown is undersized for a shooting guard, making his adjustment to the NBA more difficult on the offensive end. However, his potential as an impact player with the ball in his hands is undeniable. Although his size may inhibit him on one side of the floor, it is a huge advantage on the other. Brown’s solid 200 pound frame, coupled with his quickness and explosive athleticism, make him a formidable defender. Brown showed a lot of potential, but also some inexperience.

When Brown was inserted into the game in the second quarter, his presence was noticeable. He had incredibly active feet on defense and was in constant motion. He denied dribble penetration extremely well and worked hard to get through screens. On one possession he appeared to be beat off the dribble, but recovered quickly and stripped the ball away before the shooter had a chance to elevate. After stripping the ball away, Brown lead the break the other way, using a nifty behind the back move to break away from a defender. With a trailer to his right, Brown got a little overzealous, attempting a no-look pass while in the middle of the key. Unfortunately, he made his decision a little too late, allowing Tyronn Lue to step in front of him and draw a charge.

Brown’s hustle on the defense end is an encouraging sign for a Cavaliers team looking to create a defensive identity. Offensively, Brown’s only jumper looked a little flat, but you can’t expect much different from a player how hasn’t see game action outside of some nondescript preseason burn. Since Cleveland hasn’t run Brown at the point guard spot at all so far, it seems safe to assume that we probably won’t see him there anytime soon this season. Cleveland could be viewing Daniel Gibson as the player they will groom at the point guard spot for the long run instead. Playing exclusively on the wing from the get go will expedite Brown’s progression. Focusing on his scoring, rather than his distributing will allow him to see the court sooner rather than later. As Brown’s jump shot gets more consistent, he should be able to contribute valuable minutes down the stretch. One of Cleveland’s most obvious weaknesses over the past few seasons has been their bench scoring, and Brown looks to be a quick fix for such a problem.

Atlanta Hawks

Both Cedric Bozeman and Shelden Williams saw significant action during the first three quarters of the game. Both players came through with their best games of the season. With Marvin Williams out for over a month with a broken left hand, the Hawks have been looking to their young players to step up and increase their production. The results have been mixed, but this game was an encouraging sign of things to come. Shelden Williams was incredibly efficient in what limited opportunities he had, and given the circumstances, you couldn’t ask for much more out of Cedric Bozeman.

One of the things you realize after watching an entire Hawks game is how little they utilize Shelden Williams offensively. His total of four points through the first three games of the season is a testament to this point. Tonight, he didn’t get the ball entered to him in the post at all, and rarely received the ball in position to score. Two of Williams’ four field goals came on midrange pick and pop jumpers. On both occasions he looked incredibly confident and showed no hesitation to shoot when left open. For a player known for his bruising post game, he showed impressive touch from as far out of 18 feet.

Although Williams usually found himself at the top of the key or on the weak-side block in Atlanta’s offensive sets, he still managed to get some opportunities in the flow of the offense. On one occasion, Williams read Speedy Claxton’s dribble penetration by filling the lane left open when the defense collapsed around the ball. He received the pass from Claxton, and finish strong at the rim over two defenders. William’s other bucket came on an up and under in transition. Williams ran the floor after blocking a shot on the defensive end and found himself in perfect position for the put back.

Offensively, you can see that he had a pretty solid game given that he had essentially no opportunities to make an impact. However, William’s had a difficult time defensively. He struggled to maintain position against Drew Gooden on the block, and often found himself uncharacteristically out of position for defensive rebounds. However, he still showed some encouraging upside. On one possession, Gooden received the ball in the post, took a token dribble to the left, and then jump stopped into the lane. Gooden proceeded to pump fake before shooting a fade away. Although Gooden made the shot, Williams was physical with him and stayed in great defensive position, keeping two hands in Gooden’s face and not leaving his feet on the fake.

Williams’ role should expand as he decides to assert himself more into the Atlanta offense. In this way, Williams’ production will depend on how ready he feels he is to make an impact. On defense, Williams is still adjusting to the NBA, but given the success he had in the NCAA, he should develop quickly.

Cedric Bozeman saw his first action tonight in a one on one situation against LeBron James at the end of the first quarter. As LeBron drove to the basket for the last shot of the quarter, Bozeman was charged with stopping him. Bozeman beat LeBron to the baseline and forced him to take a tough leaning jump shot. You can tell that Atlanta put him in that position for a reason.

Bozeman played great defense throughout the game. He hustled around screens, used his hands to create turnovers, and even took a charge. Given his length and quickness, Bozeman is capable of playing exceedingly good defense. If he can build on what he showed on offense during this game, he would certainly warrant more minutes off the bench.

On one possession, Bozeman made a pretty show and go move, driving past Larry Hughes and finishing adeptly at the rim with his left hand. On another, he shot a picture perfect three-pointer off of a drive and dish. If Bozeman continues to develop offensively, Atlanta could be looking a steal. Seldom does a team find an undrafted rookie who they can insert into their rotation from day one.

The rookies that played tonight all showed glimpses of being solid NBA players, but its best to take a wait and see approach this early in the season. Whether or not these players will be making a greater impact in February is anyone’s guess, but games this early are a good point of departure nonetheless.

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