Archives For Analysis

With the signature win of the Mike Budenholzer era under the team’s belt, the Hawks turn to Game 2. Once again, the Hawks will be under zero pressure. Pundits claimed this would be the least-competitive playoff series in NBA history. Even if the Pacers tie the series, it then shifts to Atlanta where Indiana lacks a track record of success. Below is a look at some trends to keep an eye on as the Pacers desperately try to save their season.

The Hawks were 27th in the league in total rebound percentage but trailed the Pacers only 46-42 in total rebounds in Game 1. Another issue for the Pacers is the rate at which Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap got to the free throw line in Game 1. Teague was 9-for-10 and Millsap 9-for-11. I don’t anticipate the Pacers getting any significant help from the referees in this series because Indiana represents the only significant roadblock in the East to a glamorous LeBron-Durant match-up in the Finals.

If the Kyle Korver-Lance Stephenson matchup is a key to the series as I suggested, you’d have to say the Pacers did a good job by limiting Korver to 2-for-7 shooting (29%) from three. But wait. I also said that a big problem for the Pacers was the sheer volume of 3-point shooters for the Hawks. In Game 1, Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Pero Antic and Shelvin Mack each attempted at least four 3-pointers and shot 40% or better. Continue Reading…

Each season that I’ve covered the Hawks for TrueHoop Network, I’ve written a playoff preview and a season postmortem. In re-reading last year’s preview, I came to a realization. We’re watching the birth of a new era in Atlanta Hawks basketball.

This preview is going to be about the narrative story of where the Hawks are as a team and franchise. If you’re looking for an analytic breakdown, Hawks.com‘s Robby Kalland has you covered with his excellent piece. You can also check out the 5-on-5 series preview on ESPN.com that HawksHoop editor Bo Churney and myself were asked to take part in.

Getting back to last season’s playoff preview, it was a regurgitation of the same concerns I had the previous season. I was concerned about coach Larry Drew’s ability to put optimal lineups on the floor and emphasize players that were best-equipped to help the team win. I was concerned about Jeff Teague being passive and deferential. And I was concerned about Josh Smith playing the right way to help his team win and advance. Continue Reading…

With his blistering on-ball speed and a change of pace that leaves defenders in the dust, it’s no mystery as to why many Hawks fans agree that an aggressive Jeff Teague is the best Jeff Teague. Shooting 38% from mid-range and 32% from downtown, logic would presume the optimal method of attack for Teague is getting to the basket instead of settling for jumpers.

However, on some nights we’ll see a timid Teague, one refusing to take advantage of his talents and instead doesn’t actively look to get into the paint. Being the only Hawks starter with a dribble-drive game, this Teague stagnates and diminishes spacing on an offense that is predicated on ball movement and is third in (pace-adjusted) three-point attempts per game.

At least, that’s what the “eye test” suggests. Statistics on the other hand convey that not only is Teague consistently assertive, but he’s actually one of the more hungry attackers in the league.

Per SportVU, Teague ranks fourth in the NBA in drives per-36 minutes, with “drives” being defined as when a player dribbles the ball from 20-feet out to within 10 feet of the basket. According to this, Teague not only consistently looks to find gaps in the defense but does so more than a vast majority of the NBA. The kicker? Atlanta’s netting 10.7 points per game on Teague drives, which ranks 7th in the league.

So what is creating this image of Teague only being aggressive on certain nights?

Continue Reading…

The Hawks and RPM

Bo Churney —  April 9, 2014 — 2 Comments

Last week, ESPN released a new stat called Real Plus-Minus (or RPM) as a new perspective into gauging the impact a player has on the court. For ESPN’s intoduction of the stat, click here.

In a nutshell, adjusted plus-minus stats work by taking your regular plus-minus figures and attempting to set a value to each player’s situation based on their teammates, their opponents, and even coaching. It then tries to put those numbers together and assign a “real plus-minus” as a figure of a player’s overall value. RPM is measured in net-point differential per 100 possessions. (100 possessions is about the length of your average game)

As with all stats, I don’t think you can just take one and use it to end an argument. With that said, RPM should provide an interesting new tool to look at when trying to confirm the impact of a certain player(s). Continue Reading…

ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Struass wrote yesterday that the NBA’s conference system needs to be abolished, since it currently awards playoff spots to teams well below .500. This season, for the first time since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams, a 50-win team could miss the playoffs.

Strauss makes reference to an incredibly important piece by TrueHoop writer Curtis Harris on how the current lottery system helps keep one conference stronger than the other (I made reference to this as well in my critique of the “wheel” draft proposal). I believe Strauss’ ideas deserve consideration because a change to the current playoff and lottery systems (perhaps something less radical than the “wheel”) is necessary to improve both the integrity of the game and its competitive balance. Continue Reading…

After consecutive losses by the Knicks following an 8-game winning streak, there’s very little chance of Atlanta falling out of the playoff picture. With 13 games remaining, the Hawks are three games ahead of the Knicks and only two games behind the 7th-seeded Bobcats. The Hawks are more likely to move up a seed or stay put than to fall out of playoff position.

As such, it’s time to start thinking about potential playoff match-ups. The Hawks could easily pass the Bobcats and move into 7th, but the Wizards are 4.5 games ahead of the Hawks in 6th. Thus, the Hawks will almost certainly face the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the first round. Of those teams, I believe the Pacers are the most vulnerable due to the chemistry experiment the team embarked upon by trading for Evan Turner.

Shortly after acquiring Turner at the trade deadline, the Pacers endured a season-worst, 4-game losing streak. SI.com’s Rob Mahoney criticized Turner’s stats as skewed by “pace inflation and ball dominance.” ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh further noted that, “the numbers say Turner has been a turnstile in a Pacers uniform, allowing 54% shooting on spot-up plays and 71% if we adjust for the value of the 3-pointer.” Continue Reading…

Tanking, and ways to eliminate it, were hot topics at the recent Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT. One proposal, known as the “wheel,” would eliminate the NBA’s draft lottery and replace it with a fixed system to distribute draft position. The proposal would disincentivize tanking, but it might also widen the gap between the haves and have-nots of the NBA.

The wheel proposal was developed by Boston Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren. Over a 30-year period, each NBA team would pick once at each of the 30 1st-round draft positions. The draft order would be staggered so that every team would have a top-6 pick at least once every five years.

Such a system would, over time, award incoming talent to all teams roughly equally. As such, it would remove any incentive to lose. Since draft positions are fixed, teams would no longer be motivated to lose games to try to get higher draft position. Continue Reading…

In what has become the rule, rather than the exception, yesterday’s NBA trade deadline was yet another snooze fest. The only GM who made a significant move was Larry Bird, who traded the expiring Danny Granger, whom the Pacers were unlikely to retain, for Evan Turner, who is averaging over 17 points, six rebounds and almost four assists per game.

One team that did NOT make a significant move was the Atlanta Hawks. Danny Ferry traded the rights to Cenk Akyol, a former 2nd round pick who will never play in the NBA, for Antawn Jamison, who may never play for the Hawks. With Real GM reporting that Cartier Martin has been signed for the balance of the season and Micah Hart reporting that Jared Cunningham has been recalled from the D-League, it’s possible the Hawks have already waived Jamison.

There was a lot of confusion on Twitter and message boards last night about the purpose of the trade, since Adrian Wojnarowski with Yahoo! Sports tweeted immediately after that a buyout was possible. The purpose, from the Hawks’ perspective, was explained by Brad Turner, the L.A. Times beat writer for the Clippers: Continue Reading…

With the trade deadline fast approaching and the Hawks dealing with more injury troubles, Lou Williams could potentially be a name worth shopping. He’s struggled, teams could look at him as a buy-low option and Atlanta is very desperate for some help because of injury troubles that have aided in the Hawks losing six straight games. But in reality, if Atlanta were to trade Williams now they’d be doing themselves more harm than good.

What the Hawks desperately need at the moment is not a major shake-up of any means, but some more depth with players dropping like fruit flies in bug spray. Williams’s contract is by no means a very destructive one. It expires at the conclusion of the 2015 season, with Williams earning about $5.3 million per year. Even in this down season, players of similar (or worse) production are earning even more than Williams – names such as J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson, Caron Butler and Derrick Williams.

The bench help doesn’t necessarily have to arrive through a trade either, as exemplified by Cartier Martin’s signing this season. There are viable options still on the market if need be, as well the option to turn to the D-League. Continue Reading…

Mike Scott’s New Level

Bo Churney —  February 11, 2014 — 3 Comments

On David Thorpe’s most recent Sophomore 20, the Hawks’ second-year forward Mike Scott found himself sitting loftily at the seventh spot, just behind John Henson and current Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Jared Sullinger, and ahead of Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Beverly.

In the absence of Al Horford, the Hawks needed a scoring punch to come from somewhere and Scott has provided it. Since Horford went down on December 26th against the Cavaliers, Scott’s minutes and production have skyrocketed. Before Horford’s injury, Scott was getting 13.4 minutes per game and was only scoring 6.8 points per on 56.1% true-shooting. Since? In 20 games, which is a decent-sized sample, 21.6 minutes and 12.5 points per on an astounding 59.7% true-shooting. For reference, the league average for true-shooting percentage is around 53.7%.

What has made Scott so successful? It’s simple: he’s now an official part of the team’s game plan. Before, Scott saw spot minutes and would have chances in the offense just like everyone else. However, without Horford, the team needs Scott to make an offensive impact to be successful and he now has the green-light to shoot in many more situations than before. Continue Reading…