Archives For Analysis

If you’ve followed my writing for TrueHoop Network then you probably know I’m a big plus-minus guy. Mark Cuban told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that advanced plus-minus was a key factor in decisions about playing time during the Mavericks’ run to the 2011 NBA championship. Even in the age of advanced stats there are still many basketball fans who place too great an emphasis on per-game counting stats such as points and rebounds per game. If a player scores 30 points but his team is outscored by 20 while he is on the floor, did that player contribute to winning basketball?

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is if your team scores more points than the opponent. Critics claim that it’s impractical to draw conclusions about individual players from plus-minus because the actions of nine other players impact a player’s individual number. The old saying is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” If a player happens to be on the court when his star teammate scores 10 unanswered points, all of a sudden that player is plus-10 and they haven’t scored a single basket.

I have a couple of counters to this. First, if a player’s plus-minus for a given game is dramatically different than everyone else on his team, it tells you something. And secondly, the “rising tide lifts all boats” argument is more relevant in wins than losses. If a team wins, it’s most likely that several players performed well enough to inflate the plus-minus of teammates that didn’t perform as well but shared court time with them. Therefore, I believe that plus-minus tells us more about how players performed in losses than it does in wins. If a team loses, especially by a close margin, then any single player might have changed the outcome if they had performed slightly better. Continue Reading…

While the start of Atlanta’s season has been fairly strong, stronger than last year’s 7-6 prelude to the franchise’s first 60 win season, there are a few notable areas for improvement. The most glaring of that group has to be rebounding, which helped foil the Hawks’ attempts to reach the NBA Finals just a few months ago and is currently foiling their endeavors to retain the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Most attribute the Hawks’ struggles in this area to a lack of size on the roster but it has become clear that most of the blame falls squarely on the overall scheme of the team. It matters less the stature of the players and more how hard the players crash the glass.

The below is a table of the Hawks’ rebounding performance in every year since coach Mike Budenholzer has taken the helm. I’ve listed the league finish in each rebounding percentage estimate via Basketball Reference.

OReb% DReb%
2013-14 28th 17th
2014-15 30th 22nd
2015-16 28th 29th

In fairness, in every year of Larry Drew’s tenure from 2010 to 2013 his teams finished in the bottom five of offensive rebounding percentage, but those teams were above average on the other end of the floor in each of those three seasons. The trend under the current regime is discouraging, nonetheless. Continue Reading…

The Hawks have jumped out to a 3-1 record in the first week, despite a barely positive point differential. Still, the team like many is attempting work new members into a fast-paced offense and a defense that has to counter a league-wide pace-and-space movement. Some growing pains are to be expected, and this stage of the season is the least predictive of overall performance.

With those qualifiers out of the way, an early story of this Hawks 2015-16 campaign is the strong play from a unit that was expected to be their weakest. I previously wrote about why rumors of the Hawks decline on the wings would be greatly overstated, at least defensively.

But who would have thought two guys perceived to be too small and not skilled enough to play big time minutes at this level would be the steadying force of the team thus far? We know the offensive talents Kyle Korver brings to the table and Thabo Sefolosha’s role on the team was etched in stone long ago as a long-armed defender, assuming full recovery from a NYPD-induced leg fracture.

That duo isn’t the two guys to which I’m alluding, however. Kent Bazemore and Lamar Patterson, please step forward.

Kent Bazemore profiles as a gazelle-like slasher with impressive hops, but jump shooting was never one of his biggest talents. After signing with Atlanta on a lean two year, $4 million deal, Baze responded with inconsistent but somewhat promising shooting performance last year.


Many thanks to Austin Clemens and his shot chart data for the above map. The size of the circles represents frequency of shot attempts and the colors range from red to blue, indicating high field goal percentages to low. Kent was most efficient in the right corner and the left wing, but at most other spots on the floor there is a lot of blue, especially in the midrange area. Continue Reading…

I’m happy to present a guest column from Joshua Broom, who exhaustively covers the Atlanta Hawks as editor of FanSided blog Soaring Down South — BG.

By Joshua Broom

My mantra regarding this season’s Atlanta Hawks’ hopes for optimal success can be summed up sufficiently in a succinct nine word phrase: “So goes Jeff Teague, so go the Atlanta Hawks.”

Though, if we dig a little deeper, maybe the words between those quotes should be expanded a bit to read “So goes Jeff Teague’s shooting efficiency, so go the Atlanta Hawks.”

To illustrate just how prevalent a factor Teague’s overall shooting accuracy was in Atlanta’s historical 60-win regular season, we see that the 2014-15 debut All-Star shot an effective field goal percentage of 50% in those victories while knocking down a respectable 35% of his 3-point attempts.

However, in 20 of Atlanta’s 22 losses in 2014-2015, Teague’s effective field goal percentage plummeted to just 46%. Even more vexing for Atlanta was that in those defeats, their floor general’s 3-point percentage fell off drastically to a paltry 29%. Continue Reading…

Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha is the subject of a feature by Nathaniel Penn of GQ published earlier today. Among many details regarding the circumstances of his arrest by NYPD, Sefolosha told Penn that his resulting injury may have derailed the Hawks’ chances of competing for an NBA championship:

I don’t get a lot of publicity for it because I never toot my own horn, but yeah, I think I’m possibly the best, or one of the best, defenders in this league. Not in a selfish way, but I like to think that maybe with me, we would have had a chance to win a title. I think I would have done a great job on LeBron [whose Cavs defeated the Hawks in the Conference Finals]. Watching my team from the bench was the worst experience a basketball player can have.

I couldn’t agree more. When the Hawks signed Sefolosha as a free agent from Oklahoma City, where he faced LeBron’s Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals, I contacted writer and Daily Thunder publisher Royce Young and asked his thoughts about a potential move to small forward for Sefolosha. Young expressed doubt about Sefolosha’s ability to guard bigger wings:

At small forward, Thabo can get muscled a bit, but he really was the Thunder’s de facto backup to Durant. He played small forward in a lot of smallball lineups, and he survived because he’s got great length and plays exceptionally hard. But bigger forwards definitely could bully him a bit. He’s at his best defending a perimeter player, or a guy that loves to isolate (like James Harden). I don’t think you could rely on him to check LeBron or Melo or someone like that, though.

Continue Reading…

I love former NBA players who think they know basketball. It provides me with an endless stream of entertainment, whether it’s Michael Jordan drafting Adam Morrison and Kwame Brown or Reggie Miller and Rick Fox predicting that the Hawks would miss the playoffs last season. That’s not to say I think Charles Barkley is a poor basketball analyst. He’s among the very best. But he’s dead wrong about the Hawks finishing outside the top five in the East this season.

Last year at this time I was the only NBA writer who predicted that the Hawks would compete for the top seed in the East. My reasoning was fact-, not wish-based. I argued that if the Horford-less Hawks took the Pacers to seven games, a team that would have been the favorites in the East last season if not for Paul George’s broken leg, then the Hawks plus Horford could compete with anybody in the East.

Let the record show that the Hawks were competitive with everybody in the East last season. Yes, they stumbled at the end, but not before injuries impacted six of the team’s top seven rotation players. Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver suffered ankle injuries. DeMarre Carroll hurt his knee. Paul Millsap suffered a shoulder injury that would have ended the season for most players. Thabo Sefolosha was lost for the season. And, after a fast start to the season that placed him among the league’s plus-minus leaders, Pero Antic struggled through the second half of the season after a recurrence of ankle issues. Continue Reading…

Let the record state that the day before playing the Memphis Grizzlies might not be the best time to state your case for an expanded role as an NBA point guard. On Wednesday, Hawks reserve Dennis Schröder was quoted from an interview with Sport Bild (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia) saying that he will “look for other opportunities” if he does not eventually progress to a starting role with the Atlanta Hawks.

The day after his comments were published, Schröder shot 2-for-9 against the Grizzlies, scored six points with zero assists and committed four fouls. “It’s probably the wrong team to find our rhythm against offensively,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer joked in the postgame media availability after the Hawks fell to the Grizzlies 82-81 in Wednesday’s final home game before the start of the regular season.

The Grizzlies, playing a rotation similar to what they will play once the regular season starts, are also probably the wrong team for a young player to face while making the case for a starting role. Not that I doubt Schröder is on a laser-guided trajectory toward eventual starter status. After only two seasons in the league, I believe it’s only a question of when, not if. Continue Reading…

On Monday, ESPN writers Brian Windhorst and Kevin Arnovitz broke a major story with inside details on the controversy that embroiled the Hawks last summer and led to the team’s sale. Yesterday Windhorst appeared on Grantland’s Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe, provided still more details and asserted that Mike Budenholzer “grabbed the power” from Danny Ferry while the latter was seeking to be reinstated as GM.

Following is a partial transcript of the podcast segment on the Hawks, which starts at the 54 minute mark:

Zach Lowe: “The Bud-Ferry thing is fascinating because, as you said, Ferry fought for him to get hired.”

Brian Windhorst: “Before last season, Ferry goes to Bud and they talk about the situation and Bud suggests that he resign because it would be best for the team to not have a distraction hanging over them during camp and during the season.”

ZL: “Is there an element to this story at all of Bud seizing a power vacuum a little bit here? And I don’t mean that in a bad, Machiavellian way, but people around the league are curious about that angle.”

BW: “That was Spurs on Spurs violence right there. That was a Spurs family, basically, a hit really. When Danny went on leave, Mike Budenholzer became the GM essentially.”

Windhorst then describes how Ferry battled for Budenholzer’s hiring after Bud had a poor initial interview with Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson. During the 2013 NBA Finals, Ferry asked Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to speak with Levenson to try to convince him to give Budenholzer a second interview. Levenson was so impressed by Popovich’s case for Bud that he granted a second interview and eventually hired him. Continue Reading…

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst have published an exquisitely-detailed, must-read account of how Danny Ferry’s hiring as Hawks general manager in 2012 pulled the organization apart. As the writers recount, the Hawks engaged in a bidding war with the Philadelphia 76ers for Ferry’s services, which allowed Ferry to secure an unprecedented contract, referred to as a “golden ticket” by other front office personnel:

Levenson addressed Ferry’s concerns with one of the most wide-ranging, demanding contracts ever scored by an NBA general manager: A six-year contract at more than $2 million per season, guarantees the ownership would invest tens of millions into both a D-League team and a new practice facility and, the big one, Ferry would report to only one man in the organization — Levenson.

Executives around the league were taken aback. A six-year contract was unheard of outside the likes of Pat Riley or Gregg Popovich. The guarantees to invest in infrastructure were never before seen. The written assurance of one boss was an ideal but never a contracted item. Other general managers started referring to Ferry’s arrangement as the “Golden Ticket.”

Once Ferry received his golden ticket, he immediately set about modernizing the Hawks, to the dismay of minority owner Michael Gearon Jr. According to Arnovitz and Windhorst, Gearon Jr. objected to Ferry’s desire to modernize the team’s medical staff and PR department, and to have Hawks’ legend and television play-by-play announcer Dominique Wilkins take steps to improve his on-air analysis of the team. Gearon Jr. also apparently objected to Ferry’s decision to trade Marvin Williams. Continue Reading…

The Hawks entered the offseason with a problem almost any team would gladly accept: too many players outperformed expectations. By virtue of signing Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll each to contracts two summers ago that were swiftly proved as club-favorable, the Hawks had a salary cap crunch in trying to re-sign them both.

The duo’s two year deals had both expired, removing the team’s use of Bird Rights that requires three years with the same team to shoot past the salary cap to re-sign free agents. Market value deals in free agency ballooned with the rising cap, as teams were suddenly flush with cap space to match their deep pockets as the result of an upcoming luxurious national TV deal for the league.

Given that DeMarre was both recovering from a knee injury and wholly justified in looking to cash in off his rapid ascent from fringe rotation player just two seasons prior, a team-friendly discount was out of the question. Carroll would quickly ink a 4 year, $60 million deal with the Toronto Raptors soon after the calendar turned to the 2015-16 NBA season on the heels of postseason averages of 14.6 points per game and 40.3 percent from three. This was all despite a sagging Hawks offense around him from March onward. Continue Reading…