Why 3-point Shooting Will Carry the Hawks into the Playoffs

Bo Churney —  October 18, 2012
NBA Preseason Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Could the Hawks be an even better team than they were last year? Could they even take a venture deep into the playoffs?

Sure, they made some trades; Joe Johnson’s gone. Marvin Williams is in Utah now, and Kirk Hinrich is back with the Bulls. All three are known around the league as plus defenders, and Marvin and Joe played pretty well offensively last season. Point is that those three guys are gone and someone has to replace them.

Enter: three-point shooting barrage.

It’s not that Joe and Marvin were terrible at shooting from deep; they had percentages of .388 and .389 last year, which are well above the league average. It’s just that two of the players that are likely to usurp many of their shots, Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver, are even better. (both players’ career averages from behind the arc are comfortably over .400)

Here’s the kicker: those two aren’t the only ones on the Hawks who know how to knock down three-pointers. John Jenkins, Lou Williams, Jeff Teague, and Devin Harris can also hit those shots with proficiency. In fact, let’s take a look.

3pt numbers

That’s right; those six players have combined to shoot almost 40% from behind the arc the last three years. Even if you take out Jenkins’s college numbers, that number drops to a pathetic 39%.

Oh wait, that’s not pathetic at all. You know what can happen if just one of these guys gets hot?

I think I could live with that from time to time.

So, what about the playoffs? Of course, there’s the old cliche “Defense wins championships”, and the Hawks defense appears to have taken a step back. (even though Al Horford and Josh Smith are still really, really good at that defense thing) However, let’s take a look at what the five best three-point shooting teams in the East have done the past few years.

2009 10 3pointers2010 11 3pointers

 

 

 

 

 

 

2011 12 3pointers

In summary, only two teams that made the top five in the East did not make the playoffs. Those two outliers? A Detroit team whose best players were Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey, and a Toronto squad that was dead-last in defense, but still almost made the playoffs.

Essentially, as long as the Hawks don’t detonate and finish in the bottom three defenively (the Pistons were 28th the season where they finished first in three-point shooting), a playoff spot is very well secured. I think still think Atlanta finishes in the top 15 in defense, and Clipperblog’s Nick Flynt thinks that the Hawks will stay in the top ten. (We actually have a bet on where they finish on that end of the court)

While this may not be the best of indicators, it is definitely a bit of a trend that the Hawks appear to be on the positive side of. Considering that the team has never really been near the top of the league in both offense and defense in the same season, it’s a possible change that I would greatly welcome, and one that could lead the Hawks to a nice seeding come playoff time.

Bo Churney

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