Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Year Ago Today...

...the Hawks were 17-10, had the East's fourth-best record and were two games into a six game winning streak that would culminate with them finishing 2008 with a 21-10 record.

Today the Hawks, at 19-7, have the East's fourth-best record and, with four of their next five games on the road and the lone remaining home game of 2009 against the 21-8 Cleveland Cavaliers, will do well to greet 2010 with a 21-10 record of their own.

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
2008-09 88.0
50.3 22.7
27.0 15.7
2009-10 90.6 1.151 51.0

Despite grabbing more offensive rebounds (extending possessions) and turning the ball over less often (also extending possessions), the Hawks are playing at a markedly faster pace. One could argue the cause-and-effect relationship between the increased pace and the improved offensive efficiency all day but the synchronicity has to make the long-lamenting "Why don't the Hawks play faster?" crowd smile.

Team Poss Def Eff eFG% FT Rate DR% TO%
2008-09 88.0
47.8 25.7
72.1 14.8
2009-10 90.6 1.062 49.7

The increased rate of forcing turnovers has off-set the Hawks' opponents greater propensity to make their field goal attempts, especially their three-point field goal attempts (Dec. 22, 2008: 32.6%; Dec. 22, 2009: 37.0%), than at this time last year. The increased opponents' free throw rate has resulted in opponents making one more free throw every ten games as the Hawks have, presumably, been somewhat fortunate that their opponents this year are making just 74% of their free throws (league average: 75.6%).

Massive improvements in both preventing* and forcing turnovers have perhaps overshadowed the significant improvements in both offensive and defensive rebounding. Offensively, these improvements have combined to elevate the Hawks from an above-average to an elite offense. Defensively, these improvements have served to offset the team's decline in field goal defense.

*covered by me on 12/13, by John Hollinger on 12/17, and, finally, in the AJC today

Overall, the Hawks are 6.3 points per 100 possessions better than they were on this date last year. In terms of expected wins, on December 22, 2008 the Hawks' efficiency differential had them on pace for 48 wins. They, of course, won 47. On December 22, 2009, the Hawks' efficiency differential has them on pace for 62 wins.

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