Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Brief Look at the Sustainability of a Hot Start

The Atlanta Hawks are 3-0. Their opponents are 2-3 when not playing the Hawks. It's far too early to draw conclusions about how good this team is but let's try and form an educated opinion about how sustainable (for good and for ill) the team's performance over the first three games is.

The 2010-11 Atlanta Hawks through three games vs. the 2009-10 Atlanta Hawks.


SeasonOff EffeFG%FT RateOR%TO%

The 2010-11 Hawks have been slightly more efficient than even the extremely efficient (efficiency valid during the regular season only) 2009-10 Hawks. The sharp increase in turnovers (which may abate as the team settles into the running the new offense) has not been as large a factor as the combination of improved shooting from the field and more frequent trips to the free throw line.

It should be noted that the Hawks will not shoot 85.9% from the free throw line for the entire season. A return to normalcy there will impact both the team's free throw rate and offensive efficiency.

In related news, the Hawks are almost uniformly outperforming their career TS% early this season and a reversion to something closer to their career averages should be expected no matter how much Larry Drew is aiding the quality of looks from the field or making it easier for players to get to the free throw line.

NameTS% CareerTS% 2010-11

It should be noted that, though Joe Johnson is not over-performing in terms of scoring efficiency to the same degree as some of his teammates thus far, his usage rate through three games is over 30% which makes even a relatively small improvement in efficiency extremely valuable.


SeasonDef EffeFG%FT RateOR%TO%

The early returns on not switching every screen are much as expected: improved defensive rebounding and more fouling. Of course, given the 2010-11 sample size, the improved defensive rebounding may just be a function of Marc Gasol missing the game in Memphis.

It would be a great benefit to the team should the defensive rebounding improvement prove genuine both as a way to keep opponents from scoring and to attack offensively. The Hawks have, at Larry Drew's encouragement, increased the pace of play so far this season.


Some of that increase is due to the increase in turnovers committed but some, at least to these eyes, is due to effective defensive rebounding partnered with a commitment to attacking offensively off of opponents' misses.

It should also be noted that, through three games of the 2009-10 season, the Hawks averaged 97.7 possessions per game.

The Hawks are not doing anything (outside of the rate at which they convert their free throw attempts) outrageous in achieving their early success and there are clearly areas for plausible improvement despite the quick start. Said start may yet to prove to have quite a bit to do with playing the Grizzlies, 76ers, and Wizards but, as of now, there's no obvious reason to discount the general competence of the 2010-11 Atlanta Hawks.

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