Monday, January 02, 2012

How the Hawks Are 3-1, Is the Start Sustainable?

A few items to watch as the Hawks prepare to play the two best teams in the East, the Heat and the Bulls, a combined four times this week:

1) Offensive rebounding -- The Hawks were next-to-last in the league in offensive rebounding last season which only exaggerated the team's reliance on long, two-point jump shots to score points. Through four games this season, the Hawks have rebounded more than 30% of their misses, with Marvin Williams (11%), Zaza Pachulia (19.8%), Al Horford (9.4%), and Willie Green (9.2%) leading the way.
Can this be sustained? Sure, if Williams and Pachulia continue to play this well, they deserve more playing time and, historically, both have been above average rebounders. If Josh Smith stops hanging around the perimeter on offense, he could get more involved on the offensive glass, too.
2) Limiting turnovers -- Not turning the ball over and offensive rebounding were the twin pillars of Mike Woodson's offense that destroyed inferior opposition during the 2009-10 season. It's still an effective combination in 2011-12.
Can this be sustained? I think so. It's not like every single Hawk has taken good care of the ball. Pachulia, Pargo, and Radmanovic all have turnover rates above 20% so there's a cushion for when the starters begin to turn the ball over at a rate closer to their career averages.
3) Forcing turnovers -- The Hawks were next-to-last in forcing turnovers last season. Through four games, they're 8th in the league. The Hawks are still in the bottom five of the league in possessions per game but that has more to do with what they're doing well offensively than an inability to get the ball back.
Can this be sustained? I'm skeptical. Jeff Teague's athleticism adds something to the team's perimeter defense but I don't think the second unit will be nearly as successful trapping better opposition.
4) Interior defense -- Opponents have made 48.1% of their shots at the rim. That's the best at the rim defense in the league, 14.6 percentage points better than the league average.
Can this be sustained? No. The Heat led the league in opponents field goal percentage on shots at the rim last season. They allowed 58% of those shots to be made. With Smith and Horford, interior defense can continue to be a strength but not to that degree.
5) Three-point shooting -- Last season, the Hawks were slightly below the league average in three-point attempts per game* and three-point field goal percentage. Through four games, the Hawks are comfortably above the league average in both categories.
Can this be sustained? Probably not. Joe Johnson and Vladimir Radmanovic are both making at least 40% of their three-point attempts. Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams are both making at least 50% of their three-point attempts. That won't continue. On the other hand, the Hawks probably will continue to take 20 long, two-point jump shots every game but will begin to make more than 27% of those shots so, again, there's a cushion as players drift toward their career averages.
*Partially due to the low number of possessions per game, but since the Hawks are still in the bottom five of the league in possessions per game so far this season, I think it's a fair year-to-year comparison.


Shashank said...

Also the Hawks have played the Nets twice and the Wizards once, not exactly top competition

Nick Nafpliotis said...

True, but they have looked very balanced and on top of things in those wins. This should be a good test to see where we are really at.