Sunday, November 15, 2009

Best in The East?

The Hawks attempted to make the case in back-to-back games this weekend against the Celtics and the Hornets.

Now the standings say so.

Going into Sunday's games, (12) percent of the way into the season, there stand the Atlanta Hawks at 8-2, top record in the East. It's a small sample of games, but taking it as a progress report, who wouldn't take that grade?

But the question is can the Hawks make it last?

They have the win in Boston, but they also have the loss in Charlotte. With the exception of that upset to Larry Brown's crew and a momentary lapse of being in Los Angeles, the Hawks have shown a new side to them--one of strong rebounding, active defense, and even more firepower than before and haven't been beaten.

We were skeptical that this version of the team could improve on a (47) win season and a second round appearance against the conferences' best before the season.

Now? We might be willing to believe.


Wrote a Blog About It---Like to Hear It, Here it Goes

There are (3) big reasons we have seen that helps the Hawks chances at advancing their cause this postseason.

3. Improved Firepower

The Hawks were suspected to have more depth and so far the substitutions of Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith for RFM and Solomon Jones have been well received.

RFM had a good year last year, but it's clear that Crawford is at least Murray on Jamal's bad days and a level above Flip on his better days. Crawford's PER is currently at (20), which would be the best of his career, which logically poses the question if he can keep up this level of efficiency.

As has been well documented, Crawford has never played a single playoff game. The win totals of the teams he's been on are (15, 21, 30, 23, 33, 23, 33, 23, and 29).

The best players and their PER for those corresponding seasons:

2000-2001: Elton Brand, 20.4
2001-2002: Brad Miller, 19.6
2002-2003: Donyell Marshall, 18.4
2003-2004: Jamal Crawford, 15.9, then Jerome Williams, 15.4
2004-2005: Stephon Marbury, 21.9
2005-2006: Channing Frye, 18.1
2006-2007: David Lee, 20.2
2007-2008: Zach Randolph/David Lee, 18.0
2008-2009: Andris Biedrins, 19.1

What does it mean? Well, Jamal may not have played with as much talent as the Hawks have had collectively, but indiviually speaking it's no different from a top-end perspective than the Hawks (Joe Johnson, 18.2). Can Crawford's game improve so strongly based on a stronger team? So far, so good.

2. Attack!

While the Hawks haven't made a commitment to the post, they have been heading toward the hoop more, reduced their dependency on the 3---rate from (20) to (17) per game, and raised their offensive efficiency to second in the league. (All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference) They are among the leaders at points-in-the-paint and that has resulted in more open looks for The Backcourt, especially against lesser comp. Their game pace is faster, too---8th in the league right now compared to 24th a year ago. 

1. Josh Smith and Defensive Rebounding

Maybe the most obvious example of the above, Smith has taken his game to another level thus far this season. Always known as the biggest X in the x-factor, Smith's PER is at (25) so far and has stayed firm to the commitment to playing around the hoop on the offensive end and has taken his game up a notch all around.

Between Smith and Al Horford's improvement, the Hawks have jumped to 10th from 24th in defensive rebounding percentage, a huge area of opportunity going into the season. The difference that these two have made has put the Hawks in the discussion of best in the East right now.

Bravo and Encore

For further evidence to defy THHB's skepticism, The Hawks are on top of Basketball Reference's Simple Rating System for the entire league and are playing so well together right now, they even seem to walk off the court in unison.

Even if you don't believe that it will last--if you are a Hawks fan, enjoy this run. How long has it been since the Hawks have been the best even over a 10 game stretch?

THHB recognizes that Hoopinion is doing a much more stellar job tracking season long themes statisically than in this space. More fuel for the fire can be provided in the Comments Area.


CoCo said...

If they can play with the same enthusiasm and hustle that they've played with thus far this season then there's no reason they can't sustain this.

Jason Walker said...

For the last couple of seasons, that's been a big if--but I'm willing to believe!

thirdfalcon said...

These kind of articles make me happy, and scare the crap out of me at the same time.

Ron E. said...

The Boston win notwithstanding, I'm still skeptical the Hawks will win enough road games to finish first or second in the conference. They might be able to take the 3rd seed though if everything goes right.