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John Schuhmann

Larry Drew
New Hawks coach Larry Drew is going to have to stress the importance of getting back on defense.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Getting back, getting on the boards and more stats questions


Posted Oct 14 2010 11:55AM

Last week, the question was which team would be the best defensively this season. On Monday, it was which would be the best offensive squad. But when it comes to team numbers, there are many more questions to be asked about the 2010-11 season.

Here are a few...

1. Can the Hawks beef up their transition defense?

As was noted on Monday, the Hawks are changing up their offense under new coach Larry Drew, but it would seem that their defense is what needs more work. Atlanta ranked third offensively and 14th defensively last season. While the Hawks made few changes to their roster this summer, they can easily improve by making transition defense a priority.

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Atlanta was the best team in the league last season at taking care of the ball, committing just 12.8 turnovers per 100 possessions. That will likely change with their new offense. But even when they weren't turning the ball over last season, only five teams allowed more fast-break points (17 per 100). By any measure, they had the league's worst transition defense.

By doing a better job of getting back on defense, the Hawks would be sacrificing some offensive rebounds, but it would be worth it. Their ratio of second-chance points to offensive boards (1.15) was below average (1.21) anyway.

2. Can the Suns top last season's Warriors in rebounding futility?

Last season, Golden State was the NBA's worst rebounding team in the last 20 seasons, grabbing just 44.4 percent of available boards. They ranked last in both offensive (20.9) and defensive (68.5) rebounding percentage.

With the addition of David Lee and Lou Amundson, the Warriors should be improved (they're at 50 percent through three preseason games). Meanwhile, Amundson's former team may be ready to claim that No. 30 spot.

The Suns ranked 14th in overall rebounding percentage last season, but they ranked 10th offensively and 29th defensively. This summer, they lost their two top rebounders (on a per-minute basis): Amundson (11.9 boards per 40 minutes) and Amar'e Stoudemire (10.3). They were replaced by Hedo Turkoglu (six rebounds per 40 minutes last season with Toronto) and Hakim Warrick (8.1 with Chicago and Milwaukee).

Through four games in the preseason, the Suns have a rebounding percentage of 47.4 percent, which isn't very good, but not quite historically bad. Eight teams have actually been worse, including the Knicks, who've grabbed a league-low 42.8 percent of available boards in their three preseason games.

3. Will the Warriors' pace slow down?

Not only were last year's Warriors historically bad on the boards, they were also the fastest-paced team of the last 19 seasons (relative to the league-wide pace). Golden State averaged 102.7 possessions per 48 minutes, over seven more than the league average. In fact, six of the 10 fastest-paced teams of the last 20 seasons were Warriors teams coached by Don Nelson.

There's a small correlation between playing a slower pace and success, but it's not big enough to say that there's a real motivation for new Warriors coach Keith Smart to slow things down. Based on the numbers through the Warriors' first three preseason games, it's not clear that he has, either.

Preseason games, because of increased turnovers, are played at a faster pace than regular season games. So far in the preseason, the Warriors have averaged 104.8 possessions per 48 minutes, which is faster than they played last year.

4. Can Orlando possibly make even more 3s?

The Magic set a record for 3-pointers made in a season last year, connecting on 841 (10.3 per game). They then went and signed 3-point specialist Quentin Richardson to replace Matt Barnes.

Barnes v. Richardson, 2009-10
Category Barnes Rank Richardson Rank
3PM 66 105 142 16
3PA 207 89 358 22
3P% 0.319 120 0.397 22
*3PA/FGA 0.372 88 0.638 3
*For players who attempted at least 200 shots.

There's a possibility that Brandon Bass will see more minutes this season, with Rashard Lewis moving to the three. Putting two non-shooters on the floor together (Bass and either Dwight Howard or Marcin Gortat) would obviously reduce the number of 3-pointers the Magic take and make.

Still, the addition of Richardson, who was only outdone by James Posey (70.1 percent) and Keith Bogans (65.8 percent) when it comes to taking shots from beyond the arc, should have the Magic challenging their own record. In the preseason, the Magic have attempted 29.3 and made 11.3 threes per game, both increases over last season.

5. Will the Knicks actually block some shots?

Over the last six seasons, the Knicks have been the picture of shot-blocking futility, averaging just 3.08 blocks per game, 1.69 fewer than the league average. Their best shotblocker in that time has been Jared Jeffries, who averaged a whopping 1.12 bpg last season ... before they traded him to Houston at the deadline.

But the Knicks have a couple of shotblockers in their rotation, with the center position likely to be a platoon of rookie Timofey Mozgov and veteran Ronny Turiaf. Mozgov has blocked six shots in three preseason games thus far and Turiaf ranked fourth in the league two seasons ago with 2.13 bpg.

There's a lot more to defense than blocking shots. But it couldn't hurt the Knicks to finally have someone who can defend the rim.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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