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Hawks are one of three teams in NBA to make conference semifinals in each of the last three seasons.
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StatsCube: Hawks need Smith and Horford back in the paint

Posted Dec 2 2011 12:27PM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

The Atlanta Hawks are one of only seven teams to have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons and one of only three (the Celtics and Lakers are the other two) who have made the conference semifinals in each of the last three.

But no one would list the Hawks among the league's title contenders. They've seemingly reached their ceiling and have nowhere to go but down. The numbers clearly indicate that they weren't all that good last season anyway.


2010-11 Basics
Record: 44-38
Pace: 91.6 (27)
Offense: 103.2 (21)
Defense: 104.6 (15)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The Hawks managed to finish six games over .500 despite getting outscored by 67 points, a differential that would translate to a 38-win team. Only one team, the Charlotte Bobcats, overachieved in regards to their point differential more than the Hawks did.

Biggest difference between games won and expected wins
Team Pts Opp Exp W W Diff.
Charlotte 7650 7978 27.3 34 +6.7
Atlanta 7790 7857 38.1 44 +5.9
Washington 7977 8584 18.8 23 +4.2
Utah 8153 8303 34.9 39 +4.1
Cleveland 7827 8566 15.1 19 +3.9
Exp W = (82)*((Pts^16.5) / ((Pts^16.5)+(Opp^16.5)))

In terms of point differential per possession, the Hawks were the eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference and the 18th-best in the NBA. Eight of their 38 losses came by 20 or more points, and four of those were by more than 30 points. More often than not, when the Hawks lost, they lost big.

ATL takes a big step backward

The Hawks dropped nine games in the standings from the previous season, but statistically, their drop-off was far worse. On a per-possession basis, only two teams regressed more last season than the Hawks did.

Largest efficiency differential (OffRtg -- DefRtg) regression
Team 2009-10 2010-11 Diff.
Cleveland +7.3 -9.6 -16.9
Utah +4.8 -2.4 -7.2
Atlanta +4.9 -1.4 -6.4
Phoenix +5.8 -0.4 -6.2
Charlotte +1.3 -4.0 -5.3

The Cavs lost the best player in the league to free agency. The Jazz lost a Hall of Fame coach and a top-15 player in the middle of the season (they were being outscored by just 0.4 points per 100 possessions when Jerry Sloan retired). Meanwhile, the Hawks had minimal roster turnover, but fired Mike Woodson, the coach that led them to a win increase in five straight seasons.

Under Larry Drew, the Hawks weren't just a worse team. They were a very different team.

Drew's intention was to improve his team's offense by increasing ball movement. And the Hawks did go from assisting on 56 percent of their field goals in 2009-10 (16th highest rate in the league) to assisting on 61 percent of their field goals last season (fifth highest). But the increased ball movement obviously didn't help them in terms of scoring.

Drew's new system took the third-most efficient offense in the league (in Woodson's last season) and turned it into the 21st-most efficient offense. Only the Cavs (-9.3 points per 100 possessions) regressed more than the Hawks, who scored 5.7 points per 100 possessions fewer than they did the previous season.

The Hawks didn't shoot that much worse than they did the previous season, but they grabbed fewer offensive rebounds, turned the ball over more and got to the free throw line less.

Get back to the basket, Mr. Smith

Across the board, the Hawks grabbed fewer offensive rebounds last season. But the player whose offensive rebounding percentage regressed most was Josh Smith. He grabbed 6.1 percent of available offensive rebounds last season after grabbing 9.0 percent of them in 2009-10.

That regression goes hand-in-hand with Smith's shot selection. The farther Smith was away from the basket, the less chance he had to get a rebound. And last season, he was shooting far from the hoop a lot more often than he was in 2009-10. He took less than half of his shots from inside the paint, after taking nearly 3/4 of his shots from the paint in '09-10.

Josh Smith's shots, last four seasons
Season %FGA Paint %FGA Mid-Range %FGA 3PT
2007-08 64.5% 26.7% 8.6%
2008-09 65.1% 24.6% 10.2%
2009-10 74.0% 25.3% 0.6%
2010-11 49.6% 35.6% 14.8%

Smith's effective field goal percentage only dropped a fraction (from 50.5 to 50.2 percent), but along with deeper shots came fewer free throws. He attempted 106 fewer freebies than he did the year before.

You too, Mr. Horford

Smith wasn't the only Hawk whose shot selection changed dramatically. After attempting 69 percent of his shots from the paint in his first three seasons, Al Horford attempted more than half of his shots from outside the paint last season.

Like Smith, Horford got to the glass and free throw line less often. His offensive rebounding percentage regressed from 9.7 percent in '09-10 to 8.1 percent last season. His free throw attempts fell to 2.5 per 36 minutes, down from 3.4.

Horford's free throw attempt rate (FTA/FGA) put him in the company of mostly finesse big men.

Lowest free throw attempt rate among players 6-foot-10 or taller
Channing Frye 358 829 43.2% 89 107 83.2% .129
Spencer Hawes 264 568 46.5% 47 88 53.4% .155
Charlie Villanueva 313 708 44.2% 89 116 76.7% .164
Rashard Lewis 252 582 43.3% 77 96 80.2% .165
Darko Milicic 271 578 46.9% 64 115 55.7% .199
Al Horford 513 921 55.7% 150 188 79.8% .204
Ersan Ilyasova 221 507 43.6% 93 104 89.4% .205
Hedo Turkoglu 322 722 44.6% 106 156 67.9% .216
Al Jefferson 654 1319 49.6% 220 289 76.1% .219
Ryan Anderson 226 525 43.0% 95 117 81.2% .223
Minimum 500 FGA
Missing Bibby?

At the deadline, the Hawks traded Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford and Maurice Evans to Washington for Hilton Armstrong and Kirk Hinrich. Bibby's overall production has dropped in the last couple of seasons, but his shooting hasn't. And he was seemingly the glue that was holding the Hawks together.

Bibby had the Hawks' best raw plus-minus last season (plus-138 in 1,673 minutes). Atlanta was better both offensively (106.0 points scored per 100 possessions) and defensively (102.8 points allowed per 100) with him playing.

The Hawks' three most-used lineups all included Bibby, and all three were pretty good.

Hawks most-used lineups
Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford 26 384 89.1 110.4 104.0 +6.4
Bibby, Crawford, Johnson, Smith, Horford 35 232 94.0 112.7 107.2 +5.5
Bibby, Johnson, Smith, Horford, Collins 18 214 88.2 105.2 95.9 +9.2
Hinrich, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford 12 150 84.9 93.4 102.4 -9.0
Crawford, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford 29 99 93.4 91.5 119.6 -28.0

Pace: 88.7 (12)
Offense: 97.0 (13)
Defense: 102.5 (5)

The Hawks were anemic offensively throughout the postseason, but they were able to shut down the Orlando offense in the first round. Typical of the 2010-11 Hawks, they were outscored by 23 points in a series they won in six games.

Game 1 of the conference semifinals in Chicago was the Hawks' best offensive game of the postseason, but the Bulls held them to just 93.4 points per 100 possessions over the next five games.

Jamal Crawford (21-for-63, 4-for-23), Smith (35-for-90, 0-for-9), and Marvin Williams (9-for-32, 0-for-3) combined to shoot just 35 percent from the field and 11 percent from 3-point range in the series.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for 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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