Atlanta Hawks 2011-12: An Objective Piece And Comparison to the NBA East's Elite

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Atlanta Hawks 2011-12: An Objective Piece And Comparison to the NBA East's Elite
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Joe Johnson and the Hawks look to matchup with the Chicago Bulls again in this postseason.

There has been some discussion as to the Hawks' chances at making it to the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond. Barring a serious upset in the first round, this road would run through the Heat and the Bulls.

Although I am an avid fan of the local team, I love following the NBA league-wide, always trying to watch as many national games as possible, as well as taking advantage of a free week of the NBA League Pass and other opportunities. I would love for the Atlanta Hawks to be talked about as a serious contender and an elite team, but most would not classify them as that this season. 

In this article, I will attempt to evaluate our chances at an upset of the Heat or Bulls. I'll try to do this as objectively as possible in evaluating the quality of the teams through the use of advanced stats. Now I don't proclaim to be John Hollinger nor can I set up simulations like he and other statistical analysts do, but I'm going to use Hoopdata.com as my source of data (as of April 18, 2012). 

Just how good are the Hawks in comparison to the Heat and the Bulls? A couple of disclaimers: I do realize we have been saddled with many injuries, most notably Al Horford. The Bulls have been without Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton for some time as well so the stats may not be completely representative of the teams' potential in the postseason when healthy, but it's certainly a good starting point.

Below is a quick and dirty advanced statistical look at the three teams discussed:

 

TEAM Pace OffEff DefEff DifEff TS%  AR  TOR  ORR  DRR   TRR   EFF
WS
AWS
PER

 

 


ATL

92.1

101.3

98.5

2.83

52.9

21.22

13.36

23.97

74.27

49.21

107.2

45.2

35.1

14.70

CHI

91.8

104.8

96.0

8.82

52.4

21.52

13.30

33.06

73.90

53.73

113.6

48.9

39.0

15.62

MIA

93.5

105.6

97.6

7.97

55.4

19.35

14.10

26.66

73.23

50.99

114.3

49.0

38.2

16.48

One of the factors deserving attention initially is the difference in scoring efficiencies. The Hawks have a positive 2.83 efficiency difference, meaning they scored an average of 2.83 points more than their opponent per 100 possessions this season. The Heat and Bulls have efficiency differentials of 7.97 and 8.82 respectively. In other words, there is a 5-6 point difference in overall efficiency between the Hawks and the other two. For comparison, that is the same difference between the Hawks and the Golden State Warriors or Toronto Raptors

 

Hollinger's PER (player efficiency rating) is a stat developed to try to quantify all the ways a player can help a team in a single metric. It is defined as being scaled as having an NBA average of 15 among players. In this form on Hoopdata, it lists a team PER that can be interpreted in the same way. The Hawks' PER is below average at 14.7 while the Bulls' and Heat's are significantly higher. I am not here to discuss the merits and/or worth of PER, but it gives some perspective into the total efficiency comparisons between the teams. 

If you prescribe to the notion that “you are what your record is”, then the standings show the Bulls (46-15) and Heat (43-17) are 10 and 7.5 games ahead of the good guys, respectively, over 60-61 games. Head to head, the Bulls went 3-1 against us, including a 21-point win in Atlanta without Rose or Hamilton. The lone win against them was a 109-94 effort in Atlanta when the Hawks shot 56.6 percent from the field and 75 percent from behind the arc.

They also had a 1-3 record against the Heat, which included a triple-overtime loss without LeBron James or Dwayne Wade stepping on the floor. The only win was an eight-point game in Miami lead by a reinvigorated Tracy McGrady, who had 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in 26 minutes off the bench that included 3-3 from long range, in what was probably his best game all season.

From the data, subjectively, I see a pretty sizeable gap between Atlanta and the other two, and it would take a large upset to get past either one. It is certainly possible, however, as shown by a win over each during the season.

What do you think?

Please leave some comments on this piece. Thanks for reading.

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