The Atlanta Hawks are riding high with their current win streak so before last night’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder we decided to take a look at some of the metrics to see what are some of the elements that has led to this teams success.
The average fan can easily point to the Hawks and say the reason they are winning is because of new Interim Coach Nate McMillan but that would be an oversight into some of the nuance of what it takes to win basketball games. The fact that Nate has done a good job coaching this team goes without saying and he is on track to be the Coach of the Month for the Eastern Conference but we are going to take a dive into the numbers and see what they are telling us.
Taking Care of Business
We hear the term “taking care of your business” all the time in the NBA and what that means in sports lingo is winning the games that you are “supposed” to win. One thing this current Hawks team is doing well is winning the games that they are supposed to win. Things happen in the NBA and just because you are supposed to win doesn’t mean winning is guaranteed or will come easy. As of print the Atlanta Hawks are 6-0 in the month of March.
It has to be noted that this might be the softest part in the Hawks schedule. Timing is everything and the Hawks managed to play the Heat without Jimmy Butler, the Raptors without Fred Van Fleet, Paschal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Throw in a Houston Rockets team on a 15 game losing streak without Christian Wood. What you won’t get from Hawks fans is empathy because the injury bug has been strong this season in Atlanta.
However, playing teams that are at the bottom is something that needs to be taken into consideration.
Opponents in February – 184-207 – 47.06%
Opponents in March – 94-145 – 39%
Free Agent Dividends
As time would have it bodies began to heal, minutes increased and the Hawks are now seeing increased production on their investments. While the Hawks are still waiting on the appearance of Kris Dunn, guys like Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo are off to their best months as Atlanta Hawks.
The first two months of the season Hawks GM Travis Schlenk took a lot of heat because the free agent assassins that were hired did not produce like many thought they would. The group of assassins looked more like a group of wounded warriors.
Here is a brief snapshot of improvements of Gallinari and Rondo between the months of February and March.
12 ppg … 35% FG … 36% 3pt … 3.5 rebs … 23. Mins per game
19.2 ppg … 51.4% FG … 48% 3pt … 6.0 .. 30 mins per game
3.4 ppg … 34% FG … 38.5% 3pt … 3.0 asst … 15.5 mpg
4.5 ppg … 45% FG … 50% 3pt … 3.7 asst … 14.4 mpg
One clear take away from these numbers are that both players are shooting more efficiently in the early games of March albeit a small sample size. For a player like Gallinari whose value is making shots this is extremely important because you simply aren’t going to get much defensively from him at this stage in his career. Also you see the minutes for him have increased which is a sign that he is no longer on a minutes restriction like he was in January and February.
Bogi and the Bench
The return of Bogdan Bogdanovic was a welcome sight for the Hawks and their fans and as a result Skylar Mays was pushed back deeper on the depth chart. Mays will get his shot in time but Bogi is the accomplished vet so it was clear he was going to get those minutes. Mays gave you 10 mins a night in February.
To show how it all connects together, the back-up point guard position was not an area of strength for the Hawks in February. As a result Trae Young’s minutes scooted up to 36 mins a game compared to 32 mins per game in early March. This might not seem like a big deal but an extra 4 minutes a game is huge when you talk about having enough energy to close out games. The Hawks struggled as a team closing out games and I believe the answer to that issue is more nuanced than just one singular factor. Here is a small snapshot of 4th quarter bench play in February to March (keeping in mind the small sample size of March).
4th Qtr Bench Play (Feb to March)
Minutes: 4.5 – 4.8
Points 10.8 – 9.2
FG% 42.6 – 54.5
3pt % 49.1 – 53.8
Plus / Minus +1.3 – +3.5
The Hawks are about to begin an 8 game road trip that will be a good litmus test for what this team may or may not be. Is it possible that these Hawks aren’t as bad as their February record ((4-11) and not as great as their March record (7-0)? There is certainly evidence to support the belief that you were never as bad as you thought or not as perfect as your record says. If that is the truth and the Hawks are somewhere in the middle that still might be good enough for a ticket to the playoffs.
Only time will tell.