As the final buzzer sounded around Philips Arena to officially signal the defeat of the Atlanta Hawks against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon, the grim realization of what this season is probably going to entail for the Hawks sounded also.
The Hawks are now 1-6 (now losers of six straight games after their opening night victory in Dallas against the Mavericks), bottom of the Eastern Conference and are tied for the worst record in the league with — ironically enough — the Dallas Mavericks.
More than that record (which can be misleading, no matter what team you are at this stage of the season), the team just hasn’t been generally fun to watch. They’re not involved in Brooklyn Nets-kind of losses where the team has played well and have been fun to watch, even if they’ve lost. The Hawks, while they have been competitive (and injury stuck, it must be said), have not been fun to watch and — outside of John Collins — there’s not a lot to look forward to when the Hawks step on the floor every night.
The eye-test hasn’t been kind to the Hawks so far this season, but do the stats say anything different? Is there some/any encouragement to be found in the early season numbers? What else is standing out in the Hawks’ first seven games from a statistical point of view?
Well, let’s have a look at them, find out and talk about some:
Atlanta Hawks early season stats
|3PM (per game)||9.7||19|
|2nd Chance Points||11.6||20th|
|Points off Turnovers||18.6||8th|
|PITP (Points in the paint)||36.9||28th|
Most of those stats are fairly self explanatory, though, there’s definitely a few items of interest, shall we say, to discuss.
First, is the offense.
It was always going to be a struggle this season, and that was only compounded when Dennis Schröder went down with that ankle injury he sustained in Brooklyn.
In the five games Schröder has played this season, the Hawks have averaged 103.6 points per game, and the offensive rating when Schröder was on the court was 100. When Schröder was sidelined for two games with an ankle injury, the Hawks averaged 89.5 points per game and the offensive rating with Schröder off the court is 98.3.
This Hawks offense was always going to struggle, even with Dennis in the lineup, but when Dennis — a player who can create his own shot, collapse the defense and set up others — is out of the picture, it’s far worse. In general, the Hawks just struggle to score, and that’s reflected in the 42.4% shooting from the field — 28th in the league. Only the Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls shoot lower percentages from the field.
For the season, the Hawks score an average of 99.6 points per game (25th in the league) and post an offensive rating is 99.2 — 24th in the league.
There’s nothing to really suggest that the offense is going to drastically improve as the season goes on (though, you expect incremental improvements as the team continues to gel/play together), it’s about where people expected it to be…
Next is three-point shooting.
The Hawks, as you can see, don’t hoist a lot of threes per game (21st overall in attempts per game) but the ones they do take they hit fairly often. To shoot 37.4% from three and rank 8th in the league in three-point percentage is not too shabby at all.
The Hawks can thank Marco Belinelli and Taurean Prince for these numbers — Belinelli is shooting 55% from behind the arc on 5.5 attempts per game while Prince is shooting 50% on 3.4 attempts per game.
It would be very surprising if both Belinelli and Prince continued to shoot 50% or higher from behind the arc for a prolonged period of time, but if they can shoot in the high 30’s, low 40’s (percent) from three that would certainly help the Hawks. Though, you could argue that Belinelli and Prince shooting over 50% from three hasn’t helped the Hawks that much, since their record is 1-6…
As much as you can’t expect Belinelli and Prince to continue to shoot over 50% from three, don’t expect Luke Babbitt to shoot 25% from three as he is right now.
Babbitt is a 40% three-point shooter over his seven year career — he didn’t just forget how to shoot. Expect Babbitt to find his shooting touch soon, he’s too good of a shooter to shoot the way he is right now.
Ultimately, it’s surprising that the Hawks rank 8th in three-point percentage… Just don’t expect it to stay that way (but definitely be excited if Taurean Prince can shoot in the high 30’s, low 40’s from three).
Alright, next we have free thr- …Wait, there’s something the Hawks rank first in???
Yes, somehow, the Hawks rank first in the league at something — free throw percentage. Quite the turnaround from last season, though it’s obviously very early still…
The Hawks ranked 28th last season in free throw percentage, 72.8%, largely thanks to Dwight Howard (53.3% from the line). Without Dwight bringing the Hawks down at the free throw line, the percentages are back up, the Hawks are shooting a blistering 85.8% from the line so far this season.
Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are both perfect from the line, so far, Dennis Schröder is shooting 90% from the line, Dewayne Dedmon is shooting 89% while Taurean Prince is shooting 83% from the line.
There have also been big improvements at the line from Mike Muscala and Kent Bazemore. Muscala is up to 90.9% from the line having shot 76% last season while Baze is shooting 89.3% this season having shot 70.8% last year. This is particularly impressive from Bazemore, who is also getting to the line four times a game this year having got to the line 2.3 times last season.
It’s early for all of these guys (and Belinelli and Ilyasova won’t always be perfect from the line) but the early signs look good for the Hawks at the free throw line when it comes to converting the free throws they do shoot. You’d just like them to shoot a few more — 25th in attempts per game.
The Hawks’ bench has also been impressive: averaging 40.3 points per game, 7th best in the league.. Well, when I say the Hawks’ bench, I really mean Marco Belinelli (14.6 points per game) and John Collins (11.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game) have been impressive. Mike Muscala has been solid, to be fair (though some would argue otherwise and, perhaps, defensively I could understand the argument).
With all due respect, the rest of the Hawks’ bench have struggled so far this season.
Malcolm Delaney’s struggles are well documented by fans: 5.1 points per game on 31.7% shooting from the field and 30.8% from three in 21 minutes per game. Yeah, he has struggled so far, but he’s not going to do this all season (you would hope). He can’t play a whole lot worse.
Again, Luke Babbitt, you’d imagine he’ll (A) see more minutes eventually and (B) will eventually shoot like he has everywhere else in his career.
DeAndre’ Bembry will eventually return from his wrist injury, and he will certainly bolster the bench, which can use all the playmaking, defense — and just general talent — it can get.
Moving onto something more positive (I know, I’m surprised too), turnovers have been a good story so far this season for the Hawks, as they’ve committed an average of 14.4 per game, ranking 5th in the league.
Last season the Hawks were not a great team when it came to turnovers — 28th in the league with 15.8 per game. This early turnaround in turnovers has come from subtraction of others and improvement of others.
Dennis Schröder — to his credit — has improved so far this season in this department, as he has cut down his turnovers from 3.3 a game from a season ago to just two a game, while the 2.3 turnovers Dwight Howard committed per game last season has been replaced by a steady one a game by Dewayne Dedmon.
The only negative when it comes to turnovers is Taurean Prince. Prince is averaging 3.3 turns per game (including a seven turnover outing against the Heat), up from the one a game he committed last season. An increase in turnovers by Prince should’ve obviously been expected this season — he’s playing more minutes per game (obviously, being a starter) and his usage rate is, as you’d expect, also up from 17.1% to 23.2%.
However, 3.3 turns per contest is a little high for Prince, but I expect this to come down.
I doubt this turnover consistency will be a season long thing for the Hawks, but we shall see — it would definitely help the Hawks limit opponents more if they can take care of the ball and not present the opposition with turnover opportunities/points.
If you were to look at these stats — not knowing the Hawks’ record — you wouldn’t believe those stats are those of a 1-6 team. They’re not spectacular in any stat but they’re not horrible either. There’s no stat you’d look at there and think ‘Oof, that’s not good at all.’ The offensive rating isn’t absolutely awful (it’s not great but not awful) and the defensive rating is O.K.
I’ve said a number of times, the Hawks have been competitive. A couple of things go their way, they win a couple of these close games they’ve been involved in, and they could easily sit with a 3-4 record.
There are teams with better records who have arguably, played worse than the Hawks — the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks for example.
You also have to remember that five of the Hawks’ seven games took place on the road. Early season stats don’t always represent where a team truly is, this is even more so the case in the Hawks’ case with all those road games.
But, ultimately, the only stat that counts at the end of the season is the record and where that places the Hawks in the standings — right now, that’s 1-6 and last.
The road doesn’t get easier for the Hawks in the near future, with games against the Philadelphia 76ers on the road, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics all to come in the next week. Stay tuned.