To begin, let's jump right in and see exactly how the NBA calculates an efficiency rating for each player.
( Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks )
( Field Goals Att. - Field Goals Made )
( Free Throws Att. - Free Throws Made )
A lot of advance statistics proponents do not like this stat, because it's simply a pure production type of stat. It doesn't adjust for how long or short you've played in the game. It doesn't evaluate what you do on each possession. It's basically a stat that separates those who do produce at a high rate, and those who don't. Let's take a quick look to see who was in the top 10 in NBA Player Efficiency last year.
1) Lebron James - 31.3
2) Kevin Durant - 30.4
3) Anderson Varejao - 25.2
4) Kobe Bryant - 24.6
5) Chris Paul - 23.9
6) James Harden - 23.9
7) Al Horford - 23.2
8) Tim Duncan - 23.1
9) Lamarcus Aldridge - 22.8
10) Russell Westbrook - 22.7
This list may or may not represent who most people would consider to be the top 10 players in the league. The usual suspects like Lebron, Durant, Kobe, Paul, and Duncan are there. James Harden had a big year last year, so he's there. And despite his erratic play at times, we all know that Russell Westbrook is a baller.
What may surprise you is that Anderson Varejao was #3 on this list. He only played in 25 games last year, but during that time, he was averaging 14.1 points - 14.4 rebounds - 3.4 assists - 1.5 steals - shot 48% FG - 75% FT - and turned it over less than 2 times a game.
The other surprise will be to see Al Horford at #7 on that list. When you average 17 points - 10 rebounds - 3 assists - 1 steal - 1 block - and shoot 54% FG, your efficiency rating is going to be very good. Horford showed an indication that he was ready to take his game to the next level, by averaging almost 20 points and over 11 rebounds after the All-Star break, while continuing to dish out 3 dimes per game and shoot 55% FG.
The question now becomes, can he increase his production and still maintain the same efficiency in 2013 - 14? Normally when a player sees an increase in usage, his stats may go down, unless he's truly an elite player. Horford can do 3 things to help himself improve:
1) Develop a go-to post move
2) Get to the free throw line more
3) Make a higher percentage of his free throws
If he does all of this, we're now talking about Al Horford approaching that top 10 - 15 player in the league that a franchise can possibly build around. And with him being one of the best big men in the league, the key to his development will be to maximize his potential by surrounding him with other high quality players that can make life easier for him.
Having said all of this about Horford, I don't believe that his actual NBA Player Efficiency Rating number is more important, than where that number ranks amongst centers and/or power forwards. And that goes for all of the Hawks. I say this, because when you see where other players rank according to their position, you can see where possible mismatches and production issues may arise.
For example, let's look at the 2010 Hawks, our most successful regular season team in this era. Here are where our starting lineup + Jamal, Zaza, Mo Evans and Teague ranked at their respective positions, according to this stat. They added both regular season and playoffs together in each season. Their position ranking will be in parenthesis.
PG - Bibby ( 39 ) - Teague ( 74 )
G - Johnson ( 5 ) - Crawford ( 17 )
F - Williams ( 21 ) - Evans ( 52 )
PF - Smith ( 7 )
C - Horford ( 6 ) - Zaza ( 60 )
When you view the stat this way, you can clearly see where a player and team are strong, and where they may be weak. In 2010, Johnson, Smith, and Horford were in the top 10 in NBA efficiency at their respective positions. Jamal was top 20 at SG, while also scoring at PG. Marvin was at least lower starter quality at 21st amongst SFs.
But as you can see, the rest of the team was really lacking from a production standpoint. And because none of those guys were good defensive players, you could see how that team could be in danger come playoff time. Seeing that we didn't have a top 3 guy at a position, the instant that production started to fall amongst our main guys, we were dead in the water. No one on that bench could even begin to take up the slack.
Now, let's take a quick look at the 2013 - 14 Hawks, using last year's data.
PG - Teague ( 19 ) - Schroeder ( ? ) - Mack ( 53 )
G - Williams ( 16 ) - Jenkins ( 57 ) - Cunningham ( 81 )
F - Korver ( 20 ) - Carroll ( 44 ) - Scott ( 65 ) . . . Scott would rank ( 68 ) if put at PF
PF - Millsap ( 16 ) - Antic ( ? )
C - Horford ( 2 ) - Brand ( 32 ) - Ayon ( 63 )
With Utah trying to get Favors into the lineup more, Millsap saw a drop in his production last year. Compared to the 2011 - 12 season, he scored 2 points less and grabbed almost 2 less rebounds in 2012 - 13. With this Hawks team, however, I could see his production ticking back up to the point that he becomes a top 10 PF again.
As noted earlier, Horford has a shot to become the #1 center and possibly even a top 5 player in NBA efficiency, if he scores in the paint more, and increase and make more free throws. Dwight Howard may have something to say about that though this year.
I'm not going to say that Teague has peaked. If referees would simply start calling fouls when he gets hammered going to the hole, you'd see Teague's overall efficiency really increase. For a guy that attacks the rim pretty hard, he gets less calls than Ricky Rubio and Jeremy Lin. What I will say, is that Teague may lack the ability to take over a game, like a Kyrie Irving can. Because of that, he'll simply have a marginal impact on games, instead of an All-Star like impact.
I don't believe that Korver can have a better year than he had last year, but his production shouldn't fall off the cliff either. He'll be somewhere around 25 - 30 in efficiency amongst SFs.
And Lou is Lou. He'll score and draw fouls. And with the inexperience coming off the bench, he'll have a good shot to be in that 16 - 20 range amongst SGs once again. If the achille's injury takes away some of his speed and ability to draw fouls, his efficiency number could plummet.
The wild card this year, is John Jenkins. We must see if he can become a productive enough player in order to make decision about his future with the Hawks. And I don't think we'll be able to see this with him coming off the bench. He needs to be the starter, and see if he can get his efficiency ranking somewhere in the 30s.
As for Schroeder, here may be an indication of the type of production he can bring us next season. If he can somehow get 17 minutes a game next year, you're looking at an impact level that will be somewhere in the high 50s - low 60s. That's comparable to guys like Earl Watson, Pablo Prignoni, and Jamal Tinsley.
Here's my prediction on how the Hawks will look next season:
PG - Teague ( 16 ) - Schroeder ( 56 ) - Mack ( 71 )
G - Jenkins ( 37 ) - Williams ( 19 ) - Cunningham ( 84 )
F - Korver ( 29 ) - Carroll ( 47 ) - Scott ( 60 )
PF - Millsap ( 10 ) - Antic ( 68 )
C - Horford ( 2 ) - Brand ( 36 ) - Ayon ( 61 )
If this is the case, we're looking at about a 37 - 42 win team.