FanPost

Ridiculed Hawks a sleeping giant in playoffs?

USA TODAY Sports

Analysis of effect of injuries on 2013-14 Atlanta Hawks

A major story line in the forthcoming NBA playoffs has been the futility of the Eastern Conference, a primary example being the woeful Atlanta Hawks who squeezed into the playoffs despite a record of 38-44. The rare times that the often overlooked Hawks get mentioned, they are called terrible, one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs, and that even the slumping Indiana Pacers should easily beat them.

These descriptions have led me to one conclusion: no one has actually watched the Hawks play more than a couple times this season. The Hawks are a notoriously dismissed organization. Although they have been to the playoffs sevent straight years, an Eastern Conference best, the fact that they have never advanced past the second round has led to the perception that despite a new roster, new front office, and new coach this team is the "same old Hawks". Even in Atlanta, Hawks fans are hard to find. Despite the playoff streak, the Hawks finished 28 out of 30 NBA teams in home attendance only above the Sixers and Bucks, the two worst teams in the league this year.

It has been obvious to any of the few close observers of the Hawks that this team is pretty good when they have been healthy, which unfortunately has been only a little over half of the games this year. Unable to find data on the Hawks, dependent on the players available for each game, I created my own database. I went through every regular season box score noting simply the wins and losses and the players who were not available to play in that game.

Of course the Hawks lost Al Horford, their best player twenty-nine games into the season. I primarily focus on the period after the Horford injury and do not include Horford as one of the injured players after he was made inactive. The only players included in the database are the standard starters after Horford's injury, namely Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, Paul Milsap and Pero Antic.

The findings of this research are revelatory. The Hawks record after Horford went out for the season was 22-31. When fully healthy for the entire season they were 34-14 (.708). When fully healthy after the Horford injury the Hawks went 16-7 (.696). Even more impressively, since January 18 when fully healthy (without Horford) the Hawks were red hot with a record of 15-4 (.789).

The reason for the Hawks overall dismal record was a stretch between February 4 and March 29. In this period, the Hawks lost 15 of 16 games, won five in a row, and then dropped the next six games (6-22, .214). The five game win streak took place when they were healthy. Their only two losses, during this stretch, when healthy immediately preceded the five wins and came after eight out of nine games when they had at least two unavailable players.

The primary variable in whether the Hawks won or loss was number of injuries. After the Horford injury, when the Hawks had at least two starters unavailable their record was 1-12. In the same period when they had one starter unavailable they had a record of 21-19. Again, when healthy during this period, they won 15 out of 19 games.

Now let's turn to the individual injured players to determine what effect their absence had on the team after Horford's injury.

Player

Record when unav.

Record when only player unav.

Pero Antic

5-15

4-6

DeMarre Carroll

1-8

1-2

Kyle Korver

1-7

0-4

Paul Milsap

1-6

0-2

Jeff Teague

1-2

0-1

When Pero Antic was the only player injured, the Hawks were affected little. The effect with all the other starters was enormous.

Obviously this is just a first analysis. It does not take into account the opponent, back to back games, home or road games. However the correlation is so strong it cannot be ignored. After all, unless your coach is Tom Thibodeau the players are the team and who can play is all important. Any discussion of the Hawks season or playoff chances without mention of the injuries suffered is incomplete and meaningless.

How did they do against the Pacers? All games were post Al. When healthy, they beat the Pacers by 10 at home, and as we all remember blew them out in Indiana. When Antic was out Atlanta lost by 4 at home, and when Antic and Carroll were out they lost at Indiana by 10. And let's remember, last year the Hawks took a possibly stronger Indiana team to six games. Don't be surprised if a healthy Atlanta team picks up two more win this time.

Editors note: This is a promoted fanpost by user Rob Campbell. We thank him for his contribution.

A FanPost expresses the opinion of the community member who wrote it and not that of the blog management.

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