From the "wait, what?" category comes this reversal of prognostication from the pages of one of our favorite analytical venues, Basketball Prospectus and, specifically, Brandon Doolittle.
Previous season has seen BP, among others like John Hollinger, predicting lottery doom for the Hawks, as we noted previous to this past season's efforts.
For example, last season BP's Doolittle penned the Hawks chapter of Pro Basketball Prospectus and, while showing the Hawks with a 31 win prediction, he dutifully noted that the Hawks consistently outpaced the eerily accurate SCHOENE prediction, offering it as hope for Hawks fans that they've been wrong before. The Hawks went on to win 40 games instead.
So, with the Hawks trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams away for the expiring contracts of players their former teams no longer wanted, surely the Hawks are set to dive even further in the statistical predictive depths.
Since, with Johnson and Williams, along with Al Horford and Josh Smith included, the tool predicted a 31-35 finish, a 47 percent winning clip, then without Joe and Marvin, the bottom would surely have to drop, right?
BP unleashes an early look at wins projections over on ESPN.com (subscription required) and tells the tale:
2. Atlanta Hawks: 48.7 | 2.5 worse
It's funny, our projections systems have never much liked the Hawks over the years and now that they've unloaded their highest-profile player, we've got them getting a better seed than at any point during Atlanta's current string of playoff teams. The Hawks' offense without Joe Johnson will get better, trading in a lot of long jumpers for more trips to the foul line. Still, it's not so much a matter of the Hawks' getting better as it is the rest of the East backsliding.
Color me conflicted here as I don't know whether to celebrate that my bold, brash prediction that the Hawks would still be better than the Nets is validated by Doolittle here or that their prediction is fatalistically off and that now means the Hawks are doomed next season.
On the positive side, it's one thing to be better than the Nets next season, but to land as the #2 seed overall in the East? Wooo daddy. I think that, if such a season were to play out, there would be more hand wringing stories across the Eastern Conference than ever before and plenty of room on the safe coaches carousel as well.
As for what may be reality, I still stand by the Hawks being more efficient next season offensively without Johnson, given the replacements brought in, but am still not sold on how the departure of Joe and Marvin will be replaced defensively next season, especially without a true, starting small forward on the roster as yet.
We'll wait until camp breaks in late October to offer our own predictions but suffice to say that if the Hawks can get ot 48 wins with the type of offense we think we'll see this season, it should be a glorious ride indeed.