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Honesty Corner's 5 Truths: Quarter Pole Insights

As we end the first quarter of the season, HawkStr8Talk's commitment to research has given us the Good Win/Bad Loss Rankings and also muses on what LaMarcus Aldridge means to Al Horford, Teague's slump, and much more...

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Kevin C. Cox

In this season of research in HawkStr8Talk-ville, I was having trouble figuring out what metric is necessary to help us understand the Hawks season and our rebuilding effort. Our first trip through real research ended with a slightly disappointing response to our last blog. Well, it’s only disappointing in that we failed to convince EVERY Hawks fan that our most likely path to future championship prosperity is through one or more lottery draft picks. That said, it will not deter me from continuing to provide the best in statistical basis for my musings. This week’s attempt: Good Win / Bad Loss Rankings and the Aldridge Leap. So with that, it’s time for the truth to set us as free as Nelson Mandela (RIP).

Good Win / Bad Loss Rankings

Here at HawkStr8Talk HQ, I’ve long noted the lack of strength in the Hawks playoff run over the past 6 seasons. The thought being – in the regular season, we beat teams with less talent than us, we lose to teams with more talent than us, and then come playoff time – we don’t really even compete in the face of equal or better talent. So, I went to the lab to create some measure that shows the real strength in a team’s season. Something that will normalize whether a team is actually punching above average or not relative to their talent to show whether they are truly a good team, improving team, or team that is a function of its schedule.

To do so, we’ve created the Good Win / Bad Loss Rankings. In these rankings, a + ranking means that on average - you can beat similar or better teams, a – minus ranking means you normally you don’t and a 0 says that you pretty much do what is expected all based on the talent of your and your opponent’s talent. Now, I’ll go ahead and acknowledge that the judgment of Good Win vs. Bad Loss is subjective in terms of evaluation and expectations for each team, but I'm not letting that stop this great idea from coming to fruition. My general rules for now will be simple - I won’t penalize a team for losing on a back to back or to a mid-level team on the road. Otherwise, if you should have won and didn’t – Bad Loss. If you shouldn’t have won or the team is a possible contender for a top 4 playoff seed - Good Win.

Let’s look at the top 3 teams in the East & West to see how well teams truly are doing according to the GW/BL Metric:

Indiana (1st in NBA): +5 (5GW; 0BL)
Oklahoma City (3rd): +4 (5GW; 1BL)
San Antonio (3rd): +3 (3GW; 0BL)
Portland (2nd): +2 (4GW; 2BL)
Miami (5th) +1 (3GW; 2BL):
Atlanta (tied for 13th) -2 (.5GW; 2.5BL) *

Based on this ranking, the season so far has been below average for our fair Atlanta Hawks. The great thing about this ranking is that it takes into account the East’s terribleness. So, a team like the Heat can be 16-6 and show that based on their team’s talent – they aren’t playing awesome basketball. In the Hawks case, it shows that despite a .500 record – if we were good – we’d be exploiting our weak schedule for a few more wins. So, instead of looking at a 3 seed - we'd look harder at the .500 record in a terrible conference.
A few items should jump out at you:

  • I repeat - we’re 3rd in the East and yet are tied with 2 other teams for the 13th best record in the NBA. Our 3 seed would not be in the playoffs in the Western Conference. This can't be overstated.
  • It should debunk the theory that the Hawks are performing at a level to get excited about so far unless of course - you expected the Hawks to be around 7-15 or below. This is coupled with the note that we are more games further from the 2nd seed (5) than we are from the 14th seed (4.5). For those who think it would be difficult to tank, we’re only 2.5 games out of the 9th seed position. That’s one 3 to 4 game losing streak from happening.

Note: We’ll be revisiting and likely improving upon this metric as we move along through the season, so put your tweaks to the formula in the comments.

*The Hawks GW/BL games were defined as follows: .5 GW vs. the Clippers 2.5 BLs vs. Knicks, Magic, and Celtics. .5 game credit since the Clippers were on a back to back and played us at home. .5 game credit given for playing the Celtics on a back to back and that the Celtics are not as bad as advertised.

Guard Ups & Downs
One of the narratives of the year has been how well Jeff Teague has been doing so far. So much so that early on – he was being touted as an early candidate for Most Improved Player and Eastern Conference All Star, but… Teague hasn’t been playing so well lately. His FG %, 3pt %, FT % and assists are all down early this season and only his scoring and assists are up from last year overall. Now, this isn’t to say that Teague doesn’t look better this year at the quarter pole. He definitely looks improved, but the question is – did we get excited too fast? Did we overstate how well he was doing? Which Teague is the real one – the one dropping double doubles throughout the first 3 weeks of the season or this recent version? It was no secret that John Wall was likely a better PG in the East than Teague, but is Michael Carter-Williams as the 2nd best PG in the East starting to sound about right (and yes, that would be me ignoring Kyrie Irving right now)?

While we wait to see if Teague can right his recent drop in production, we can say that Shelvin Mack has secured a firm grip on the backup PG position. While I’ve been a proponent of living through the growing pains of developing a German Rondo, I will say that Mack has shown that maybe there’s upside to be gleaned yet. He’s 8th of the East’s PGs in PER (though that’s 26th among all NBA PGs). As much as I’d like to see us focus on developing talents, it’s quite possible that Mack could be worth the time we’re diverting from G-Rondo. As for G-Rondo, the D-League wasn’t what I imagined this season, but it worked for Jenkins last year, so there’s that.

The GM Report

We won’t read much into this, but when two out of three of your 1st round picks are in the D-League and another is suspending his contract in order to get competent diagnosis / treatment for his knee – let’s just say that it’s not the best week to tout the GM’s acumen. So far – we’ll keep giving Ferry more credit for his free agent signings than we’ll give him demerits for his draft picks, but this development merits further monitoring. Scrunity is appropriate when none of your draft picks have scratched serious, consistent rotation work on a rebuilding team.

In This Week’s "Why We Needed Danny Ferry 2 Years Before He Got Here" Department:
Jordan Crawford was last week’s Eastern Conference player of the week. The same Jordan Crawford who we selected and traded along with a 1st round draft pick to secure the services of Kirk Hinrich. Take a moment and let that sink in…

Can The Hawks Make The Aldridge Leap?
There has long been a debate regarding Al Horford (given the usage) and his ability to make the leap from really good to superstar production. I’ve always thought – not gonna happen, but hope springs eternal in the name of LaMarcus Aldridge. When comparing career trajectory in terms of demeanor, team worth, power forward/center preferences, league tenure, and fringe All-Star-ness - LaMarcus Aldridge is as close a fit to Al Horford as I can find. We will note though that for those who would make the assertion that Aldridge and Horford are equals, the stats and team records would beg to differ.

Aldridge 23.1PPG, 10.1RPG , 2.6APG, 0.8 BPG, 1.2SPG, 2.0TO, .793 FT, .475FG, 36.9MPG, 22.71 PER 18-4
Horford 17.5PPG, 8.0RPG, 2.5APG, 1.7BPG, 1.1SPG, 2.2TO, .656FT, .545FG, 32.7MPG, 21.30 PER 11-11

Equals or not - it’s encouraging for Al’s future prospects to see that Aldridge has seemingly made the leap necessary for his team to legitimately be seen as a contender. Whether that continues remains to be seen, but the question of whether Horford can make the Aldridge Leap has renewed itself.

Ending The Fear Factor

The Hawks have had the fortune to not indulge in seller’s remorse over the past few years. When Jordan Crawford is the worst decision you’ve made with regard to letting players go – regret shouldn’t be high on the list of emotions. I raise this point to say that if we trust Danny Ferry as much as his work to date suggests we should – the fan base shouldn’t have a problem with whatever is necessary to attain the talent necessary to truly win. So, that brings me to what players are worth trading for outside of draft picks (my overwhelming preference):

Players In The Now - Deng? Waiters? Asik? Monroe? DeRozan? Turner? Afflalo?
Players In The Future – Love? Westbrook? Other?

Get your votes in and explain how these guys can help us win a title. Time to help build the buzz for players we want, Hawks fans.

And with that, as always – see you in the comments.