For the Atlanta Hawks, It’s About The Bigger Picture


The big picture.

It’s a term that has often been thrown around under the Danny Ferry era by Atlanta Hawks fans.

This offseason the Hawks added to their big picture by signing Kent Bazemore and defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha, while also adding Adreian Payne, Lamar Patterson, and Walter Tavares through the draft.

While some fans may have been hoping for more splashy moves, the Hawks have stayed the course on their strategy of financial flexibility and collecting good value players.

Just because Atlanta did not pick up a big name this offseason doesn’t mean that they did not improve the roster. For the Hawks, it has been all about changing players on the roster for ones with better value — players who won’t cost more than what they had and may also have increased production. This Spurs-like approach has been the model since General Manager Danny Ferry took the helm and figures to be the strategy moving froward.

For now, Hawks fans shouldn’t worry about the big picture not coming to fruition, but, if the status quo holds and the Hawks can’t even sign some average veterans, the level for concern should rise.

You don’t need flashy offseason moves to bring home the title, just look at the Spurs. What you do need though, are players who offer production that either equals or exceeds the value of their contract. Taking a look at this big picture and where the franchise exactly is along that path requires an in depth analysis at the Hawks production during the previous season. Last year, the Hawks ranked at the bottom of average team PER (player efficiency rating). The teams ranked at the top, surprise, were the Heat and the Spurs.

Team PER 2013-2014 NBA Season
TeamTotal Team PERAverage Player PERBig 3 Average PER
 Hawks 183.4 12.23 19.69 (Horford, Sap, Teague)
 Spurs 220.53 14.70 20.30 (Duncan, Manu, Kawhi)
 Heat 203.81 14.56 23.52 (LBJ, Wade, Bosh)
 Pacers 202.31 13.49 17.48 (PG, West, Stephenson)
 Bulls 187.85 11.74 17.46 (Noah, DJ, Taj)
 Thunder 176.99 13.61 24.77 (KD, Westbrook, Ibaka)
 Clippers 187.38 14.41 22.72 (CP3, Blake, Jordan)
 Rockets 209.68 13.98 21.34 (Harden, D12, Jones)
 Blazers 189.76 12.65 19.40 (Aldridge, Lillard, Lopez)
 Wizards 184.96 13.21 17.98 (Wall, Gortat, Nene)
 Nets 206.45 13.76 21.15 (Lopez, Plum, Blatche)

Team PER is an extremely useful statistic because it provides the opportunity to gauge how well the team is doing as a collective unit and how efficient the roster is. This is what the Hawks big picture is all about; changing pieces of the roster to become a better unit.

Last season, among teams fans considered title contenders, the Hawks finished almost in last, oly to be beat out by the Bulls pitiful efficiency rating of 11.74. The most surprising information that can be gained from analyzing this table is that the Hawks core 3 (Horford, Millsap, and Teague) have efficiencies comparable to those teams considered championship contenders by fans. This shows that the perceived blow to the franchise of not adding a big name in free agency may not actually be a blow. Additionally, Teague, the youngest member of the group, still has a few more years to develop and grow into a much more efficient player. Since the core seems to be set, the discussion can be moved on to the role players.

Role players are absolutely vital to a team’s success, especially one with aspirations of a championship. We’ve seen it time and time again in different ways throughout history. The Hawks have added two players from free agency and three from the draft to try and receive more production from the previous role players. From last season’s roster, the Hawks have parted ways with Cartier Martin, Lou Williams, Elton Brand, and Gustavo Ayon. To replace them the Hawks picked up Sefolosha, Bazemore, Payne, Patterson, and Tavares. While Tavares is mostly likely headed back overseas to develop more, the other four are believed to be on the roster for the upcoming season.

Atlanta has lost 52.27 of their team PER by letting those players go and have acquired 21.7 team PER (based on last season’s performance) from the two players they signed. We still do not know yet what the Hawks will get from Payne and Patterson but for this to be an improved roster, the two will have to combine for a PER of 30.57. However, if the Hawks see improvement some other players on the roster, that combined number could be lower for the two and the team could actually be an improved roster from last season’s.

Although it appears the blow from missing out on a big name is not as bad it appears, the Hawks goal for a championship may still have to be put on hold. The disparity in production would appear to be too big for now to overcome for  the Hawks to move from the middle of the playoff pack to a title contender. However, it will be interesting to see how Sefolosha and Bazemore find themselves within the Hawks offense and whether the ball movement in Atlanta could lead to improved numbers. For now, Hawks fans shouldn’t worry about the big picture not coming to fruition, but, if the status quo holds and the Hawks can’t even sign some average veterans, the level for concern should rise.

For now, the Hawks should stay the course and continue to focus on improving each roster spot with high quality, high production players.

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