A new metric developed by ESPN Analytics suggests the Pistons do not stack up well against the Hawks.
You may be familiar with the Basketball Power Index from college basketball. ESPN's NBA version, which debuts Monday and will appear each week, is similar to the College BPI and the Hollinger Power Rankings but with some sophisticated tweaks so that it accounts for overall strength of schedule, pace, number of days of rest, game location and preseason expectations.
The Hawks have won 12 straight in impressive style. BPI shows Atlanta has the league's ninth best offense which against an average defense, would typically score 1.6 points more than an average team per 100 possessions. Defensively, the Hawks are 12th, and similarly you'd expect their D to hold opponents to 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions.
Adding the Hawks offensive rating (1.6) and defensive rating (1.5) gives them a total BPI of 3.1, predicting that they would outscore an average team by 3.1 points per 100 possessions.
Given that the Hawks are one of only eight teams to be above average in both offense and defense, are leading the Eastern Conference, and have won 12 in a row, why aren't they higher in the rankings?
NBA Basketball Power Index Rankings
BPI projects the Hawks have a 58 percent chance to win the East with a total of about 56 wins, but still ranks them behind the Raptors and Bulls in the East, because the Hawks have played an easy schedule so far -- the 20th hardest -- and yet have the 19th-hardest schedule for the remainder of the season. The Hawks are the beneficiaries of being in the East with only one other team (the Chicago Bulls) that is above average in offense and defense which drives their strength of schedule, or lack thereof.
Because the NBA BPI adjusts for competition faced, the Hawks' light schedule means that their 30 wins are not nearly as impressive as the Warriors' or Blazers', whose wins have mostly come in the tougher West. (The Warriors have played the eighth-hardest schedule this season and the Blazers have had the second-hardest.) Additionally, the expectations for the Hawks were low heading into the season -- so while the Hawks may be in the process of proving those expectations wrong, they may also be on a hot streak that will end and they could fade back -- it is, after all, a long NBA season.
But on Monday, the Hawks' next challenge is to win one more, and according to BPI, the Pistons won't be much of a challenge: The Hawks have a 76 percent chance to win.