Game Preview – and Defending Peterson

Published: January 30, 2008

Before I get to the game preview against the Golden State Warriors tonight, I wanted to address some complaints I've seen about Peterson's performance for the Hornets.  It appears very easy for the casual fan to take a look at his scoring average this season and dismiss him as a bad signing and a poor starter.  Indeed 8.5 points per game isn't a typical number to receive from a starting shooting guard.  However, I think Peterson is excellent, so I wanted to chip away at the idea he's not good for the team.

  • He provides hard-nosed defense and better than average rebounding for his position.
  • He's a proven three-point shooter who has to be respected, providing great spacing for our team on offense.
  • He's smart.  The Hornets offense is a complex Princeton set – yet he is always where he's supposed to be.  He also rarely makes mistakes on defense or turns the ball over.
  • He's our fifth option on offense, and 8.5 points a game is a good number for a 5th option.

That last point is important.  Don't be fooled into thinking Tyson is our last option and that he only gets buckets when Paul decides to "throw the ball at the rim for him to get".  Most of those lobs are set plays designed with Chandler's abilities in mind – and ARE plays called for him.  Peterson will get maybe two plays called for him – usually to start the game, and otherwise floats  to the perimeter or runs the floor and finds his offense where he can.

Still, how can 8.5 points per game be a good number?  In order to prove my point about that, I gathered the scoring numbers for the fifth offensive option among starters for all the other NBA teams.  I wanted to make sure I was comparing apples to apples – so I built the list by taking the lowest scoring player who had started more than half of the games his team had played.  Then I figured out how many points a player scored per 48 minutes. (some of these guys play 32 minutes and some play 20, I wanted to make sure I was comparing them accurately)  The list ended up being 27 players – since three teams have no clear cut 5th starter.  Where did Peterson rank?

5th overall, behind Ronnie Brewer of Utah, Troy Murphy of Indiana, Andris Biedrins of Golden State, and Raja Bell of Phoenix.  You'll notice that all four of those guys play for very fast-paced teams.  In fact, Utah is the 7th fastest, Indiana the 2nd, Golden State the 3rd, and Phoenix the 5th.  New Orleans is the 5th slowest team in the league.  As a result, their teams average 7 more posessions than the Hornets – and thus, they have more chances to score.

The only guy on that list that I really consider a better scorer than Peterson is Ronnie Brewer – who far and away outstrips the entire list because of efficient shooting.

So lay off Mo-Pete.  The guy is a great 5th option.

On to the Game Preview.

Matchup: Warriors(27-19) @ Hornets(32-12)
Off Efficiency: Warriors 107.7(6th), Hornets 107.2(7th)
Def Efficiency: Warriors 105.3(25th), Hornets 99.6(2nd)
Relevant Bloggers: Golden State of Mind

The West is so tight that the Golden State Warriors are currently 8 games over .500, yet are only a ninth seed and currently out of the playoffs.  Crazy stuff.

The Warriors played last night against the Rockets and lost by 4, 107-111 in Houston.  It's a testament to the Warriors explosive offense that the game was so high scoring.  The Rockets had entered the game tied with the Hornets for the most efficient defense, yet even they could be overwhelmed by the helter-skelter offense of the Warriors and be forced into a track meet. That's something we'll need to be careful of.  We have a decent transition game, but the Warriors are built for a transition game. Over their last ten, the Warriors are 7-3 and overall are 14-11 on the road.  They also recently signed Chris Webber, but he won't be eligible to play yet.  Unfortunate – I'd have enjoyed seeing West take the immobile Webber into the post and treat him bad.

The Hornets are on a roll, and not only has their offense been amazing these 9 wins, their defense has been crushing as well, keeping all opponents under 94 points during that stretch.  At some point, someone is going to go cold, but if they keep the defense going, this team is going to be in every game – and we know what happens when the team is in cruch time.  MVP!  MVP!

Positional Analysis
'Bloody' Baron Davis vs. 'The Upgrade' Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
As much as I despise Baron Davis, this isn't a tremendous advantage.  While Paul's scoring numbers and distribution aren't suffering, over the last few games his shooting percentage has.  He's been missing a lot of his little floaters in the lane.  I'm sure he'll snap out of it, and Tyson will clean up his misses against the weak-rebounding Warriors if he isn't, but I hope he gets his mojo back soon.  Baron's been doing his usual thing – going to the basket less often than he should – but I wouldn't count on that this game.  Baron gets up for the Hornets, I expect the crowd to feed his energy with boos, and when he's on he goes to the hoop and becomes a much more deadly player.  This will be a tough matchup.

SG: Monta Ellis vs. Morris Peterson
Advantage: Warriors
The skinny Ellis is coming into his own this year, showing an explosive scoring ability, if not much range.  Great in the open floor, he's also got a good first step that will get him to the rim.  Morris needs to play off of him a little and dare him to take long-range bombs, which are not his speciality.  The team as a whole needs to slow the Warriors transition game, and not let Ellis get off to the races.  If Peterson isn't hitting offensively, we may see Pargo playing here a lot to harass the speedy Ellis.

SF: Stephen Jackson vs. Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Even
Jackson may have helped trigger last years Warrior's Playoff run, but my impression of the guy is he's fairly weak mentally.  He often gets stuck in a rut taking stupid shots(witness his 39% shooting), doesn't use his post up ability enough, and makes mistakes on defense frequently.  Like all Warriors, he excels in the open floor – especially with early offense three pointers.  Like Ellis, I think we dare him to shoot, and just close out on his shots when he does.

PF: Al Harrington vs. Fluffy
Advantage: Hornets
Harrington is a small forward trying to play the power forward's position.  At one time he was a good defender, but his years in Atlanta made him stop playing the right way and focus simply on three point shooting.  At some point he will get hot and hit a few, so David West will have to be willing to close on him.  What he won't do is rebound.  West and Tyson will own the glass.  He also won't be able to slow West, who should be able to overpower him in the post fairly easily.  In fact, the Hornets like to run their pick and roll and get West checked by a point guard.  Having the very strong Baron and his fast hands guarding West is probably worse than having Harrington guard him.  We may need to do straight post ups for him.

C: Andris Biedrins vs. Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
Biedrins is Chandler when he was on the Bulls.  He's never involved offensively, and is left alone to do all the rebounding and post defending.  As a result, he gets lots of fouls, and only scores on put backs or drop off passes under the basket by his guards.  Tyson's much more involved, is a little taller, and will make Biedrins life very, very hard.

Hornets(wow, it's nice to say that again)
Individually, the Warriors have some good players on their bench.  The problem is, they are all swingmen.  Barnes is probably their largest sub size-wise, and he may be as tall as Morris Peterson.  The Hornets  second unit will control the boards, and Ely will score.  My only concern is Pargo.  The Pargo and Bowen fast break has paid dividends the past week or so – but the frantic pace may actually play into Golden State's hands.  Byron will need to watch and if it the Warriors start making a push, pull the reins on Pargo, calling plays for Ely to help slow things down.  Man – I just said "call plays for Ely".  What a turn around in my feelings about the bench.

Hornets win 109-99.

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