A Litany of Woes

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Published: November 21, 2008

The Game Tonight(Hornets @ Thunder)

Yes – we have a game tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and another game against them tomorrow night too.  I probably should be writing about that, but I’m not going to, because the disaster that is the Thunder is much less interesting to me than the struggles of the Hornets. So I’m going to give you my take on the Thunder in a single paragraph, and then I’ll start talking about the Hornet’s problems.

The Thunder’s Defense is okay.  In fact, right now it’s even better than the Hornets, and ranks 16th overall.  However, the Thunder’s offense isn’t just bad, it’s epic bad.  They score 90 points per 100 posessions – and here’s why:  Their entire team is crap.  Earthshaking, yes?  Yeah, it harsh, but it’s true too. Kevin Durant is Peja Stojakovic-level one dimensional.  He scores 22 points a game, but doesn’t do it particularly efficiently because he doesn’t go to the line and rarely takes 3-pointers.  He rebounds worse than 6 foot Chris Paul, doesn’t pass, doesn’t steal, doesn’t block shots, and turns the ball over a lot.  The rest of his sidekicks?  Desmond Mason is probably tied for second for the best offensive option they have.  Seriously.  Hornet’s fans knows how bad that is.  Oh, and rookie PG Russell Westbrook is taking 12 field goal attempts a game and making 31.7% of them.  31.7%.  Even Mike James shot better than that, and he wasn’t being given 25 minutes a game.

On to the Hornets.

An Evaluation of the Hornets

I’ve been a bit flabbergasted by the Hornet’s failures over the last few weeks.  I know it’s our offense that’s getting rung up regularly as our problem.  Too much reliance on Chris Paul(he’s actually shooting less this year).  Too much reliance on David West(ditto).  Bad shooting.  Stangnant offense.  Really, however, it’s not as easy as picking out one thing and blaming it.  There are a bunch of things wrong with the Hornets right now – and although none of them by themselves seem that big of a deal, when added together, they are significant.

Here are the major issues with the team so far, in my order of importance.

Free Throws(Defense)

Last year the Hornets only allowed a league best 18.4 free throw attempts per game.  This season, we’ve been giving up 24.8.  The league average for free throw shooting is about 75%, so that means we give up an additional 4.5 points per game. Now – I will also point out we are drawing more fouls per game ourselves, but what was last year a net gain(we shot more FTs than gave up), it’s now the opposite.
Culprits: Everyone.  Every player is fouling more except for Peja.(who is down a mere .2 fouls per game)  Brown, Posey and Butler are also both more likely to foul than Pargo, Bonzi and Jackson were.

Turnovers(Offense)

Last year, the Hornets were the 2nd best in the league at limiting turnovers, coughing up the ball only  13.1 times per 100 posessions.  So far this season, we’ve thrown it away 15.1 times per 100 posessions.  Based on standard posession rates, those two turnovers rob the Hornets of 2 points per game, and let’s not forget,  frequently end with fast break layups.  Kinda like that Sacramento game.
Culprits: West, Armstrong, and Paul are all coughing it up a bit more.  West and Armstrong combine to add about 1.5 turnovers more.  On a side note, Tyson Chandler is turning the ball over less – unless you want to count those atrocious 15-footers he keeps trying.

Effective Field Goal %(Defense)

Last year we were exactly average(ranked 15th) in our ability to contest shots, ringing up a defensive effective field goal percentage(eFG% includes three pointers in determining how good someone’s shooting is) of 50.1.  This year we are the 26th worst, allowing an eFG% of 51.2%  The Hornets allow opposing teams to shoot an average of about 75 times a game, which translates to us giving up an additional 1.65 points per game.
Culprit:  No easy way I trust to pick out the ultimate problem here.  Defense is a team game, guys.

Effective Field Goal %(Offense)

Last year we had an eFG% of 51.2.  This year we have one of 50.2.  That translates to us scoring 1.5 less points per game.  Pretty straightforward.
Culprits: This is a mixed bag, but Paul and West are scoring at about the same percentages they shot last year.  Peja is down 7%, Chandler down 5%, Hilton down 4%, Peterson down 2%.  Mike James and Devin Brown combine to be worse than Pargo by 4%.  Posey and Butler are both way better(about 12%) than Bowen, Bonzi, Bobby Jackson and last year’s Butler.

Rebounding(Offense)

The Hornet’s rebounding isn’t far from where it was last year, really.  The rebounding burden has shifted somewhat to our backcourt – Peterson, Paul, Posey and Devin Brown all being good rebounders for their position, but there has only been a small decline, and only on one end of the floor.  The Hornet’s still are allowing a low number of offensive rebounds(24.7% to 24.6%) this year, but they have not been quite as able at corraling offensive rebounds this season, grabbing 27% of them last season and 25.5% now.  It doesn’t seem that much, but it translates to a little more than a lost offensive rebound every other game.  Based on standard posession rates, the Hornets lose about .5 points per game as a result.
Culprit: West’s numbers are down quite a bit.  Hilton is worse and playing more minutes.  Brown, Peja, Paul, and Tyson have all grabbed more, almost making up for it.

So that’s all doom and gloom, but I did try and figure out if there was anything The Hornets are doing better.  I could only come up with one thing: They are drawing more fouls and getting 4 more free throws per game, resulting in three more points per game.

So – what does it all add up to?  The Hornets are allowing 5.15 more points per 100 posessions, and scoring about 1.25 fewer points per 100 posessions.

Happily, most of these problems could be wiped out by us tightening up our discipline a little on the defensive end, having Peja hit another shot or two per game, and replacing Hilton Armstrong.  Sorry, HornetsHype, HiltonWatch is stillborn over here.

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