Hornets Power Rankings Week Six

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Published: December 6, 2010

It feels as if there is nothing to celebrate this week as one could not draw up a worst case scenario for the last two weeks. Losers of 6 of their last 8 after an 11-1 start isn’t even the worst news that fans of this team have had to endure. Stories about attendance benchmarks, NBA takeovers, and possible relocation or contraction have Hornets fans ready to throw in the towel and concentrate on Saints football and Holiday plans.

The feeling is understandable as no fan base has had to endure what Hornets fans have had to endure these past four years. George Shinn has held the city hostage and the silence coming from management on any ownership issues have made most Hornets fans apathetic at best. Those who blasted outsiders on message boards for their ignorance regarding New Orleans and ownership issues, now feel like this woman.

But all of this will eventually play out and focusing on speculation and conjecture will not bring peace to the minds of Hornets fans. Nor will that put the butts in seats, and that more than anything else will ensure the Hornets remain a product of New Orleans for years to come. What we can discuss is the play of these guys on the court, and although that will not be terribly uplifting either, things are not as bad as they appear- just as things were not as good as they appeared during the 11-1 start.

This is an above average team with an above average roster that is closer to the top than it is to the bottom and it still has the pieces and flexibility to become a top four team in the West. All is not doom and gloom. And with that, let’s get to the rankings.

1. Chris Paul 16.2 PPG, 10.4 APG, 3 SPG, 4.7 RPG, 27.0 PER, 4.1:1 A/TO ratio

In all likelihood Chris Paul will finish the season averaging less points per game than any year he has been in the league, save for perhaps his rookie year. He is playing nearly three minutes per game less than his career average and over four minutes less than his career high 38.5 minutes per game back in 08-09, when he had to carry the team through the second half of the season.

Remarkably he is shooting a career high from both the three-point line and the free throw line, and is as efficient as he has ever been. His defense and his overall intensity is on par with any other season as well, and considering that he missed half of this past season, that is quite impressive.

What people want to see from CP3 is a return to his old form where he dominated the ball and was either the playmaker or the scorer on every single play. While that would likely lead to more wins in the short term, it would stunt the growth of each and every player on the Hornets roster and lead to a dependence that just can not be sustained. Ask LeBron.

Chris Paul and Monty Williams have chosen to give the other members of the Hornets rope that Byron Scott did not trust them with in years past. Right now, they are using it to hang themselves, but over the long haul the hope is that that will change and they will learn to pull themselves up with it.

2. David West 18.5 PPG, 52.7 FG%, 20.7 PER

We saw how much this team missed David West in their loss to the Knicks this week, and we also saw that David West is not the closer that this team needs in the Oklahoma City game. West is arguably having his best offensive season this year, all things considered, but he is not the type of player you isolate on one side of the court on six straight possessions when the game is on the line.

West is at his best when CP3 is creating for him and he has a clear advantage on the man standing in front of him. Such was the case when he had the undersized Jeff Green on him, but once the Thunder switched to Durant and his long frame, the Hornets needed to get more creative in their offense. That game was too reminiscent of the B Diddy/ Mashburn days, when it was clear that Davis should have been creating in the money moments, but iso post plays were called for Mash, regardless of the results.

3. Emeka Okafor 10.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.43 Points per shot, 2 BPG

Chris Bosh. Jameer Nelson. Paul Pierce. Lamar Odom. Tony Parker.

These are the third best players on teams that have a legit shot at winning the title this year. All of these players, with the exception of Odom, are former All- Stars (and Odom could be one this year). Most have played for Team USA (or France). Two are Finals MVP’s.

The point is that Emeka Okafor is a solid player, but if he is your #3 guy, you are not winning a title in this day and age. With a very deep and talented roster, Emeka can be a #4, but he is more likely a #5 or #6 on a true contender- and there is nothing wrong with that. It is not Emeka’s fault that he has never had enough talent surrounding him to be a #5 and make it to the playoffs, but it is what it is.

Emeka isn’t as good as people were saying he was in early November and he is not as bad as people are claiming he is now. He is miscast next to a perimeter oriented power forward, and simply put, too much is being put on his shoulders. He would benefit from playing with a long and/or athletic four who can take some of the defensive pressure off of him and help him control the glass.

For now, though, he has to make due and because of that his glaring weaknesses are becoming exposed. How many more weeks until we play Miami again?

4. Trevor Ariza 11.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2nd on team in made 3 pointers

Ariza has picked up his scoring as of late and his defense on Kevin Durant was superb. The scary part is that as Marco continues to struggle and the Hornets are searching everywhere to find points, Trevor is starting to revert back to Houston Ariza, when this team needs LA Ariza. He is trying to create more for himself and taking some very ugly shots. Luckily a lot of them have been going in, but we can’t expect that to keep up. Three-point spot up shooter and slasher. No more, no less- but if the offense continues to struggle like this, then it will be hard to blame him for trying to do more.

5. Willie Green 8.8 PPG, 47.4 FG%, leader in MPG off bench

Lost in that horrible loss to San Antonio was Willie’s 5 for 5 performance from the field. Outside of CP3, nobody played with nearly as much passion and pride as Green did in that game and although it came in a bad loss, it is still worth applauding. He does not wow you on most night, but his consistency is fairly remarkable. On most nights you know exactly what you will get from Willie, and I don’t think the same can be said for any other wing player on the Hornets this season.

6. Marco Belinelli 11.5 PPG, 41% from three, first on team in three’s made

Two weeks ago, nobody wanted to trade Belinelli in a package to land an Iggy or some other comparable wing player. His outside shooting was too valuable most said, and without it the Hornets offense would be bogged down. Flash forward to today and fans are calling for Marcus Thornton or even Quincy Pondexter to replace Rocky Balboa in the starting lineup.

It is hard to blame them as Belinelli is 12-43 over his past five games and is shooting under 30% from three during that same stretch. All of that would be acceptable if his defense was on par with what we saw in the Heat game, for instance, but it simply is not. Another sobering fact to consider- in the Hornets only win in that stretch, Belinelli only played six minutes in the second half, and none in the 4th quarter.

7 (tie) Jarret Jack, Quincy Pondexter, and Jason Smith

All of these players have a legitimate stake at the #7 spot, and all of them have reasons that they are not the clear and decisive holder of that very spot. Quincy Pondexter has been playing the best ball as of late amongst the three, and quite frankly has been the most uplifting thing about this losing streak. His minutes have increased in each of the past 5 games and his scoring has as well. He doesn’t take bad shots and he gives it his all on the defensive end. No doubt this guy is a rotation player for the rest of the year moving forward.

Jack has been blamed for the recent losing streak, but anybody who truly believes that trade is the reason for the recent bad play is kidding themselves. This team was coming back to earth one way or another, and Jack does not deserve the blame. What people have a hard time understanding is that backup point guard is perhaps the most difficult position to play in the league. The game has a flow that has to be felt and it is hard to manage in short spurts with a hodgepodge of players. Darren Collison was horrible as a backup last year, Bayless suffered this year, Daniels before either of them, etc. It takes time, and time alone is the cure. Be patient.

Chris Paul told it to you 10 days ago, I said it three weeks ago- Teams will begin to scout Jason Smith, and when they do, his game will suffer. Good players score in spite of opposition’s knowledge of their game and they have counter moves for every go to move. Jason Smith is a stand still jump shooter and can clean up the garbage occasionally on the offensive glass. Good teams can stop that, bad teams won’t. Which do you think we will see if we get to the playoffs?

10. Marcus Thornton 5.4 PPG, Receives loudest ovation off the bench

It’s a shame that Thornton has yet to grab the opportunity that is right there in front of him. Marco is struggling and Monty obviously wants Willie Green to lead the 2nd unit. That means the starting two guard spot is there for the taking and Thornton has continued to lay eggs in his recent appearances. In the last three games, Monty has given him the chance to be the spark and he has responded with 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting in 33 minutes and four times as many turnovers as assists.

Others:

Sorry rm, but no Pops love in this week’s power rankings, although he is a locker room favorite from what I have seen. Marcus, especially, loves to tease him about a certain characteristic and Pops has a good time with it. That’s all I got for him. Aaron Gray had some decent minutes verse San Antonio and Mbenga is a defensive presence in certain match-ups.

Anybody still clamoring to see David Anderson after last night’s performance? Didn’t think so. As for Marcus Banks- well, let’s just hope he doesn’t start buying tickets to games and showing up a la Starbury.

Your thoughts and rankings? Looking forward to hearing them.

24 comments
MaxALM
MaxALM

I really wouldn't say that Marcus even has the option to "grab the opportunity thats right in front of him." The first guard off the bench is almost always Green, so when Belinelli is struggling, it's usually Green who takes his immediate spot. Whatever "opportunity" Marcus is getting is the chance to be the instant savior for the team's offense. He gets thrown into the game, makes a mistake after he's been benched all season, has time to throw up one shot, and then gets yanked back out if he misses said shot. No player can come in for 2-3 minutes at a time and be expected to just start tearing shit up. But that's what everyone is expecting him to do, and that's just unrealistic. Sure, his defense isn't stellar, but it's ridiculous to deny him any real playing time, and then all of a sudden throw him out there and expect him to save the day. That's a tiny, tiny margin for error. No one can be judged for that. He's not going to score a point per minute every time he steps onto the court. That being said, I wouldn't put him any higher on this list. He belongs at the bottom because of his PT. But to say that he's had multiple opportunities to grab the starting spot is just ridiculous and unfair. Not after he's gotten measly, inconsistent minutes all season.

James Online
James Online

What we don't see is consecutive good passes leading to a basket, and we never see a runout. I like CP3 as much as the next guy, but there is a big down side to his desire/need to control the offense so singlehandedly. He is a great assist maker, no doubt, but the TEAM is not passing to advantage often enough. I believe in the pass to pass to basket approach with picks/screens and offensive variety. Chris sees players in a position to score, but he operates like a quarterback where the completed pass leads to a touchdown. That means the ball doesn't move enough. It's such a slow down, deliberate offense. That keeps the score low (usually) but it takes a lot of the dynamic potential out of the offense. Wish I could explain Marco's poor shooting in the last several games. Very frustrating, and now he's pressing. In the last game, he was never set up for a three. Paul has always had him low on his list of options. Given that Marco tries to do too much sometimes, and that can get him into trouble. Glad to see the posters recognize his excellent defense, and that doesn't change no matter what's happening on the offensive end for him. The casual fan might appreciate Marcus Thornton's jittery shoot-em-up offensive game, but that guy will never be an important player on a winning team. He's lost on both ends of the floor (no clue about offensive sets and loses focus on defense). Terrible decision maker, selfish to a fault, and turnover prone. He'd take the game away from Paul to some degree, and that might actually help, but look what he'd do with it.

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More hockey assists, agreed.

MaxALM
MaxALM

Agree about the offensive movement. In the 8-0 start, or 11-1, I remember reading a stat that was something along the lines of this: when the team takes a shot within the first 15 seconds on the shot clock, they convert at A%. When they take a shot within the last 10-15 seconds on the clock, they convert at B%. A% was a much, much higher percentage than B%. They rarely get out on the fast break AT ALL anymore. Ariza is not being used as a full court player. For that matter, none of our athleticism is being utilized. Instead, they've been walking the ball upcourt instead of pushing it, so the defense is always set and ready for them. Then CP is dribbling down the shot clock. It's not working. I don't know what caused this all to change but the offense has looked horrible since they stopped pushing the ball. It's boring, it doesn't work, it's predictable.

skiele
skiele

I can't understand where you see that bad belinelli defense. He's ice cold in the offensive end, but I'm watching him carefully and he's doing very VERY good on defense. That doesn't mean that his matchup won't make some shots, but he's working for the team, he's rotating, helping, tipping, working hard on defensive end... but maybe everybody needs a scapegoat and marco is the one with less nba history.... I still think that, for a defensive mentality team marco is the best option in the actual roster.

ollie
ollie

I have to agree with you skiele, Im not a biased Italian and an wearing my MT5 Jersey as I write this. Marco is defending well (I think) maybe its easy to say hes not defending well cos his men score a bit and he looks 2 like peja to be a decent defender (hes white) but He does a good job chasing through screens and his rotation I think is as good as anyone in the team. He often helps the helper contesting what would be an easy shot or even taking a charge. ps dont take the white thing as an insult I myself am white so no crazy attacks it was just a joke

Jordan Jacob
Jordan Jacob

The thing about watching these Hornets games that bothers me most is when we spend 10-15 seconds just dribbling up top, and then we are forced to take a bad shot. I don't understand this method of offense? Do we want to be pressed for time? I'm just so aggrivated with the whole situation. We need a good break.

ppellico
ppellico

very good analysis. really... As for Okafor, the one thing to add, and I cannot add after such a great job, IF he is not the complete center needed in today's game, and IF you are going to play him at center, you MUST add the personel around him. I think Smith has done this when his outside shot is going in. Bringing the opposition out from under the basket allows for Okafor to have a better chance of using his jumping ability without the largeness he needs. My own, humble opinion would be a second team of Smith along with Gray. Or really, Andersen with Gray. But still I would keep Smith with Okafor starting because SOMEBODY needs to pull the mass out from under the basket. Right now they are killing the Hornets there. If anybody thinks MBenga is worth anything...try tarding him for somebody. anybody. If as you say, Gray had a good period against SA, what else can you expect from him? He cannot walk up to the scorer's table and put himself in. He stands or sits as told. But finally...I say take a breath, fans. The hot beginning was just as much a fluke as the horrible preseason. It all works out. The outside game will ome back. I just think they need a little more inside game to force some honesty from the oposition.

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

The funny thing is, I still wouldn't be OK with trading Marco. A lot of the problems with this squad is that they are just too easy to defend, and a lot of that stems from the fact that most guys can't make outside shots at a rate which justifies them ever shooting. Why guard Ariza on the perimeter? Why guard Willie Green, or Jarret Jack? Thornton can hit them, granted, but he's not seeing time. Defenses can just collapse against us without any concern for leaving an open man outside. We need someone who can stand outside when Paul drives or West gets the ball inside. Get rid of Marco and who do you have to space the floor for the starting lineup? Who do you have that can put the ball in the basket when they're open outside from beyond the arc? Seriously, I'm wondering. Otherwise, I'm liking it as usual. I guess my only complaint would be that Ariza is so high. I'm starting to see the reason why he bounces around so much. Why is that dude taking over 4 three pointers a game? He shoots 32% for his career. I like this line- "Right now, they are using it to hang themselves, but over the long haul the hope is that that will change and they will earn to pull themselves up with it."

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So I read a bit about WP48 and it's about as complicated as I figured. Digging more deeply into the matter, I see that others have had the same exchanges we've had, except no one was called a visionary (I think you win). So I read some debates and considered. I am going to continue to think about this, but I'll leave 2 things for you to think about. One is that productive, efficient etc. doesn't mean best. Being efficient when you can afford to is smart. Playing a role doesn't mean best. You didn't say these things; I did. I jumped on the wrong mental track. The other is this. http://dberri.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/pau-gasol-kobe-bryant-and-then-nothing-much/ Now, Sasha's WP48 we can toss to due sample size. But in the playoffs, Odom was playing nowhere near the level he's playing now. Unless he was hurt, the stat isn't reflecting how his innate greatness or productivty compares to others. If it was, it would far less variable than oberved here.

ktrufant
ktrufant

Well, I think that production is acting in ways that help your team win while not acting in ways that help them lose. If you produced more than me, you would be better than me and in a one-on-one game for example, you would likely win. I saw the same decrease in WP48 for Odom in the playoff last year. I'm still looking into the reasons for that ... but players numbers do shift in the playoffs ... however Odom's numbers during the regular season are pretty consistent and he is consistently top two in doing things to get wins for the team (and minimizing things that take away wins). I'll continue to look at it and try to get back to you with some more detail ... But like I said, I'm mostly trying to put out there that if the attitude towards West shifted a little (as in a more realistic assessment of his value and production) - despite his numbers in today's game - the Hornets may be able to better see what changes they can and need to be made personnel-wise to improve the on the court production. West is not a counterpart to Paul in a "Big Three" kind of grouping. Not even a #3. Okafor could be a 3 but he is mostly a very productive big man (which is necessary as either one of the three or in addition to it). Disclaimer: I'm fairly new at all this numbers stuff but I've been looking into it for a while. I stand by what I say but it's not like my opinion wouldn't be modified with an analysis that proved me incorrect ...

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Thanks for quoting that line Joe- hadn't noticed the typo before- it should be learn. Anyway, i am gonna do a long post on this, but it is a common mistake to say that three-point shooters are necessary for good offensive spacing. Some of the greatest offensive teams of all time often lacked 3 point shooting and champion after champion in the 80's won titles without it and without a 3 point line for that matter before that. People seem to remember Bird as a great 3 point shooter, but it simply wasn't true. He never hit over 100 3's in any season and only took over 3 threes per game 1 time in his first 10 years in the league (before his back went out and that was all he could do the final 2 years.) Spacing can occur in so many ways and I think it is lazy to say it all depends on your 3 point shooters, and it is lazy coaching as well if you can't be creative. Talent needs to be upgraded- point blank.

ktrufant
ktrufant

It's adjusted for position. (Although some say the WP48 metric favors rebounding ...) I'm not sure if he is still coming of the bench ... The way I feel, though, is on the court production, is on the court production, whether it's against the bench or not.

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I'll look at the wp48. Some of the stats favor certain positions over others by way of favoring the stats that certain positions likely generate. I think PER is like this for power forwards. He gets minutes, so there are no sample size issues. I don't keep up with their rotations . . . is he still on the Ginobili plan? I notice he's up there, too, and he gets some of his statistical glory by picking on the bench.

ktrufant
ktrufant

It's not complicated really. A quick check of the collected WP48 over at the wins produced suite tells a story - http://www.permanent-sketch.com/winsproduced/#/Season It's what I use as a quick reference but I'm pretty sure outside of simply scoring, Odom's play has him consistently as the number 2 producer. It's not really an argument as they have four guys over there who can be top three producers but it's underestimating Odom (and likely overestimating Bryant) to say he's the number three producer ... (maybe even #3 scorer?) My main point with the original comment is that Okafor is better for the team than West (in terms of on court production). To look for a guy to play behind West, is to look at adding average or below average players (anyone not average or below average is likely better than West). I feel like that hurts the Hornets in the long run. Plus I think his scoring would be more valuable off the bench ...

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42

Sarcasm aside, show me. I'd like to know.

ktrufant
ktrufant

"visionary" ... we got jokes and sarcasm, ... yeah, but I really my eyes read numbers just like yours ... and the numbers will tell you Odom is usually at least the number two contributor on that LA squad ... at least according to the most reliable indicator of a player's overall individual contribution to team wins. According to ESPN ...

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That's an interesting thing to be sure about. You are a visionary.

ktrufant
ktrufant

nah, pretty sure Odom has always been at least the second most productive player on the team since he joined the Lakers. Bryant on the other hand ...

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Pau and Kobe are 1 and 2 in some order. How many top 2 players do you think they have?

ktrufant
ktrufant

I agree, the situation with the team right now is that the talent needs an upgrade. Period. The comparison you make between Paul and James is spot-on as each is so talented that he can carry a team almost single-handedly to a good regular season record. Once the playoffs come, however, not even Paul can stop a big three (pick one) and a very good supporting cast. I think you're way off about Okafor (and Odom) though. Odom is and has been the second best player on that LA squad for a while now. Unless you base it completely on scoring ... ... Okafor has been the second best on the team since he joined. And this season has been a tremendous improvement on his play from last season. He's producing at the same level now as at the start of the season. I'm not sure how you point the finger at Okafor (and say he is a #6 player on a contender?) now that the team is losing when players like Smith and Green are seeing heavy minutes, the starting SG is Belinelli, and West (who produces less than Miami's back-up PF) is being regarded as an All-Star talent. You can't coach height but Okafor does more than enough of what you can coach to not be talked about like a 6th man. Not trying to pick a fight or anything, cause I tend to agree with your analysis but West is overrated and I think it cripples the team. Okafor is playing at star level right now ... compared to the contenders in the league, the Hornets just simply fall way, way, way short talent wise. But it's not because of what Okafor is bringing.

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

Oddly enough I didn't notice the typo until now. I'm not saying it's completely necessary, but to me that's how an offense with Chris Paul will operate at maximum efficiency. He's best standing up top, coming off a screen, and then driving and dishing. He loves to make the defender on the perimeter shooter take just a step too many inside trying to help, and then punishing him by flipping a bullet to his own guy for a three. Having Ariza or Green there instead of Belinelli changes one of Paul's biggest strengths as a distributor into just an average play (1.2 points per shot @40% as opposed to .96 @32%)

ppellico
ppellico

one last thing... Monty... IF you have ALL these fould sitting on the bench, use them. IF the opposition is playing you into looking silly, tell somebody to go in and kick some butt. There is no enforcing going on right now. Where is the snotty attitude great teams bring onto the floor. You drive up the middle on these teams like they have been recently on the Hornets...and somebody is going down! Enough already of the hoop drives!

BeesGivingEffort
BeesGivingEffort

"Marco Belinelli - 2 rebounds a game". These rankings are supposed to reflect current play correct? I would argue that Belinelli has been our worst player the past 2 weeks. Earl Boykins could get more than 2 rebounds per game as our starting SG. Everyone keeps acting like we want Chris Paul to do everything, all the time, every night. This is completely untrue. We are simply asking Chris to be that superstar that can take over games when the team desperately needs him to. I think that's fair. What's the point of having a superstar if you are not going to use him? That's like OKC telling Kevin Durant not to shoot because we want to get other guys involved. Chris Paul is the best player we have and the best scorer. I would argue the latter is not a testament to how bad we are, but just testament to how ridiculous CP3 is.