Hornets are Just One Injury Away From Disaster

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Published: January 18, 2011

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from whatever you believe to be true in order to get a more objective viewpoint. I was recently asked on the Daily Dime Chat what the Hornets biggest concern is the rest of the season. Is it the attendance issue? The NBA owning the team? Chris Paul unhappiness popping up again? All are valid and defensible positions to take. The only problem with them is that something happened when I took a step back, and it isn’t pretty.

Most are probably familiar with PER, but we’ve been getting a lot of new readers lately so here are some bullets about it, directly from where John Hollinger explains it:

  • It’s pretty much a rating of a player’s per-minute productivity.
  • Two important things to remember about PER are that it’s per-minute and is pace-adjusted. Because it’s a per-minute measure, it allows us to compare, say, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher, even though there is a disparity in their minutes played.
  • The league average for PER is set to 15.00 every season.
  • Bear in mind that PER is not the final, once-and-for-all evaluation of a player’s accomplishments during the season. This is especially true for defensive specialists — such as Quinton Ross and Jason Collins — who don’t get many blocks or steals.

PER is held in a pretty high regard by the basketball statistic community, and I personally find it to be as good as any single stat for gauging a player’s value. As Hollinger touches on, it has some shortfalls, but overall it’s great for its purpose.

Back to the Hornets and their potential injury problems. As of 1:00 AM on January 18th, there were 245 players in the NBA who had a PER of higher than 12.00.

That means the average NBA team employs just over eight players with a PER over 12. The overwhelming majority (23/30) have between six and nine. Dallas and Houston have 10.  Denver, Detroit and Toronto all have 11. At the top of the pile is San Antonio, who is ridiculously deep with 13 players recording PERs over 12.

That accounts for 29 teams. Your New Orleans Hornets employ only three players that can say they are performing at that level. When I first saw this number I was a bit amazed. Obviously everyone aside from the team’s big three has been bad, but this was still unexpected. Nobody else is even close to playing at an average level. My first thought was that no other decent team could possibly have a number even close to that low, and after some research I found that my gut was right. The Hornets season, at least on paper, is more likely to be ruined by an injury than any other team.

The Hornets three players who have PER’s above 12 are of course Chris Paul (25.7), David West (20.6), and Emeka Okafor (16.3). Let’s get into the details of what would happen if they were to get hurt.

Paul- As strange as it sounds, a short term Paul injury might be the least devastating to the team. Jack might only have a PER of 11.9, but at least he is a real point guard. The drop off in PER from 25.7 to 11.9 is a whopping 13.8, yet Jack is solid defensively and has experience being the main guy in the back court. He’s started over 200 games. Those are things that can’t be said about backups at the other positions.

West- Jason Smith, the guy who is invisible if guarded and can’t match up against backup big men, would be the starting power forward. Smith is putting up a PER of 11.0 against almost entirely bench players. That number is good enough to make this his best season ever. Sadly, we can’t point to his defense as a bright spot. The offensive game is as good as it gets with Jason. Quick, name a starting power forward in the Western Conference who wouldn’t eat Jason Smith for lunch on both ends of the court. Me neither.

Okafor- Oh boy. An injury to Emeka may be the least likely given how successful he has been at avoiding them since he started new training methods in Charlotte involving yoga (Knock on wood). Since 3/24/2007, Emeka hasn’t missed even a single game, despite battling a number of injuries. If that changes the team is in trouble.

Emeka’s PER of 16.1 may not be that impressive, but his impact on the defensive end would be utterly irreplaceable with anyone on the roster. The drop off to Aaron Gray (8.9 PER) and DJ MBenga (8.8) would be so devastating to the team that it’s more likely they would play almost entirely small ball than trot out either of the backup centers for any real time. That might work against some teams, but against anyone with a real front court the Hornets would no longer stand even a puncher’s chance.

What’s scary about the Hornets situation isn’t that injuries could derail their season, it’s that a single injury would derail their season. On the bright side, the big three has missed only a single start all season. Marco Belinelli missed two games, and those were the second and third missed games by the starting lineup all year. The bench has been remarkably free of injuries as well. Nobody of relevance has missed more than a few random games.

What do you think-

Are there any teams that can less afford an injury than the Hornets?

Which of the three Hornets could the team least afford to go without for a few games?

61 comments
NOEngineer
NOEngineer

WP48 tells the same overall story, with nobody even average after CP3, Okafor, and West. Ariza is almost average, followed by Mbenga then Thornton still in the positive range. EVERYONE ELSE is negative. See this great little site and sort by team: http://nerdnumbers.com/automated-wins-produced With CP3, I think we have always won more games than our number of WINS according to this system, because we find ways to win close games and we never blow anyone out. I also think defense is undervalued by every system of statistics, since it is a team effort. I also agree that most teams are screwed if they lose one of their top two or three. I do think that all of the role players except Anderson have some hope to step up and fill roles with support from the rest of the team. At least this year we have size and length that we never had before.

Hornet
Hornet

Am I the only one that finds PER is far too kind to offense and not defense? I've always felt Win Shares per 48 were more accurate to a player's productions.

42
42

I looked at win shares and started thinking about them and wp48. My current needle-to-poke-it-with is that it really sums up 'everything' well, but maybe this is bad, since it doesn't account for everything-everything. I still don't really think it takes into account a player's trajectory to give predictions under injury-free and trade-free conditions. It also seems to compare players relatively, but ignores matchups more than I'd like. With so much machinery, why not go the extra mile? It also may be 'over-fitting'. I'm not bashing it, just laying out my thoughts at the moment. It's a very informative stat. What the info means . . . I need more needling time . . .

Gec
Gec

i wonder if there are PER stats about a player against a certain team. Maybe we have few high-PER player but against us who has an high PER?

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

uhm you can track that at 82 games. it has a per production per position. :)

42
42

And opponents' stats!

JCS
JCS

"Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from whatever you believe to be true in order to get a more objective viewpoint." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I concur. Furthermore, I hope that readers realize that this post underlines the importance of the Hornets bench. Obviously, I didn't write it (Joe G. did) but I like how it paints the big picture, which in turn shows us what this team does and does not need. Now before I propose another trade stimulus package, I'd like to mention the importance of satisfying the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. New Orleans, as well as Denver, Philly, and Atlanta are all over the cap. Therefore, a 25% trade rule is invoked. Any team over the cap has to be no more than 125% plus $100,000 of the salary given out for the trade to be accepted and to satisfy the CBE. With all that in mind, plus Joe G.'s big picture, I think we the fans can conjure up some fair trades. Personally, I would like to read everyones, but when someone replies with a juvenile comment that does not propose an alternative stimulus package, then chances are I won't reply to theirs. There is no need to be attached to a underperforming bench player just because you like the way he walks, talks, and chews gum. What's most important is to take a step back and focus on the big picture.

504ever
504ever

I don't believe we are over the cap this year after the Peja trade, and we have trade exemptions we could use.

42
42

We are well over the cap, as our most teams. We are not over the tax line. The cap impedes trades via rules; the tax impedes owners via dollars.

42
42

I believe those rules only apply when the team adding salary ends up over the cap.

PeeDee
PeeDee

im honestly more concerned about our mek and west right now because everybody behind them suck

Ron
Ron

I'm REALLY CONCERNED about the sub-40% shooting. Yesterday, if Mek wouldn't have shot 67% (8/12) then the horrible 39% shooting would have been an ass-sucking 34.7%. Take out DWest and Jack, then they're left at 20.5% shooting. Worse is that this is becoming a trend.

Hornet
Hornet

See that's the thing though. We always have that one guy that stands out and carries the offense. Right now Chris is apparently carrying an ankle injury that Monty said most players wouldn't play through... The offense will get better once his ankle is a little better. As long as our defense is this good then we should be in any game.

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

It was actually J. Michael Falgoust. He told Hornet and I this, after he had a conversation with Demps last week. Right Hornet?

Hornet
Hornet

Yeah, he said that's what he expects. Back up PF/C around mid level salary. My mind immediately thought Blatche. You also mentioned Landry. The thing with Landry is that I doubt he stays here next year unless we severely overpay and I don't want.

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

Actually, I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere (might have been tweeting with someone) that the Hornets main focus is finding a backup PF/C right now, that has a salary around the midlevel.

Will Bennett
Will Bennett

i don't know of any Dell moves on the horizon, but I do agree- SURELY the next move will be a stronger 2 to start and a solid back up 5. That would make the Hornets really STING!!!!

Stefan
Stefan

Check out who is deserving of a spot in the All-Star game according to me sportsaccordingtome.com

Go Blue
Go Blue

Boooooooo! Thank goodness the fans know better to put CP3 in the starting line up.

thechosenuno
thechosenuno

Has anyone heard any rumors or speculation about DelMonty making another move before the trade deadline? We were SO active, then the ownership issues came up. We've got lots to play with, and we need to play (I think we're solid with starters at the 1, 3,4 and 5. I think most of our 2's are good bench 2's, but none are great starter 2's. One could argue we could do better than Ariza at 3 as a starter, too. As for backups, I'm happy with Jack and Smith and our 2's. QPon will take time to develop, and we all know we need someone else behind MEK).

504ever
504ever

This is why the Hornets have needed a back up bigman for so long and, in my opinion, more than we needed Jack (for Bayless). Let's hope the Hornets get one as soon as possible, even if that is this off season.

paul
paul

Who DOESN'T need a back up big!? There are teams looking for THE FIRST big, let alone a back up. Guys...this is dreaming.

QueenBee
QueenBee

Bayless may be a better scorer but we have Thornton for that if that's all we need. Even though some of us aren't ecstatic with Jack, he's more of a point guard than Bayless. Jay Triano says the point guard position is still a learning process for Bayless. Yes, we need a big man too but if I can remember correctly we as Hornets fans spent lots of times calling for a legit back up point guard for Chris Paul so he wouldn't have to play 40 minutes every night. "Jerryd has been very good for us," said Raptors Head Coach Jay Triano. "His development as a point guard has been accelerated because of this opportunity but we need to have a point guard on the floor like Jose to organize things." "That is not to say he can't be on the floor with Jerryd," said Triano as he described the possibility of playing Bayless and Calderon together. "Jose understands how to get everybody into their positions and it is still a learning process for Jerryd right now, but he has picked it up, and we are pleased with where he is. For a 22-year-old point guard who has been thrust into a starting spot on the team, he has handled it well." Read more NBA news and insight: http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=18232#ixzz1BPutUCaN

QueenBee
QueenBee

AgentZiko... so would I but the Raptors aren't that crazy. LOL!! Of course I'd also prefer Amir Johnson instead of David Andersen. Ha!

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

I would have liked the Jack trade a lot better if Amir Johnson had been part of it. Then I'd have no complaints.

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

Agree with 504ever.

JCS
JCS

I agree as well. Looking at the number of NBA games Mek has played, one could say he is an iron man. Take him out of the line up, then you have Gray, who is as good as an anvil.

NolaHog
NolaHog

If you've jinxed us by writing this article, the entire 247 community will hunt you down and tear you limb from limb! Also, the point about Okafor's durability can't be overstated. Even though Chandler's athleticism (Oh, those Alley-Oops!) was missed after we traded for Okafor, Emeka has played in almost twice as many games as Chandler since the trade. He may not be super flashy, but his true value is realized when you look at him over the long term.

42
42

I love the oops

Stefan
Stefan

I enjoy the power layups (:

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

Totally agree Joe. Although a lot of other teams would be devastated if one of their main 3 were injured, no team would drop off the way the Hornets would. Healthy, we are a top 5 team in the West. Drop CP, DWest, or especially Okafor, and we won't just drop out of the playoffs, we'd drop to 14th, only ahead of Sacramento, and Minnesota. Very scary thought. We've been lucky with our health. Hopefully we keep it up. And hopefully a few guys (Trevor, Marco, Jarrett, and Marcus) can develop a PER of at least 12. They aren't far off. And hopefully we can land a guy that can give us another 15+ PER in the front court. We desperately need that.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

how can we drop to 14th, and then still be ahead of Sac and Min? are there 16 teams in the West? or do you mean 14th overall, cause that would still be a playoff spot mind you.. I've never used PER to judge the value of a team.. I know Hollinger specifies, that a team should have at least 3 people with a per of 15 and above to be a decent team. But i think you are underestimating Jack and Thornton's capabilities just because they are off the bench. A Per requires you to be efficient at all times meaning : limit turnovers, shoot at a decent rate. you could see this from Thornton last year. Although he didn't get a lot of rebounds, nor dished a ton of assists, nor get steals, he still posted a PER of 17.4 just because he had a ridiculous TO rate. and although there are no proofs of this, but there are players who get better the more minutes they play. Maybe if someone did used PDE to track the change in performance as minutes increases(i won't. HAHA. maybe 42 can), we can prove that. but otherwise it's more on intuition. If say Jack played 20 minutes, he'd be able to post a PER closer to his career average of 14.5, then the whopping 13.8 reduces to 10. Thornton goes from a 11.1 to around 16. in my opinion the most devastating injury will come from an injury with Okafor or West. its unusual, but its true. Demps has done his job of supplying Paul a capable backup. Now its time to supply West and Okafor with a capable backup. I believe if the Hornets lose one of the big 3, i still think we're better than Sac, Hou(can you believe i said that?) and Min. that's 12th in the west. That's almost a 6 slot decline. However, two thing that needs to be said is(and i'm not posting this so that 2 posters can quarrel again like cats and dogs) that Thornton is capable of posting 15 PER and that we are a defensive teams. and defense usually doesn't translate in PER. so even if say our highest per would be 20, if we play defense, we still give ourselves the best chance to win.

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

Whoops! Good catch Nikko. I shoulda said 13th. And yea, for some reason I was thinking 32, rather than 30 teams. LoL. All this as David Stern talks contraction... LoL. I'm embarrassed.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

ok thats a typo. thats two things that need to be said. HAHA or whatever, sorry for the typos. i've had 3 long exams in the past 3 days.

Oc
Oc

Why did you have to write this :(

Hornet
Hornet

Honestly this can be said for a lot of the great teams Dallas - Dirk or Tyson OKC - Durant or Westbrook Utah - Williams Miami - LeBron or Wade New York - Amar'e Chicago - Rose My point is, almost all teams besides probably San Antonio, the Lakers, and Boston are one injury away from being out of the playoffs or disaster. We can't worry about injuries. If they happen, they happen and we'll adjust. But thankfully we don't have any type of player that is always injured like a Bynum. Our big men are fairly durable, especially Mek. I have faith we will be fine with injuries.

paul
paul

Well, I wouldn't even leave those teams out. This is a silly stat. Basketball is one of the pro sports in which a team can go from last to first based upon a player, or two. That is how important a SINGLE players is. They can go down just as easily with the lost of this same key player. Silly...really.

42
42

See: Cleveland

Ron
Ron

"Dallas – Dirk or Tyson" Caron and Dirk go out and Dallas is 2-8. "Miami – LeBron or Wade" LBJ goes out and the Heat have a 3-game L streak.

Hornet
Hornet

I don't think the Hornets are just 'decent' though. I think we're a legit top 10 team or at least very close. Yes we would be much worse without either Paul, West, or Okafor, but I don't see how we're much different from the other teams, except maybe OKC.

hewhorocks
hewhorocks

A lot of teams have one injury and would loose contention status. I think the point to this is with one injury the Hornets go from decent to having at least 2 usually 3 match up problems between the Hornets starters and the opponents bench. Thats a serious concern over a 82 game season.

QueenBee
QueenBee

"Honestly this can be said for a lot of the great teams" This was my first thought when I read the title. :?

darren
darren

WEAK!!!! EVERY TEAM IN THE NBA IS ONE INJURY AWAY FROM DISASTER. LOOK AT THE HEAT , THE LAKER ARE KOBE INJURY AWAY FROM A 6 SEED!!!! SO WITH THAT SAID Joe Gerrity THE HORNETS ARE WORST OF A INJURY TO END A SEASON THEN LAKER,HEAT AND MAGIC

42
42

Sunshine: there are lots of PER 12+ guys, so it should be easy to get some, relatively speaking. It'd be harder if we had 15 guys between PER 12 and PER 15 and were looking for PER 20+ guys.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

I can talk about Thornton again..... And Ironically, I got nothing to say. Good article Joe and I completely agree- I mean look at this team minus D West against New York. If CP3, West or Emeka are out, I think we should be considered underdogs against nearly every team in the league on the road and about 65% of teams at home. Very thin squad we have here

Hornet
Hornet

I don't see Thompson being moved... They have to know Dally and Landry aren't the future of that team and they're going to have Thompson locked in for a while. They need a PG anyways and we don't have that to offer.

42
42

Banks is a pg. He's not being used partially because he's not good enough to justify risking him as a trade asset. He's not stellar, but he can play better than some point guards. Sacramento has the lowest payroll in the NBA at about $44m. They have about $27m committed for next season. Doing the trade I suggested adds a little this year but drops them to $18m committed to next year. Given the possibility of a hard cap, and the fact that they will be BY FAR the lowest payroll at $27m, another $9m really opens up their rebuilding chances next year when the numbers of buyers is likely to be quite small. By doing business early in the CBA, they have a chance to set themselves up for a while. Their largest deal next year is Udrih at $6.6m. His contract is the largest going forward, topping out at $7.8m. Not bad.

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

Mike. I want to hear your take, 42s, and Joes on this too. JUST heard yet another rumor on a local sports talk radio show that Jason Thompson is not happy in Sac town and would like to be moved, and that has something to do with his down play this season. So now Sac town has the threat of losing Thompson AND Landry this offseason. The Kings are reportedly demanding that any team looking to land either Thompson or Landry must also take the contract of Francisco Garcia, AND want a talented young guard in return. If we tried to make a deal with Sac town, which big man would you prefer, Landry, or Thompson, and why? Personally, I'd prefer Thompson. I could see him resigning here if he came, and I think his length and skill set would be a great addition for us. But another question to ask is, since the Kings want a young talented guard in return, would you risk trading Thornton in this type of a deal? Let's say we wanted Thompson. Would you do a deal of Thornton, Banks, and either Gray or Anderson for Garcia and Thompson? I know a lot of people are going to jump on this. But specifically, hoping to hear from Mike, Joe, and 42. Ryan too, if he'd decide to leave a comment.

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

I prefer Thompson to Landry for us, since he can play the four or the five and would really fill a gaping hole for us better than Landry. As for dealing Thornton, I'm not really on board with it since so many fans would be so upset about. As weird as it sounds, even if it might get the team a few more win on the court, I think that the franchise overall is better off with the local guy on the team.

MaxALM
MaxALM

definitely Thompson. Length, athleticism, rebounding, good offense, young (and coachable), passion. Landry is probably slightly better RIGHT NOW but dear lord we don't another undersized big man. He's listed at 6'9 but he's barely that. He's really not much different than West, maybe a little more atheltic.

Ryan Schwan
Ryan Schwan

Sniff. Fine! I'm not giving you my take!

JCS
JCS

Every time someone says Sac Town is going to unload Thompson, I scratch my head. But then I remember these are the brainiacs who thought Paul Westphal would be a good coach. Gray out as Thompson is in = EPIC WIN

42
42

I'll digdigdig and see what I think. On the surface, Jason, for a few silly reasons and because hewho, I think, was into him.

42
42

Ok. After 15 mins of thinking, I picked a deal to think about. I'll say Garcia and Thompson for Banks and Smith. They get expiring bodies who have to be happy. They get long length in a big and a small guard. We can swap Beli for Smith if they like, but I think they'd rather Smith for his height. Now I have to think if I like that, if it's reasonable, etc. I just think that helps us given the constraints. There are things I'm hesitant about that, I must say.

Ron
Ron

"(...) is not happy in Sac town" The Kings aren't noted for their D, though. Would any of their players be coachable to a defensive mindset 1/2 way thru a season? Remember that Mek had all last season and still didn't feel comfortable until after this year's training camp.

AgentZiko
AgentZiko

P.S. I've always looked at Thornton as an asset that could land us a guy like Iggy/Jackson/Martin. That's why I'm asking you guys for your opinion on this. Because this trade is on a much smaller scale than those guys are.

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