The first edition of the 2011-12 season’s New Orleans Hornets individual player power rankings.
Welcome to this season’s first edition of the Hornets’ player power rankings. These rankings, released every Sunday, will be based purely on each player’s performance to date, and will have nothing to do with future potential. If Trey Johnson played better than every Hornets player so far this year, then you know what? He’s #1 in the power rankings, regardless of the regression back down to Earth that would inevitably follow. Player power rankings will come out each Sunday, grading the players based on the entire season to date, not just the one week prior. As always, I encourage all of you to post any suggestions or comments below to let us know what we got right and where we messed up.
1. Michael Beasley: 31.7 MPG, 39.4 FG%, 44.4 FT%, 1:2.9 AST/TO, 7.46 PER
A special guest appearance by a Minnesota Timberwolves player appears at the top of our first rankings for two reasons – first, because no Hornets player is truly deserving of a top ranking so far, and second (and much more importantly), Beasley has just been THAT bad. He’s single-handedly killing his team, and as a result, it’s pretty clear that no one has helped the Hornets’ long term prospects more than him. He’s second on the T-Wolves in minutes per game and third in usage rate, which would be okay if he was, you know, helping his team. Instead, he keeps chucking up clankers, as evidenced by his abysmal 42.1% true shooting percentage, an incredible 10% below the league average. If he keeps up this level of play at his current usage rate, the Hornets will be sending him a wonderful gift basket at season’s end.
2. Jarrett Jack: 37.9 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 42.1 FG%, 7.7 APG, 4.1 RPG, 16.6 PER
In what may come as a pleasant surprise to most, the Hornets’ starting point guard remains at the top of this list, despite the name changing. Jack has put up some career high averages thus far and is doing a good job of replacing a decent percentage of the scoring void left by Chris Paul. Additionally, JJ is demolishing his prior career high in assist percentage of 27.7%, currently assisting on 38.8% of Hornets field goals while in the game. While Jack is obviously nowhere near the kind of distributor that CP3 was, he is still playing at a higher level than most Hornets fans likely anticipated.
3. Carl Landry: 27.4 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 46.0 FG%, 6.4 RPG, 19.5 PER
Landry is sporting the top PER on the team thus far, which is largely due to his vast improvement on the boards. His scoring efficiency is slightly down, but he is making up for it by rebounding at a much higher rate (13.1% rebound rate, up from about 10% last season) than expected. Landry’s main weakness over the past couple of seasons has been defensive rebounding, but hopefully his numbers on the glass thus far this season are the result of a legitimate improvement in his game, and not merely due to small sample size.
4: Emeka Okafor: 29.3 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 46.3 FG%, 8.0 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 15.3 PER
Okafor gets this spot by default, as he is the only other Hornets starter with a PER above league average apart from the two listed above. Okafor is by no means having a really good season thus far; his true shooting percentage and rebounding rate are both down from his career averages. That being said, he is usually good for 8-10 points and 8-10 rebounds per game, so you usually know what to expect from him.
5: Chris Kaman: 25.0 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 48.6 FG%, 7.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 14.5 PER
Unlike Okafor, Kaman has been a pretty big wild card this season; some games, he plays like the Hornets’ best player, but on other nights he can just look like a big oaf in the middle. His numbers are slightly better than Okafor’s across the board, but those edges in the major stat categories are made obsolete by his frightening 21.6% turnover rate (for comparison’s sake, Okafor’s is 11.5%). If Kaman could get his turnovers down, he’d be one of the more dangerous big men in the league offensively, but he simply gives the ball away too much to earn that description as things stand right now.
6: Jason Smith: 16.4 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 48.9 FG%, 3.1 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 16.3 PER
If it weren’t for his fairly frequent lapses on defense, Smith could easily be ranked in the top 5 with his play thus far. He has been a below-average rebounder throughout his career, and his numbers in that stat category this season are actually even worse than usual, but he has easily made up for it in the turnover department. At first glance, his turnovers per game look identical to the rest of his career, but his usage rate this season has gone up by about 30%, which translates to a greatly decreased turnover total as a percentage of possessions used. He brings great energy whenever he is in the game, and if he can do a better job of staying grounded on defense, he’s on pace early for a career year.
7: Trevor Ariza: 31.4 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 41.7 FG%, 5.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 13.3 PER
Ariza has been a nice surprise for me purely because he is not forcing up an even greater amount of bad shots with the increase in available Hornets possessions this season. His below-average shooting numbers are right in line with what we’ve come to expect from him in a Hornets uniform, and despite becoming a more important option on offense to this team by default, he has actually slightly lowered his usage rate from last season. I feel dirty writing this, but Ariza may have to look to be MORE aggressive when he comes back from his groin injury, especially if Eric Gordon is still out when he returns to action.
8: Eric Gordon: 39.0 MPG, 21.0 PPG, 42.5 FG%, 5.0 RPG, 18.1 PER
It personally upsets me that I have him ranked this low, but when you only play in 2 out of your team’s first 8 games, you can’t earn a spot in the top part of these rankings. In those two games, however, EG has been solid on both sides of the ball, as his PER leads all Hornets not named Carl Landry. He struggled to score with any real efficiency in his brief one-game return from his knee injury, averaging about a point per attempt; however, the injury likely played a role in his performance, so it would be silly to make any real judgments until he is back at full strength. Simply put, the guy is truly fun to watch, and even if the season keeps slipping away with him out of the lineup, it will be a lot of fun to watch him lead this team when he returns.
9: Greivis Vasquez: 19.3 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 35.5 FG%, 3.5 APG, 13.5 PER
There hasn’t been a more hit-or-miss player for the Hornets thus far than Mr. Vasquez. Some nights, he has looked like he has the talent to be a starting point guard in this league, but on other nights, he simply seems too careless with the basketball to be consistently relied on. His true shooting percentage is actually significantly lower than in his rookie season, but his assist and steal percentages are both up, translating to a much better PER. The only thing keeping him from that PER rising above the league average is his Kaman-esque 19.4% turnover rate. If Vasquez can get that percentage down and get his true shooting percentage back to last year’s average of around 50%, then getting him by trading just Q-Pon could quickly seem like a steal.
10: Johnson & Johnson: 11.6 MPG, 4.0 PPG, 45.0 FG%, 1.4 APG, ~13.0 PER
Trey and Carldell Johnson have both played sparingly, but have been able to hold their own while in the game. Neither will ever be terribly relevant in this league, but they have both played well enough offensively for Monty Williams to keep from cringing whenever he puts either of them into the game. Defensively, both frequently struggle against legitimate NBA guards, but that will hopefully improve if their minutes have to increase for any reason.
11: Al-Farouq Aminu: 20.4 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 34.4 FG%, 4.6 RPG, 7.4 PER
Thanks to finally showing some signs of real basketball skill in Dallas on Saturday night, Aminu avoids starting off the season at the bottom of the rankings. That being said, he has still looked largely incompetent in most of his minutes, showing little promise in any other areas besides defense and rebounding. His shooting percentages are decent enough, but he struggles mightily to finish around the rim and turns the ball over far too frequently. Hopefully, as he continues to work with Monty and the rest of this Hornets team, he becomes more comfortable within the offense and will put up more performances like the one in Dallas (15 points on 8 shots with 12 rebounds and 4 steals).
12: Marco Belinelli: 31.4 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 32.9 FG%, 4.4 RPG, 6.6 PER
Yikes. When a player’s sole function in an offense is his jump shooting, and that player is only making 1/3 of his shots, that’s a major problem, to say the least. Belinelli has been downright awful through these first 8 games; he’s been so bad that he could potentially be completely removed from the guard rotation if the team had any other legitimate options. Unfortunately, with both Gordon and Ariza currently on the shelf, not only is Beli getting significant minutes, but he’ll likely remain in the starting lineup for the next week or two. Shooters like Marco all go through slumps, but as the season progresses, his awful scoring numbers are looking more like a trend and less like a slump.
Incomplete: Gustavo Ayon, Xavier Henry, & DaJuan Summers: Simply put, neither Ayon nor Summers have logged enough minutes to receive a fair ranking. That may remain the case for DaJuan, but Ayon could enter the rankings in next week’s edition. Henry will likely be out for another week or two, but I am greatly anticipating his Hornets debut to see if he can put his horrendous rookie season behind him and play at a level that is expected of a lottery pick.