The Hornets are not a good Defensive Team

Published: January 28, 2012

At least the Hornets are one of the top defensive teams, right? Not so fast!

At first, I didn’t really want to believe the Hornets have been bad defensively.  I’ve watched the games.  Teams struggle to score against the Hornets.  More, the Hornets had the 11th best defensive efficiency of 102.5 at the end of last year.  After the OKC game, the Hornets sport a defensive efficiency of 101.2. (this means they are allowing 101.2 points for every 100 posessions) This defense, therefore, should be lauded, right?  Sorry.  No.

The Hornets are currently sporting the 10th worst defense in the league.

How is that possible?  Well, the reality is the entire league is struggling to score right now.  What’s more, this happens every year.  Each season offensive efficiency is low at the start and then improves over the course of the year as teams figure out their best options and bottom feeders give up as they fall out of the playoff race, allowing more offense.  This year, there’s also the compressed schedule and short training camps to take into account.

The end result, is while the Hornets are currently defending better than they did over the course of last year, they aren’t special.

Still, there is some very interesting information to be gained by pouring over the numbers to see where the team defense is good, bad, or ugly.  Away we go:

First, it’s been stated in the past that the Hornets defense is predicated on packing the paint, collapsing on penetration, and allowing the outside shot. (while rushing out to contend)  Is this working?  Yes.

As you can see in the below table, the Hornets are allowing the 4th lowest percentage of shots at the rim.  Conversely, they are allowing the 5th highest percentage of shots from three-point range.  So their defensive philosophy (Combined with their control of the boards, which limits putbacks at the rim) has been working.

Opponent Shot Location At Rim 3-9 Ft 10-16 Ft 17-23 Ft 3-point
NBA Average 29.5% 13.8% 9.2% 25.2% 22.2%
Hornets 27.1% 13.4% 8.9% 24.7% 25.8%
Hornets Rank 4th 16th 14th 14th 26th

Even better, when it comes to limiting points, the defense has been working superbly.  Opposing teams have struggled to knock down the outside shot, with the Hornets posting the 8th best opponent three point percentage in the league.  So the Hornets are limiting shots at the rim, and opponents are missing from deep, essentially allowing the Hornets to  control the two most efficient shots in the game.  Then – how are the Hornets a bad defensive team then?

They foul too damn much, and they are a bad offensive team.

First, turnovers are killing them.  The Hornets have the 8th highest turnover rate in the league, giving the ball away on 16.8% of their possessions.  Not surprisingly, the Hornets also give up the 6th highest number of fast-break points and opponents convert those fast-break opportunities at a blistering rate of 1.94 points per shot, which is again, the 6th highest conversion rate in the game. Essentially, those turnovers and steals are guaranteeing the opponent easy buckets against a normally stingy defense.  In games that are generally close, it only takes 3-4 of those easy buckets to make a giant difference.

Secondly, the Hornets foul on 20.4% of defensive possessions.  That is the fifth highest number in the league, and results in opposing teams getting 19.8% of their offense from the charity stripe, which, again, is the sixth highest in the league.  Easy points.

So really, it’s not the Hornets defensive system that’s failing.  It’s almost all Mental.  If this team could stop the bad fouls and turnovers, their defense could become a good one, but until that happens, the team will just have one more obstacle to overcome to return to their winning ways.


  1. bee dat

    January 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    You hit the nail on the head by pointing the finger @ our offensive offense. Its next to impossible to become an elite defensive team when the other team never has to take it out of the net. Its not only that the d has less chance to get set and apply pressure (than it would after a made basket) but that we take such bad shots, usually long, that result in long rebounds going the other way or tapouts with the same result.

    Worst, as you pointed it out, are the turnovers which not only result in eeasy buckets the other way but also are spiritually and mentally deflating. How many times have we seen the hornets bust their a%$es off for a hard earned stop only to trot down the other way and promptly throw an entry pass off kamans knee and into enemy hands.

    I have no doubt that were our offensive efficiency to improve a bit, the defensive efficiency would increase significantly. We miss you ej!

  2. StefanC

    January 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Great post. I’m sure we have all noticed way too many mental lapses from our players this year.

    In other words, Monty is doing his job. Our player just cannot convert right now.

  3. NO-CHI

    January 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I know the Hornets are looking to trade Chris Kaman. Could we possibly get Kirk Hinrich from Atlanta? He can shoot from outside, is a combo guard, ( being a guard playing with Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose will do that) and is an excellent defender as he can guard 1s, 2s, and 3s! In other words, he’ll defensive pressure off of Ariza, and offensive pressure off of Jack and stretch the floor allowing us to get better in securing offensive rebounds. And improve our defense.

  4. Tyler

    January 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Can you post a review of each player’s defensive efficiency in relation to your above article?

    • Ryan Schwan

      January 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      There are a few resources I can use to rate defensive capabilities in specific situations. If you guys are interested, I can work on that over the next couple weeks.

  5. nikkoewan

    January 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    You stole my post! And that was exactly what I was going to say!! NOO!!! Let the glory be mine!!

    Kidding aside, good job! I think CP3 improved our defense more than people realized. Besides being a great perimeter defender that generates a huge number of steals, CP3 controlled the ball and limited TOs thereby limiting fast break points.

    Our first priority is learning how to take care of the ball again. That’s priority. I think (no evidence to prove it), a good number of our fouls come from fast breaks or secondary breaks..

  6. tylerdena

    January 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    look at the stats you *genius*. they are 8th in the league in defense. period. research your material before you make accusations.

    *edit* – let’s read the article, then accuse, criticize the work, not the man. -42

    • nikkoewan

      January 29, 2012 at 12:31 am

      look at the advanced stats *genius* we are 8th best in pts allowed. We aren’t 8th best DEFENSE..

      defense accounts for the points you allow PER POSSESSION. Hence, due to the turtle pace the Hornets play, of course the opponents will score lower.

      A good example would be MIA. MIA plays at the 7th fastest pace in the league. they allow the 22nd worst most points allowed in the league. However, they are the 8th best defense. See that? points allowed per game DOES NOT equate to a good defense. Points allowed PER POSSESSION does. Research your material before you make accusations.

      • Jason Calmes

        January 29, 2012 at 12:39 am

        To be clear, he had a not so nice word there . . . I put genius in with the sarcastic tone to keep the spirit of the insult without it being repugnant.

    • StefanC

      January 29, 2012 at 1:10 am


    • Joe Gerrity

      January 29, 2012 at 1:31 am

      I hate people think that PPG = defense.

      • usufruct

        January 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        You “hate” a patron of your own site? Come on, man. Unfortunately, I regularly see the hosts of 247 lambast posters in confrontational, borderline rude ways. I’ve been around this site a long time, and I can say for a fact it wasn’t always this way. Yall need to bring back Niall as a professionalism consultant.

        While I don’t necessarily like the tone of tylerdena’s post, he’s not a host of the site. The hosts have a higher duty. Joe, all you had to do was explain why ppg does not equate to good defense. Instead you made a comment that was just as bad as his.

      • Jason Calmes

        January 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

        I’m fairly sure you are talking about me at least partially, so I’ll respond. I `get down’ with anyone willing to talk.

        Beyond the shadow of doubt, I make errors in my role here, and Joe does, too.

        I don’t see commenters as above reproach, and neither are hosts. Reading every comment on this site, some commenters have burned through their slack while others haven’t. Empty, mean-spirited criticism doesn’t help anyone. Attacking the man instead of attack the argument is bad for many reasons. I edited tylerdena’s comment because his insult of Ryan was also an insult to a group of people that have nothing to do with anything near this post, comment or blog. I left the criticism in, just not that word.

        Additionally, some commenters pound on others, and you’ll see me try to mediate in the same way.

        I think the hosts’ duties are are higher, as you say, but perhaps not in the same ways.

        Regarding Niall: he decided he’d take his various gifts around the world (literally) to pursue other dreams. He by no means turned his back on anyone, but it’s not a `bring back’ kind of party. I’d love for him to choose to return, and I’d leave if it made that happen. It’s just not in the cards for now or the foreseeable future.

        Also, and Joe can certainly speak for himself on this, I don’t think Joe really hates that guy or those people. I think he meant it in the sense of dislike, which is a common usage.

        I do hope you feel like your comment is being taken seriously, because it is.

      • usufruct

        January 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm

        Look, it’s yall’s site, you can run it how you want. That said, I hold to a customer’s-always-right rule in most contexts, even internet forums. A moderator’s job is to keep the discussion on track and on a professional level. The moderator can’t keep it on a professional level when the moderator’s not responding on a professional level. I’m not defending idiotic or rude commenters. They should be dealt with. I’m just against that behavior from the people who run this site. And no, Joe’s comment wasn’t egregious. I just wanted to point out that it was on about the same level as the OP. Alright, I’ve said my piece. It’s almost game time. See yall at the arena.

        PS – I know what Niall’s up to. I first met Niall at Loyola when he was first putting together the site. Now he’s off saving the world on a shoestring budget.

      • Jason Calmes

        January 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm

        I assume most long-timers do. More for newer folks who see the ‘Niall’ comments here and there or those who only caught the end of the Niall era.

  7. Okithor

    January 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    So are with the points differential around 3.5 are the Horents the best bad team of all time?

    • nikkoewan

      January 29, 2012 at 7:41 am

      LOL :)) i think that point differential speaks a lot about the quality of Monty’s coaching. Even with such a crummy roster, he is still able to put NOLA in a position to win. Problem is, we have nobody to give us a win. LOL

    • Bee dat

      January 29, 2012 at 9:15 am

      its made it a better ride for the fans. after a few truly unwatchable games early on, we’ve been treated to competitive, fun games. as it is past obvious that playoffs are out of reach, even to the diehards like myself, do not mind as much seeing an l go on the board.

      another fairly obvious reason for lower d efficiency is the rebuilding commitment. obviously when you play young guys due to injury or to get them reps (i’m lokkin @ you aminu), they commit mistakes on the defensive end. our ” core” is still built of guys who are solid defenders but team defense relies on communication and comfort level with your teammates, so help can be given effectively. when lineups get swapped around every game this suffers greatly

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