Gordon and the Anatomy of a Few Wins

Published: January 10, 2013
Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon is back, but he’s certainly not scoring well.  Why are the Hornets winning?

Seriously.  Why are the Hornets winning?  Eric Gordon came back, and he’s shooting 32.5% from the field.  15% from deep!  Add in his nice free throw numbers and his True Shooting Percentage still only clocks in at 43.0%.  An average shooting guard in the NBA has a TS% of 53.7%.  He’s been a wreck as he works his way back into the game.

I dug into the numbers.  Caution, this piece contains nerd-like content.


First, I just wanted to see how the Hornets played with Gordon on the court his year – compared to when he’s not on the court.  Small sample size, I know, but here’s the results:

 Hornets Offensive Numbers of note per 48 minutes

  • Despite Eric’s Iso predilections, the number of assisted Hornets shots rises by 2.2.
  • The Hornets predictably shoot 2.1 more free throws.
  • The Hornets true shooting and effective field goal percentages rise by 1.5%.
  • The Hornets defensive rebound rate jumps by 6.3% to a staggering 80%.  (Yeah, that would lead the league by a lot)
  • The Hornets turnover rate drops by 1%, accounting for more than a turnover less per 48 minutes.
  • Negatives?  None.  Every category improves.  Yes, every category.  Both types of rebounding, assists, blocks, steals, assist to turnover ratio, assist rate, shooting.  Even pace increases by a few possessions per 48 minutes.

So despite Eric Gordon’s poor personal shooting numbers and allergy to rebounds, just having him play makes this Hornets squad much better offensively.  The overall efficiency numbers bear that out as well.  In Gordon’s 144 minutes this season, the Hornets offense scores 103.4 points per 100 posessions.  Without him, the Hornets have averaged 100.6 points per 100 possessions.

Opponent Offensive Numbers of note per 48 minutes

(and remember, this is happening with the Hornets playing a faster pace than normal)

  • Opponents have been grabbing 3.8 fewer offensive rebounds.
  • Opponents have fouled Hornets players 1.5 more times.
  • Opponents have been fouled 4.4 fewer times.
  • Opponents commit 4 more turnovers.
  • Opponents get 3.9 fewer shots.
  • Opponents have earned 3.5 fewer free throws.
  • Opponents take 2 fewer threes.
  • Opponents block 1 less shot.
  • Negatives?  Opponents shoot 1.4% better on threes and .6% better on twos.

Clearly the first four bullets have a lot to do with the fewer shots, free throws and threes.  Still, this is a major swing, and it’s enabled the Hornets to allow only 97.7 points per 100 possessions when Gordon was on the floor.  Normally, they allow 106.  97.7, by the way, would be third in the league.

Does all of this make sense?  In some interconnected way, of course.  The Hornets have improved their athleticism and speed on the perimeter.  That, in turn, cuts down on easy penetration, increases deflections, and helps on closeouts.  Opposing teams have shot 9% worse from deep since Eric Gordon returned to the line-up.  Is part of that fluky?  Probably.  But it’s also partly an indicator of what happens when you upgrade your team’s athleticism on the wing.  (Remember, Aminu also started playing again at this time.  Of course turnovers are down and shooting up, and the team is playing Aminu.  Weird how that works.)

The rebounding improvement is perhaps the hardest to tie to Gordon.  As noted above, the team is playing Aminu once more, and that always helps on the boards.  And again, better perimeter defense will enable the Hornets’ big men to concentrate more on rebounding position and less on help defense.  Still, if anything, this may be the most flukish of the improved stats.

The shooting is partly self-explanatory.  Gordon generates open looks – and improves the number of assists the team gets per game.  This compensates for his own poor shooting.  However, there is the interesting side effect.  Michael and I wondered on the podcast for a month leading up to Gordon’s return if he would help Vasquez mask his deficiencies and play to his strengths.

So far, it’s an unequivocal yes.

Vasquez next to Gordon

In the games since Gordon’s return, Vasquez has had his assist rate rise by 5%, his eFG% increase by 9.8%, his TS% increase by 6.8% and most importantly, his turnover rate has dropped 50% from his 12.78 average to 8.4.  His usage rate has also declined by about 4%, a clear indicator that he’s being forced to be the primary guy less often, allowing him to pick his spots more often.


It’ll be interesting to see how much of this carries forward as the sample size grows larger, but so far, these returns are exciting – and a little sad when you consider what might have been.


  1. RonJohn

    January 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Is Brian Roberts still on the team? If so, does that mean he’ll stay the rest of the year because his contract is now guaranteed?

    • Jason Calmes

      January 10, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      I did not hear he was released.

      He can be waived or traded, but his payment is guaranteed unless the news is slow in being released.

      Same for Thomas.

      • Kujo_Daggs

        January 11, 2013 at 10:03 am

        Roberts shouldn’t go anywhere, the commentattors were just saying in Wednesday night’s game how efficient he’s been as a backup PG. They’d be absolute idiots to let him go anywhere else. Same can’t be said for Thomas.
        The Hornets really have 4 roster issues: Thomas (love his hustle but all that enrgy is worthless if it yields nothing), Henry, Aminu, and Rivers. They should shift Roberts over to backup 2guard and use those 4 to trade for a pass-first backup PG (Kendall Marshall) and Derrick Williams. That makes them an incredibly dangerous squad who nobody wants to play.

  2. houp garou

    January 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    # 1 benefit of minutes from a reduced strength eg – less min from austin and last nights hero. Take those guys off the court and efficiency stats of all kinds are bound to improve.

    Throw in a rejuvenated farouq, who along with gordon has been effective in limiting the opponents forays into the paint. The defensive intensity has really picked up, and the rotations are finally getting crisper

    On offense, at least gordon dribbles with purpose exploring the paint,attracting attention, and making things considerably easier for others, especially when contrasted with our other two guards who dribble out the clock and chuck it to a covered teammate with one or two clicks on the clock

    • RonJohn

      January 10, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      at least gordon dribbles with purpose exploring the paint,attracting attention, and making things considerably easier for others


    • Nate

      January 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

      So you’re saying he’s our “Reggie Bush”?

    • Kujo_Daggs

      January 11, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Great comment
      Rivers contributes nothing to this team and reeeeeeally should go elsewhere. Aminu is a fierce defensive presence but his offensive contributions are absent; I need my wing to drop buckets!

  3. Jake Madison

    January 10, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    I love this piece, Ryan.

  4. Andres_SAN _FRAN

    January 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    This is my favorite article of the new year!

  5. ktrufant

    January 11, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Really though, Aminu improves on his production and still can’t catch a break from you guys? I don’t understand the consistent undervaluing of the guy’s production.

    Anyway, I agree with less Rivers being another big factor (in addition to more Aminu and Gordon). But shooting is one of the most inconsistent stats in basketball, while rebounding is one of the most consistent. Why do you say it’s the most fluky here (while asserting the improvement in shooting is more permanent)? I understand, for example, how Gordon’s presence helps Vasquez’s efficiency but he still has to make the shot. What’s to say this uptick in FG% is not temporary? Aminu has been an excellent rebounder all season. IMO a lot of the improvement in at least that area comes from him which isn’t all that weird and would seem to be more likely to stick. Anyway

    • RonJohn

      January 11, 2013 at 12:56 am

      Many of the site writers have been saying since last year that AFA should stick to what he does best: rebounding and driving the floor for the fast break. That’s the way for AFA to play consistently well.

      • ktrufant

        January 11, 2013 at 1:38 am

        I think that’s pretty much what he does (those things and defense). However he’s 22 with long arms and great athleticism. He is still developing as a player and Williams is still developing his game (like with the benching). I’m pretty sure everything he does on offense is either coach instructed or he’s forced into because of being late in the shot clock.

        Rivers isn’t the only young talented player in need of development on this team (even if he’s the most unproductive one). Even Vasquez’s game is seeing improvement. The team and all of the players (not just Austin Rivers) need some fairness and balance from the fans and writers. Especially struggling through a rebuilding season.

      • Nate

        January 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

        If he takes a jumpshot Monty should promptly yank him.

      • Nate

        January 11, 2013 at 9:55 am

        Referring to AFA of course.

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