The Hornets’ Broken Defense

Published: April 1, 2013

Welcome to the first part of the 2013 season Moratorium.

The off-season is almost on us – and in just a few months we’ll all be able to gnash our teeth/glow/fume/gush/rage/smirk/dance, etc., over whatever moves Dell makes during the Draft and Free Agency.

Before that, however, it may be wise to understand just what this broken team is doing badly, so that we can decide if Dell has ignored issues, papered over holes, or well and truly repaired them.  Today, I’m talking overall defense before getting into the nitty-gritty of individual defensive areas in later pieces.

Every team has a strategy designed to control the types of shots a team generates in their offense.   Most good defenses try force a large number of inefficient mid-range shots and to keep opponents off the three point line and away from the rim. This season the Hornets have deployed a pretty drastic “Collapse and Guard the Rim” strategy, where they attempt to aggressively help on driving or posting-up opponents, hoping to prevent those good shots at the rim.  It is debatable if this is a good strategy, since open three pointers are effective shots that teams seek – but shots at the rim are the most efficient shot in the league.  So, you could get behind a team trying such a defense, especially if it’s a team trying to paper over some serious footspeed issues at several positions.  The team has to try something, right?

So the Hornets have tried.  And failed.  New Orleans has allowed the 4th most shots at the rim, resulting in the 6th highest number of buckets.  Even worse, those numbers are raw data, if you take those numbers in context with the total number of shots opponents take, the Hornets allow fully 38% of an opponents attempts to come at the rim.  That number is the second worst in the league.

So the Hornets defense is more “Collapse”, and less “Guard the Rim.”

The bad news doesn’t stop there.  Due to the team’s leaden feet at most positions, they are predictably not getting back out on shooters once they collapse into the paint.  That results in a further 26% of opponents shots coming from outside the arc, good for the 7th highest percentage in the league.

Collectively that means that the Hornets are the worst team in the league at controlling shot selection.  Opponents take a a league-lowest 35.7% of their shots from the Dumb Zone – the mid-range area that produces, on average, between .8 and .9 points per shot.  The league average is 41.6%.  Unsurprisingly, the stingiest defense in the league, the Indiana Pacers, force opponents to take 48.9% of their shots from the dumb zone.

It’s a disaster, and one that Dell and Monty will need to address.

So the first thing the Hornets I’d like to see brought in this off-season?  Speed at the defensive point of attack, primarily at the point, but also at the wing.  Then, hopefully, Monty Williams will to jettison an extremely ineffective defensive strategy.

What do you think will help most?  Sound off in the comments!


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