Hornets Power Rankings- Week Three

Published: November 14, 2010

Only two games this week, but in those two games the Hornets point differential was larger than the previous six wins combined for the undefeated Hornets. The beat downs were so thorough that All Stars Chris Paul and David West only had to play 61 minutes and 57 minutes, respectively. In fact, the bench was so impressive against LA that CP3 didn’t even have to get out of his seat in the 4th quarter.

Everybody is chipping in. Well, everybody except Aaron Gray and Joe Alexander (who was cut this week). Quincy Pondexter seems to have earned a spot on the active roster and it appears that it will either be Peja or Marcus Thornton who will have the right to wear a suit and sit next to Mr. Gray. As for the rest of the Hornets, here is how they stack up as of today:

1. Chris Paul- 17.0 PPG, 10.3 APG, 2.75 SPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.8:1 AST/TO, 29.4 PER

It will be hard to knock CP3 off of his perch, and frankly, it will be difficult to deny CP3 the league MVP if the Hornets keep winning like this. His base statistics aren’t as gaudy as in years past, but his advanced statistics and his clutch time statistics are remarkable. Defensively he still has problems with bigger guards at times, but he has been a master of thievery yet again this year as he finds ways to hide in a crowd and then pick big men clean in the post.

What Hornets fans should be really excited about is the fact that Paul is only playing 34 minutes per game. If Monty can keep him at that number and the Hornets keep winning, CP3 should be fresh for the playoffs, and that is bad news for the rest of the league.

2. Emeka Okafor- 12.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 69%FG, 21 PER, 2nd on team in Win Share

Okafor has moved up every week so far, and although this is likely as high as he will get, fans have reason to be excited about Okafor moving forward. Despite playing less than 30 minutes per game so far this season, Okafor is having his best season as a pro so far. Unlike last season, Okafor is changing opponents shots on a regular basis and is rebounding well in traffic. Ideally, Okafor would finish stronger on the offensive end, but let’s not get greedy. If Okafor can play like this for the rest of the season, the Hornets could make a deep, deep run.

3. David West- 16.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 52%FG, 1st on team in Points per 40, 20.8 PER

There has been a somewhat disturbing pattern developing with West this season. He picks up two fouls in the first quarter  and is forced to the bench for the next 10-12 minutes. In this respect, the added defensive intensity that we have all been applauding D West for has come at a cost. Remarkably, West usually only finishes the game with 3 or 4 fouls, but those two quickies are the reason he is only managing 30 minutes per game.

When he is on the court, he is extremely efficient for a jump shooting big man and he has provided leadership in the second unit at times this season. Several times this year the opposition has gone on a small run while the starters are off the floor and in response Monty puts in West to settle them down. As is the case with CP3, limiting David West’s minutes will be huge come playoff time.

4. Willie Green- 8.4 PPG, 2nd lowest turnover percentage on the team, leading bench scorer

Green obviously isn’t a starter, but he has been the most important and consistent wing player on the team so far this season. Each and every night he brings quality defense, covering multiple positions throughout the game. Offensively he does take bad shots at times, sometimes forcing jumpers out of his range, but he has a knack for scoring points when they are most needed.

His 4th quarter flurry against the Clippers allowed CP3 to take the 4th quarter off and a couple of key shots against Portland stopped the Blazers momentum. This week Green averaged 15 PPG, but weeks like that will be the exception more than the rule. It is defense why the “Fire Extinguisher” is ranked this high and why Marcus Thornton can’t find minutes on this team.

5. Marco Belinelli- 11.9 PPG, 47% FG, 44% 3PT, 58% Adjusted Field Goal %

Back in Week One, I wrote that if Belinelli can find his deep stroke, he would move up this list. Over the past five games, Marco is 13 for 26 from deep and his defense has been equally impressive. Rumors started to swirl this week that the Hornets were in the market for an upgrade at the shooting guard position, but between Belinelli and Willie Green the Hornets are getting 20PPG and very solid defense. This week alone, the two combined to average 29.5 PPG, and unlike some of the names discussed, they are not scheduled to earn nearly 50 million over the next 3-4 years.

6. Trevor Ariza- 10.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.75 SPG, 67FG% in crunch time

Offensively, Ariza just doesn’t seem to be completely comfortable in the system yet, which is understandable. Because the Hornets have gotten off to such an impressive start, the magnifying glass has not been out as much as it has been in the past. The general attitude is that “it is not broke”, but let’s not confuse that with “everything is running perfect.”

Ariza has been making big shots late in games, but there are times he just seems lost and/or disinterested. Defensively he has been a major upgrade and his athleticism has been a welcome addition, both in transition and in the half court offense, but I don’t think anybody wants to see another wing isolation play drawn up for Ariza. An up and down season, but much like Okafor I have a feeling that once he gets settled into the system, the results will be more steady.

7. Jason Smith- 8.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 48% FG, 92%FT

J Smitty and the Fire Extinguisher were outright stolen from the 76ers. So far this season, Craig Brackins and Darius Songalia have combined to play 10 minutes and have scored zero points for Flip, Flip, Flipadelphia. Meanwhile Smitty and FE have been the two best players off the bench for the last remaining unbeaten team in the NBA. With D West’s foul troubles, who knows where this team would be without J Smitty.

8. Peja Stojakovic- 7 PPG, 2nd on team in Points per 40, 2nd on team in 3-pointers made per game

The guy has only played 3 games, yet he is ranked 8th on the team? I know, but really, what should I do? Should I put a guy who had a negative PER ahead of him? Should I tell you I did that before? What should I do? Should I play the role of the villain and put him behind a guy with alien ears? What should I do? Should I tell you- I AM NOT A SPORTSWRITER? Hi, Joe. What should I do?

9. Jerryd Bayless- 4.5 PPG, 3rd on team in fouls drawn per minute

34 points all season, 23 in the last 2 games. One third of his points for the season came in a five minute stretch against the Clippers. Is he finding his way or is he getting garbage points against garbage teams? I would like to say a little bit of both. The fact is that the guy is a scorer, not a distributor. When he puts his head down and takes it to the hole, he adds a dimension that the Hornets don’t otherwise have. His ability to draw fouls helps in numerous ways. If he can come out at the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters and get the Hornets into the bonus, that would be huge when you consider how good CP3 and West are from the line.

10. Marcus Thornton- 7.3 PPG, 4th on team in Points per 40

He stays in the top 10 due to his performances against San Antonio and Denver, but if he keeps getting DNP’s and put on the IR, he will be off this list and perhaps off this team.

11. DJ Mbenga- 1 BPG

His defensive presence in some games this season warrant him being listed above Q-Pon and Pops.

12 (tie) Quincy Pondexter and Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Based on recent patterns, I would expect to see Pondexter to move up this list while Pops appears to be on his way down- much to the dismay of “rm”. Keep your head up buddy, I am sure Pops will win us a game or two before it is all over.

14. Aaron Gray

You think Demps wishes Gray would have “failed his physical” as well?


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