The Hornets are not a good Defensive Team

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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.

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