NBA Roundtable

Hornets Thoughts

In General NBA on November 14, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Wandering thoughts on various things on the Hornets + their players.

Chris Paul Off The Court

The Hornets have looked lost whenever Chris Paul has been off the court. Even worse than last year. At least last season the team had an idea of what it was trying to do while he was sitting down. Now they just look aimless out there.

Bobby Brown

I have no idea why Byron Scott was playing Bobby Brown ahead of Darren Collison. Brown is a poor player who was playing terrible basketball while Collison is a good-to-excellent backup point guard with an all-round game + NBA ready game.

Bobby Brown was supplying the team with poor defensive contributions (although he looks like he could be a decent defender), awful rebounding (one board every 22 minutes) and awful offense .

How awful was Brown’s offense? He was shooting 38% from the field and only 28% from three. Despite those numbers he was hoisting up almost 9 shots a game in less than 18 minutes. Those are All-Star type shot attempts. On a per 36 minute rate Brown was taking 18 shots a game, 7.3 of which where three pointers, despite missing on a stunning number of those attempts. Brown also supplied very poor passing + playmaking relative to his position and the offense looked disheveled while he was at the point.

Despite this, Byron Scott kept playing him ahead of Darren Collison. A player who is a good-to-very good defender with excellent defensive potential. An efficient scorer who can shoot from anywhere and finish at the rim. A solid floor general with four year’s experience of running UCLA’s offense plus playing in numerous big games. And looks to be a good rebounder too. In other words a player who makes positive contributions to his team across the board.

So why was Bobby Brown playing ahead of Darren Collison again? This one move was highly damaging for the Hornets. A good-to-excellent role player versus a below average third string point guard. That difference in talent is massive.

Bobby Brown + Chris Paul Together

This combination wrecked my head. Two small undersized point guards playing alongside one another. It was a problem waiting to happen.

Bobby Brown was already a liability defensively + on the boards. Now place another small point guard alongside him in Paul, who is a good defender against point guards but a poor-to-very poor defender against two guards, and you have a massive problem on your hands.

It’s bad enough when you’re just considering the defensive/rebounding complications … but Bobby Brown was destroying the offense with his trigger happy shot missing ways. The number of shots Brown was taking when Paul or someone else was a more effective scorer was appalling.

How often was this happening? Well, five of Brown’s top ten lineups had Chris Paul in it. So it was happening quite a bit.

Byron Scott

The team tuned him out.

Transition Defense

The Hornets transition defense has been awful each time I’ve seen them play. Very slow to get back on D, particularly their big men. Okafor was especially guilty in two of the games I was watching.

David West

David West is the single most damning player in the New Orleans team at the moment.

West is grabbing 6.3 rebounds per game in 35 minutes a night (10.6% rebounding percentage). That’s Bargnani-level rebounding. West has also been a negative on the defensive end.

Then we come to his offensive game. West has never been much of a passer despite his impressive feel for the game so not much of a contribution there. As a scorer, he’s been prolific with middling efficiency. This year he has been solid (15.9ppg) with middling efficiency (TS% of 53.2%).

So, the Hornets second All-Star and third best player has been having a huge negative effect on the boards + a substantial negative effect defensively + a solid offensive effect.

That is nowhere near the level of contribution that the Hornets require from a player of West’s caliber. David West is the single biggest reason for the Hornets struggles.

Peja Stojakovic

I was hoping that Peja could recover from his poor season last year and revert to the form he showed in 2007/08 this season. Unfortunately, not only has he not come close to his 07/08 form, he hasn’t even managed his 08/09 level of performances.

Stojakovic is scoring only 8ppg in 25 minutes which is 11 points per 36. He’s also playing poor-to-very poor defensively and has been very poor on the backboards. No substantial contributions as a passer either.

How bad on the backboards? Only 2.9 rebounds in 25 minutes. Only 3.9 boards per 36. That’s one rebound every nine minutes. That’s very poor for a small forward.

In other words, Peja Stojakovic has been an overwhelming negative for the Hornets. Peja is the second biggest reason for the Hornets struggles.

For those keeping count, I have Bobby Brown over Darren Collison as the third biggest reason.

Emeka Okafor

Okafor has been pretty good so far. He’s averaging about 11 and 9 but only playing 30 minutes a night. So he’s been fairly productive on a per minute basis.

No idea why he’s only playing thirty minutes when he’s the Hornets second best player. Perhaps it’s precautionary after coming back from that injury at the end of training camp. I hadn’t heard anything about a new injury slowing him down.

Okafor is one of the few Hornets who can hold his head high. He’s playing good basketball and is helping the team — something which few Hornets players can say right now — but he can still do better. I think he’s under-performing defensively + can be more efficient/effective offensively but I suspect that will come given time.

There is a simple lack of focus + effort on anything that doesn’t involve David West shooting the basketball.

Julian Wright

Very disappointing. Is still out of control on the court. Still plays at one speed throughout.

He’s an extremely talented young player, particularly defensively, but the Hornets are seeing no end product here.

Wright would be fourth on my list of current problems causing the Hornets poor play.

Devin Brown

I don’t like the idea of Devin Brown starting. Heck, I don’t even like him being in the rotation. But the team is playing very poor effort-wise right now and Brown can help in that regard.

A temporary band aid … hopefully.

James Posey

For the last few years James Posey has been one of the best sixth men in the NBA. He’s been a great sixth man because he’s a very good defender, a good rebounder, excellent under pressure and provides a lot of toughness + energy, a leader, is a good complementary offensive player who is an excellent + efficient perimeter shooter. He’s been the perfect role player out on the wing.

Now, his defense has been declining each season dating back to his days in Miami. More so his man-to-man D than his team defense which is still/was last season very good. So I’d expect that decline to continue and for Posey to be a slightly above average one-on-one defender + very good team defender this season.

Unfortunately for the Hornets though, Posey’s defense has been poor throughout the early part of the season. His rebounding has also been poor and worse than anything he’s ever done previously. Offensively, he’s missing shots (34% field goal percentage) and when he’s doing that he’s not having a positive effect on that end of the floor.

When Posey signed for New Orleans I thought the Hornets, or any other team, would get three good years out of him. Two where he was a top sixth man and another where he was a very good good bench player. Then one final year where he was poor-to-serviceable off the bench but was also a significant trade asset with his expiring contract. So I had no problems with the deal Posey signed. But if Posey continues to perform as badly as he has in the early part of the season then this deal will quickly become one of the worst in the league.

I have no idea why Posey is performing as badly as he is. That’s the scary part. I expect Posey to improve as the year goes on but we likely are looking at a serious decline when it’s all said and done.

Hornets 2007/08 versus Now

The 2007/08 had the following contributions

  • A dominant All-NBA caliber point guard
  • One All-Star caliber big  (Chandler) + a borderline All-Star caliber big (West) who gave the Hornets an advantage in the paint on a nightly basis.
  • A third scoring option who could supply a very efficient 17ppg.
  • Excellent shooting from Mo Pete + Peja
  • A bench that could change games — well following mid-season — with Jannero Pargo, Bonzi Wells and Julian Wright. These three could turn a game on it’s head. Very good to excellent defensive trio who rebounded the ball very well and had two go-to scorers for the second unit to play off of.
    • That gave the Hornets an All-NBA playmaker/scorer in Paul. A 20ppg threat in West. A 17ppg threat in Peja. An efficient complementary garbage man in Chandler who gave another 10 points on 60% shooting. Two go-to scorers off the bench who could score 10 points a night easily enough when given enough minutes. And a fifth scoring option in Mo Pete. In summary, they had a somewhat balanced + efficient offense.
  • And the team played very good overall defense largely based on the contributions of their starting big men. The bench was second most important.

This year’s Hornets team has

  • A dominant All-NBA point guard
  • An interior which is getting outplayed on a daily basis
    • Largely due to David West’s terrible contributions (for a player of his caliber). That’s left the Hornets over-reliant on Okafor and he simply isn’t good enough to handle that. West has become far too focused on scoring and not focused enough on non-scoring contributions.
      David West can improve in these areas. He will improve in these areas. But I’m doubtful that he will match his performances of 07/08, there is just too much focus on his own scoring for him to play his best.
  • A lack of shooters due to Peja + Mo Pete + Posey struggling with their shot.
    • This is only a temporary problem though (we hope + expect) … but their all-round contributions have dropped so the Hornets are and will be getting less from their wings this season. Also, Julian Wright isn’t playing as well as he did two years ago but is capable of resurrecting that form.
  • A good-to-excellent backup point guard in Darren Collison. A different sort of player to Jannero Pargo but someone who can make a comparable or better impact on games. Only, he’s not playing.
  • A very talented group of perimeter bench players that either aren’t playing (Collison) or aren’t producing at the moment (Posey/Peja). The Hornets still have a problem with their backup big men but those guys are more talented this season than they were two years ago due to the additions of Songaila + Diogu.
  • A good-to-very good defensive team which is currently playing poor defense.

Now, as we look down those list of relative strengths to both of those teams. For the most part, the Hornets current problems are form-related and correctable if shown some patience.

That said, there are some other more serious problems

  • David West’s decline
  • Peja Stojakovic’s + Mo Peterson’s decline in all-round contributions
  • An unanswered question of how much Posey can improve as the year goes on.

Those issues have made this year’s Hornets team less talented than the squad from two years ago.

Overall, I feel that this Hornets team is capable of winning 47-51 games this season in comparison to the 55-58 win team they had two years ago. Coming into the season I was expecting a 52-55 win team but the declines in Peja + West seem to rule that out.

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