The Hornets Through One-Third of the Seasonby Patrick Champion February 10, 2021 1 comment
We have reached the one-third mark of the NBA season. While not a normal season by any stretch of the imagination, it has still followed trends between this season and the last, particularly in various teams’ records. The Charlotte Hornets are not one of these teams. Are they a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference? No. However, there have been several trends that have put Charlotte in a position to get a “play-in” spot for the playoffs, if not the actual playoffs. So, what has gone well for the Hornets, what has gone poorly, and what is something to watch out for as the season progresses?
The Good: LaMelo Ball
This one is obvious. Ball is the rookie leader in almost all stats, including points per game (14.2) and assists per game (6.2). He is second in rebounds per game with 5.9, just barely behind James Wiseman‘s 6.1. As Charlotte starts to sustain injuries to Ball’s backcourt mates in Rozier and, more recently, Graham, Ball will continue to start for as long as either one is out and maybe even after they come back.
The Bad: The Center Position
The Hornets have a noticeable hole at the center position. Their current rotation consists of Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo. Per game, the two combine for 15.8 points, 14.1 rebounds, and only 3.9 assists. There is a noticeable void in production that players such as Ball, Gordon Hayward, Malik Monk, and Miles Bridges have to fill. It’s incredibly unlikely that the Hornets are a center away from contention, but if they don’t have one by the trade deadline, it will have to be a serious priority in the offseason.
The Good: Sharing the Ball
As shocking as it may seem, the Hornets actually led in a statistical category: assists. This has worked wonders for their offense, which was one of the worst last year. Their offensive rating has moved from 29th to 17th, the pace has gone from 30th to 17th, and points per game moved up from 30th to 20th. While this is still far from an electric offense, combine that with a “slightly above league average” defense and a weak Eastern Conference, and they are in a good position to make the playoffs.
The Bad: Injuries
While Charlotte has not had nearly as much trouble with COVID as some other teams, injuries (especially recently) have started to creep in. They started the season with a hand injury to Cody Zeller that sidelined him for nearly a month, and then recently was affected by a Devonte’ Graham groin strain that has sidelined him for two games so far. While a Devonte’-less lineup has gone 2-0 so far, it still leaves a hole in the team. Hopefully for the Hornets, no other major injuries will happen.
What to watch for: The point guard logjam
Coach James Borrego is going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming games. The Hornets have two guard spots and three starting guards. For now, the traffic isn’t too backed up. Graham has sustained a groin injury, preventing him from playing, but soon enough he’ll be healthy, and then Borrego will have to bench one. At the beginning of the season, this would have been Ball, but he has thrived in a starting position and should continue to do so. A three-guard lineup is highly unsustainable, as the starters have no height, nor do they have defense. This will certainly be something to watch for in the coming weeks.
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