While the Charlotte Hornets played better of late, they have struggled on offense this season.
The recent road trip has seen the Hornets offense perform better, but they rank in the middle of the league in points per game, and they are on of the league’s worst 3-point shooting teams. Barring a dramatic turnover, it’s unlikely they will finish the season above average. That said, one writer thinks there is an area they could realistically improve on.
Jonathan DeLong wrote a piece titled, “The Hornets can’t shoot, but there are things they can do to improve their offense” for At the Hive. So what are those things? Namely, it’s getting out in transition in more. DeLong explains:
The Hornets are currently average 1.17 points per possession in transition, the 4th best mark in the league. Despite their success, transition offense only makes up 11.8 percent of the Hornets offense, which is the 6th lowest rate in the league. If a team is good at something, they should try to utilize it as much as possible.
The Hornets are good at scoring in transition when they do it, but don’t do it enough. Makes senses, but DeLong goes on to explain why this is important:
There’s a slight, rather insignificant positive correlation between how often a team scores in transition and how efficient their offense is. The big takeaway, however, is that just 2 of the 11 teams that sport an above average offensive rating don’t utilize transition a great deal. While it’s not impossible to have a good offense that slows the pace, it’s clearly difficult.
With the team ranking bottom of the league in half court scoring statistics, it makes sense for them to get out and run more in transition. A few players — namely Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — excel in transition, so it makes sense to get them more involved in this situations. While the results may not dramatically change things, the Hornets could use more high percentage looks.
Walker trade speculation
With the Hornets sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference, talk of selling at the deadline continues. It’s fair to bring up; Charlotte has a lot of money tied to players beyond this season. Many wouldn’t get high value in return, however, except for Kemba Walker. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post makes the case for why Charlotte should consider offers:
Charlotte finds itself in just about the worst situation in the NBA. Having gone all-in to try to return to the playoffs this season by essentially taking on the final two years of Dwight Howard’s contract from the Atlanta Hawks for dead money, the Hornets – who have never paid the luxury tax – found themselves pushing up against it this season.
To make matters worse, the financial situation isn’t getting better anytime soon. Next season, the Hornets – as constructed – are guaranteed to be a tax-paying team.
And with Charlotte on a fast track to nowhere, it’s hard to see what the compelling case will be for Walker to re-sign with the Hornets when his contract expires after next season — when he could go elsewhere and have a chance to find sustained success for the first time in his NBA career.
So what if Charlotte traded Walker to begin to ease its financial burdens, as well as to jump-start a rebuild?
The financial concerns are warranted. Whomever it is, the Hornets have to consider moving one or more of these big contracts. But moving Walker is not as simple as Bontemps suggests.
For one, he’s the best player in franchise history, and he’s on a team friendly contract. While moving him would warrant more value in return, he wouldn’t free up a lot of cap space by himself.
Second, Bontemps assumes Walker wouldn’t commit. At this point, we don’t know. If Walker wants to stay beyond his contract, then Charlotte should look to build around him. That said, if he hesitates, Bontemps argument starts to make more sense. It’s a tricky situation, no doubt. Hopefully Walker sticks, but I’d be wrong to say the Hornets shouldn’t keep their minds open to any deal at this point.
Graham nearing a guaranteed deal
Hornets reserve Treveon Graham is nearing a guaranteed spot this week, as the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell reports:
Graham’s salary — approximately $1.3 million for the 2017-18 season – isn’t guaranteed. He is the only Hornets player (other than two-way contracts for Marcus Paige and Mangok Mathiang in Greensboro) that isn’t guaranteed. But the rest of his salary for this season guarantees automatically under the collective bargaining agreement if Graham is on the roster through Wednesday, when the Hornets host the Dallas Mavericks.
Bonnell believes it’s a given that Graham sticks unless a trade happens that forces the Hornets to open a roster spot. But even that seems unlikely, and I, for one, believe he’s worth keeping. Graham has played a solid role on the bench. Maybe it’s coincidence, but the play of Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb has improved since Graham starting running with the bench unit (playing Dwight Howard with those two has helped as well). But Graham adds toughness and solid 3-and-D play. And at just 24, Graham is relevantly young with room to grow. In all, call him a solid find by the front office.
Why have the Hornets lost so many close games? Steve Clifford has an answer.
Gavin Schall from Locked on Nets schools us on NBA Draft pospects
Adam Silver on the future of NBA broadcasts
Steve Clifford reveals why he thinks the Hornets lose so many close games
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Buzzworthy: Another frustrating loss; Graham stepping up
Recapping last night’s frustrating loss; plus, how Treveon Graham is stepping up in the rotation.
The Charlotte Hornets lost another close game last night, this time at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans. Charlotte trailed or led by one possession for much of the game, but come crunch time they couldn’t execute once again.
Dwight Howard, who continues to perform well of late, finished with a team high 22 points, and 16 rebounds. It marks the sixth straight game he’s totaled 15 or more rebounds.
He spoke with the media after the game, stressing that they cannot give up on the season:
"Guys are playing hard. We’ve just got to hold our head. You know, stay positive. The season's not over. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to fight and things will turn around." – @DwightHoward pic.twitter.com/JxjRbCmTQi
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 25, 2018
Howard has the right mindset. The Hornets are playing well, probably the best basketball since the start to the season in fact, but it is the same story over and over when it comes to close games. They are the worst team in the league in terms of winning close games, and there have been too many that have ended in a one or two possession loss.
And last night was so avoidable, but the Hornets went just 18-for-31 from the free throw line, and those misses extended beyond Howard. Twice a Hornets player was fouled attempting a 3-pointer, and in both cases the players made just 1-of-3. Given how important free throws have been for Charlotte this season, they can’t afford missing so many.
Treveon Graham “rising to the occasion”
Bench played has improved of late. Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb are leading the way, playing with more consistency on the offensive end. But Treveon Graham’s inclusion with the bench coincides with the rise in the play.
At The Hive’s Evan Dyal wrote a follow up piece on Graham earlier this week. Dyal made a case for Graham earlier in the season, and following Cody Zeller’s injury and Dwayne Bacon’s regression, Graham got his chance.
Graham is known for his defense, but Dyal points out how well he is shooting as an opportunistic scorer:
What this means is Graham only shoots when he is open, and if he is not shooting he is moving the ball. This has made Graham efficient in limited minutes, and it’s why he is third on the team in points per shot attempt according to Cleaningtheglass.com. Meaning he doesn’t shoot a lot, but when he does it’s a good shot, and it usually goes in.
Attempting just four shots a game, Graham is making 43.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3. It’s a low volume, but it fits when playing next to Kaminsky and Lamb, two players who need to shoot more in order to get into a rhythm. We’ve seen on a few occasions this where Graham won’t get touches in multiple offense possessions, only to pop up open from beyond the arc and knock down a crucial shot. It’s unlikely he will see an increased role offensive role this season, but it’s a building block for him. Assuming the Hornets re-sign him this summer, he could have a bigger role as he continues to improve his offensive game.
Buzzworthy: Walker snubbed from All-Star team
The 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, but Hornets guard Kemba Walker was left out
Kemba Walker has played at an All-Star level, but won’t be representing the Charlotte Hornets at this year’s All-Star game. The selections for the 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, and Walker didn’t make the list. For those curious, here are the Eastern Conference reserves:
— NBA (@NBA) January 24, 2018
I have no qualms about any of these — save for Kyle Lowry. I mean, come on. I understand the Hornets poor record was Walker’s undoing here, but Lowry has scaled his role back significantly last season. His shooting averages remain solid, but he’s averaging just 17 points per game, deferring to All-Star starter DeMar Derozan. More than anything, Lowry feels like the legacy pick. If the Hornets were closer to .500, Walker gets in, but Walker should get in regardless because as is painfully obvious this season, the Hornets struggle to play basketball when he isn’t on the floor. All-Stars represent players that are of high importance for their team (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself this very moment). Walker exemplifies that. Okay, maybe I’m being just a tad bit bias.
Batum happy with Clifford’s return
Since Steve Clifford returned last week, Nicolas Batum has played more aggressively. More shots are going up, and, overall, he looks more involved in the offense.
According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, it has a lot to do with the return of Steve Clifford:
That is no coincidence, Batum said Monday morning: Clifford is finding ways to get Batum, the Hornets’ best passer, more involved, particularly early in games. Sometimes that specifically means running plays featuring Batum. Other times, it just means leaning the offense more toward actions that have optimized Batum’s skill set in the past.
Batum is pleased. He says he feels in a rhythm, and he performed well in the heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday (which, yes, was partly his fault for turning the ball over late). Whatever your feelings about Batum, we can agree that he needs to play well, and be more involved in the offense. The ball movement increases as a result, which means better offense for the Hornets.
Clifford impressed with Kaminsky
Steve Clifford spoke well of Frank Kaminsky, stating he’s playing some of the best basketball of his career right now:
“He’s in rhythm and there is no hesitation right now. When he’s half-open, that ball is in the air. I don’t think there is anything more important for him than that. His exceptional trait, particularly for a man of his size, is to attack closeouts” when defenders over-commit to getting to him on jump shots.
Kaminsky is another polarizing figure with the Hornets. Consistency has been an issue, but as Bonnell points out, he’s scored at least 10 points in 10 of the past 13 games. That’s a mark of consistency, and it’s no wonder the bench is improving of late.