Hornets Sunday Scouting: 10/23-10/30

Amid our busy lives, it can be difficult to find the time every Hornets game day to properly research who the Hornets will be playing, how they have been playing, and how they match up with our boys from Buzz City. Sure it’s easy to follow teams like the Cavs or the Warriors who are constantly on ESPN, but what about teams like Portland or Utah? The media never talks about them so it’s hard to keep up. But, no need to fear, because throughout the season I will be providing your weekly one-stop scouting report on all the Hornets’ upcoming opponents.

 

Full disclaimer, I am a numbers guy, so expect to see lots of stats. The hope is that when you turn on the game, you will have a better understanding of places that the Hornets should succeed against a particular opponent and places that might be a point of concern. As always, I would love to discuss your thoughts and opinions on my scouting, so hmu on Twitter @dallaswpeyton18

 

@ Milwaukee Bucks (2-1)                                                                  Monday, 10/23 at 8pm

 

Matchup Overview:Image result for charlotte hornets vs milwaukee

(Image from At the Hive)

On Monday night, the Hornets will take on the Bucks for the first time this season. The two teams met 3 times last season with the Bucks taking 2 of the 3 on the year. The Hornets, coming off of 2 days of rest, will be hoping to push their record above .500 with a win. The Bucks meanwhile are coming off a 2-game home-stand that finished up Saturday night and hope to begin a push towards the top of the Eastern Conference.

 

Recent Form:

 

The Bucks have started off the season with a tough slate of games against 3 playoff teams from last year. Yet, they still find themselves at 2-1 after a nice road win over the Hayward-less Celtics and a 3-point home win over the Blazers. Their lone loss is a 19-point blowout at the hands of the Cavs.

 

Key Players and Recent Performers:

Image result for giannis dunk

(Image from NBA.com)

Giannis, Giannis, and more Giannis. The Greek Freak is BALLING to start the season and is averaging 38.3 ppg, 5 apg, and 9.7 rpg in the young season. 3 games is an extremely small sample size but those numbers are still out of this world considering that he is leading the league in PER by a significant margin. Outside of that, there is not much to speak of on this roster. The Bucks have yet to have a player not named Giannis score over 20 points in a game. Malcolm Brogden is the only other player worth noting, as the second-year player out of UVA has upped his ppg by 6 points to 16 and is shooting the 3 at a 50% clip.

 

Key Team Stats:

 

One Positive for the Hornets: 24th in DEFRTG

 

The Hornets have not started the season all that well on offense, the 3rd quarter against Atlanta notwithstanding. But the Bucks will come into the matchup ranked 24th in DEFRTG which bodes well for the Hornets.

 

One Negative for the Hornets: 2 practices

Giannis is one of the toughest players in the league to defend, and the only player on the Hornets roster with the athleticism to possibly cause Giannis some trouble is MKG. The problem is that MKG has been away from the team dealing personal matters and has only practiced twice since returning on Saturday.

 

Matchups to Watch:

 

Thon Maker v. Dwight Howard. At 7-1, the Bucks are hope that the 20 year-old Maker will develop into a solid player at the NBA level. And he has done well to gain the starting role over 7-year vet Greg Monroe, but Howard has about 12 years and 30 pounds on him. The Hornets hope that Howard will be able to bully the slighter man on the inside in the same way he was able to against the Hawks. This matchup might well prove vital for either team if they are going to be successful in this game.

 

Malcolm Brogden v. Kemba Walker. We all know what Kemba can do. He was Charlotte’s first all-star since Gerald Wallace and has gotten better each and every year in the league. Brogden, on the other hand, is a lesser known commodity. At 6’5, he has quite a bit of size on the smaller Walker, but also lacks a little bit when it comes to quickness. The key here will be whether Kemba, or whoever Clifford matches up on him, will be able to keep Malcolm off the scoreboard on the other end.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Giannis is going to get his regardless. The key to this game is whether the Hornets defense, 4th in DEFRTG, will be able to keep anyone else from helping Giannis out enough for the Bucks to win this game. Both teams are coming off at least one day of rest, so both should be well-rested for this matchup. The series might be important at the end of the season in determining seeding in a weak Eastern Conference, so the Hornets hope to start it off with a win.

 

Denver Nuggets (1-1) Wednesday, 10/25 at 7pm

 

Matchup Overview:

Image result for charlotte hornets vs nuggets

(Image from NBA.com)

On Wednesday night, the Hornets will begin a 3 game home-stand with their first matchup against the Nuggets. The two teams met 2 times last season with the Hornets sweeping the season series. The Nuggets play Monday night against John Wall and the Wizards in Denver before traveling cross country for the tilt with Charlotte. Last year, the Nuggets barely missed the playoffs and are expected by many to compete for one of the last few spots in the West this upcoming season.

 

Recent Form:

The Nuggets started off the season with a double-digit loss to Utah away before picking up their first win at home against the Kings. That game against the Wizards might go a long way towards showing us what kind of team Denver is going to be this year.

 

Key Players and Recent Performers:

Image result for nuggets paul millsap

Image from The Denver Post)

Summer-addition, Paul Milsap has been off to a fairly hot start in his new home with his averages sitting at around 18 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Shooting guard, Will Barton, has also gotten off the mark quickly and leads the team in scoring while still managing to keep his fg % and 3pfg % above 50%. Another unheralded player worth mentioning is Nikola Jokic who is only averaging 3 points per game but has been able to contribute with over 10 rebounds and 7 assists per game. His ability to pass out of the post has been a major factor in the Nuggets posting the 3rd highest Assist % in the league so far.

 

Key Team Stats:

 

One Positive for the Hornets: 5.5 Steals/game

 

The Hornets have been uncharacteristically bad about giving the ball away so far this season and average more turnovers than every other team except 2. The good news about this matchup is that the Nuggets are one of the worst teams in the league at taking the ball away, which might help the Hornets throw off these early season cobwebs.

 

One Negative for the Hornets: 92.5 ppg

 

The Nuggets have been one of the stingiest defenses so far this season, and have only allowed their opponents to score around 92 points a game. This is a small sample size, but could spell trouble for a Hornets squad that is near the bottom of the league in both scoring and offensive rating.

 

Matchup to Watch:

 

Paul Milsap v. Marvin Williams. Marvin Williams is typically one of the better defenders that the Hornets have to offer, but he seemed to struggle more last year then he did in the Hornets last playoff appearance in 2015-16. In this matchup, he is going against the crafty Milsap who has made a career scoring in the low post. The hope is that the presence of Howard in the middle to block shots will influence Milsap’s game on one end, and Williams ability to step out and knock down 3’s on the other end (we think?) could help space the floor.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

The Nuggets are a talented, young team that is hungry to make the playoffs after last season’s failure. But on a trip across country to face a well-organized Hornets defense who will be playing in front of their home crowd, the expectation is that the Hornets will be able to come away with the win.

 

Houston (3-0) Friday, 10/27 at 7pm

 

Matchup Overview:

Image result for charlotte hornets vs rockets

(Image from Sports Chat Place)

Unrelated, I don’t know where this picture has been my whole life, but it’s everything I could ever ask for. Anyway…on to the match up.

On Friday night, the Hornets will play game 2 of a 3-game home-stand with their first matchup against the Rockets this season. The two teams met 2 times last season with the Rockets sweeping the season series. The Rockets play twice this week against the Grizzlies on Monday and the 76ers on Wednesday before their trip to Charlotte. The Rockets were one of the top 5 teams in the league last year and appear to be just as strong, if not stronger this year. A win here is expected from the Rockets perspective, but would be a huge confidence booster for the Hornets if they manage to pull it out.

 

Recent Form:

 

The Rockets have started off red hot with a win against the defending champs in California, to go alongside wins against the Kings and the Mavericks. The game against Memphis should be fun to watch on Monday and might go a long way towards determining how the Western Standings will look early in the season. The game against Philly shouldn’t be too tough for a team with as much talent as Houston.

 

Key Players and Recent Performers:

Image result for james harden

(Image from Forbes)

Who else can you start with besides James Harden? The bearded wonder is one of the best players in the league and has the stats to back it up. So far this season he is averaging around 28 ppg, 9 apg, and 4 rpg. These types of performances are what made him an MVP candidate last season. After Harden, the Rockets have guys like Eric Gordon (22.3 ppg) and Clint Capela (15.7 ppg 10.3 rebounds) who are more than capable of winning a game with their play.

 

Key Team Stats:

 

One Positive for the Hornets: 4 Weeks

 

Luckily for the Hornets, this matchup comes during a stretch when 9-time NBA All-star Chris Paul is more than likely going to be sidelined. Paul, acquired from the Clippers over the summer, is dealing with a left knee injury and is expected to miss up to 4 weeks.

 

One Negative for the Hornets: 111.3 ppg

The Rockets have one of the highest scoring offenses in the league and will look to get it going against the Hornets on Friday.  They are currently averaging 111 points per game which is in the top 10 in the NBA so far this season.

 

Matchup to Watch:

Image result for james harden kemba walker

(Image from Zimbio

James Harden v. Jeremy Lamb/Kemba Walker/ Whoever ends up with this assignment. This matchup will hinge almost entirely on the defensive side of the ball for the Hornets. Harden is not known for his defense, so whoever ends up drawing him on the offensive end should look to take advantage matchup for the Hornets. On the other side, the question is who will be able to slow down the Beard. With Paul out, Harden is in the top 10 in the league in usage percentage meaning that whoever is guarding him is going to be have to be turned on throughout the entire possession. If they can force the ball out of his hands, or force him to take bad shots, they might have a chance at the upset.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

The Rockets are deep and experienced and will provide a major measuring stick of where the Hornets are at this point in the season. Realistically and statistically, it will appear that the Hornets should be happy if they can merely manage to keep the game close, but I believe this Hornets team could be something special, and this game is one of their first chances to prove that.

 

Orlando (2-1) Sunday, 10/29 at 6pm

 

Matchup Overview:

Image result for charlotte hornets vs magic

(Image from FanPicks)

On Sunday night, the Hornets will play host to the Orlando Magic for their first meeting of the season. The game will be the last of a 3 game home series for the Hornets and the first night of a dreaded home and away back-to-back. Meanwhile the Magic have a home game against the Nets on Tuesday and the Spurs on Friday before this meeting in the Queen City. The teams met 4 times last year with the Hornets managing to take all 4 meetings.

 

Recent Form:

 

The Magic are one of the most surprising teams at the beginning of this NBA season. They have knocked off the Heat at home and the Cavs in Cleveland with their lone loss coming against the Brooklyn Nets. It is hard to figure out what to make of them because the win against the Cavs is very impressive but the loss to the Nets is a bad loss. The two games leading up to this matchup should give a better idea of what the Hornets should expect.

 

Key Players and Recent Performers:

Image result for vucevic

(Image from Orlando Magic Daily)

Vucevic has been by far their best player so far, posting a line of 27.7 ppg, 10.7 rebounds, 3 apg, and 1.67 bpg all while shooting nearly 70% from the floor. The 26-year-old from Switzerland has been a force to be reckoned with and looks to continue his hot run. Behind him, Aaron Gordan and Evan Fournier are both scoring the ball at high rates while also contributing rebounds and assists. Overall, the Magic seem to have a roster full of guys who are contributing to team success, like Elfrid Payton, DJ Augustine, and Terrance Ross. At some point, you would expect these stats to begin to regress closer to career averages, but for now it is working for Orlando.

 

Key Team Stats:

 

One Positive for the Hornets: 26.3 FT attempted

 

The Hornets are in the top 6 in the league in FT attempted, while the Magic are in the bottom 10 teams in the league in terms of allowing the opponent to get to the FT line. The Magic are currently allowing their opponents to shoot over 26 free throws per game, meaning that the Hornets might be able to take advantage of this to get some free points.

 

One Negative for the Hornets: 48.3% 3-point fg %

 

The Magic are shooting the ball lights out right now and have one of the best offenses in the league to show for it. They are 5th in the league in ppg at 117, 6th in fg % at 47.6% and 2nd in 3 pfg % at 48.6%. One thing is for sure, they can score the ball efficiently and in bunches.

 

 

Matchup to Watch:

Image result for vucevic v Howard

(Image from Zimbio)

Vucevic v. Dwight Howard. This one will feature an old Magic center versus the new face of their franchise in a game that could showcase an important battle in the paint. The Hornets will hope that Howard will regain some of his DPOY form and will be able to keep Vucevic from getting the easy looks that he has managed to find so far this season. If Howard can successfully make him a jump shooter then the team will be better positioned to be successful because they can minimize the effectiveness of the Magic’s inside out game. On the other end, the key for the Hornets in this match up will be to effective use pick and roll to get Vucevic away from the basketball and into foul trouble. If they can do these things, the Hornets should be able to do enough against a mediocre Orlando defense to get a win at home.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

The Magic are a young team with many different pieces on the roster that have the potential to be good players in this league. That being said, I don’t expect Vucevic to continue to perform at an MVP level and I also expect some of the other players to regress some as well. But, they still have the potential to snatch a game from the Hornets if they are not careful, so hopefully the Hornets will be up for this one in front of their home crowd.

 

 

Predictions for the Week:

 

This can be tough to predict games that won’t take place for a week, but I will give it my best shot.

 

L @ Milwaukee: I think Giannis will be too much to handle and the Hornets will fall in this one.

 

W v. Denver: Howard will dominate the paint and the Hornets will take this one at home.

 

L v. Houston: Houston is one of the best teams in the league and I think they will show it in this one.

 

W v. Magic: Orlando has some good pieces but I think Charlotte’s defense might give them some trouble and the Hornets will finish their home-stand 2-1

 

Image result for charlotte Hornets yell

(From BBTB)

 

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