Are the Hornets really Better than We Thought, Or is Something Weird going On?

22 games into the Hornets season and many fans have expressed surprise about the team getting 8 early season wins thus far. I was one of many that expected this team to be bad, I mean real bad, like 20 wins bad. This got me thinking, was I this far off with my estimate as they are currently on a 31 win pace? Are they actually a more talented roster that we all thought? I decided to look at some numbers and really break down what we have been witnessing thus far this season. I think what I have found is quite interesting, and also troubling for those of us who hope to grab a high pick this year.

 

ARE THE HORNETS BAD?

Short answer, YES. The stats are horrendous folks. While we have seen Devonte Graham break out as one of the leaders for Most Improved Player, and P.J. Washington open many eyes with his break out start to his NBA career, the team as a whole is putting up terrible stats. Some of the Lowlights include.

  • 22nd in Offensive Rating   105.7
  • 29th in Defensive Rating  114.1
  • 27th in Net Rating  -8.4
  • 27th in Rebounding
  • 23rd in Turnovers
  • 25th in Pace
  • 30th in Opponents Field Goal %

In any other season those stats would make more sense if paired with a team struggling to win any games at all, not one currently in 9th in the East and 1.5 games out of the playoffs. The Hornets have more wins than 10 teams in the league and are tied with 5 other teams at 8! This team against current play-off teams has been horrible, thus far they are 1-10 and are losing by an average of 18 points. Their lone win was a tight home win against the Pacers, who were missing 3 starters. Clearly this team is what I thought they would be, a young team who would struggle to defend and go through droughts on the offensive end. So why are they looking like they will end up with the 11th pick again?

The reason the Hornets look a bit better in the standings then they do statistically is simple, the league is littered with REALLY, REALLY BAD TEAMS. We all knew the Knicks were gonna be a train wreck and that the young Grizzlies would struggle. There is always a small group of bottom dwellers that are in the 18-22 win range. I went back over the last 6 seasons to illustrate my point. And I understand we are only 22 games in, but the trend is alarming, especially for a team hunting for a top 5 pick. I broke teams into 3 levels.

  • Play-off teams .500 and above
  • play-off hopefuls  (37 wins)
  • Bad teams below (29 wins and below)

The averages for the last 6 years give us a good idea how the league usually breaks down.

  • 17 playoff teams
  • 21 playoff hopefuls
  • 6 bad teams

Currently in the NBA it breaks down like this

  • 14 playoff teams
  • 15 playoff hopefuls
  • 10 bad teams

So many teams are bad this year that only half the league is on pace for more than 37 wins, the previous low in the last six seasons is 19. Those extra 4 teams create the massive group of mediocre to bad teams that the Hornets are a part of right now. No one saw the Warriors only having 4 wins so far this season, but it is teams like the Blazers and Spurs that have really struggled early, and young teams like the Hawks and Kings  that have not taken that next step that we thought they would, that have thrown the balance out of whack. As a Hornets fan the idea of this weird season leading to this really bad team getting a pick outside of the top 5 is not ideal, but unless some of these teams start stacking up some wins its a very real possibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hornets Draft Thoughts: Avoiding the Bust

Image result for charlotte hornets nba draft night monk

(Image from NBA.com)

The draft is now this week, and the Hornets are picking 11th overall. While the 11th pick is a solid position, it is just outside of the range needed to ensure a difference maker, but still early enough to land a sleeper or someone that slid for one reason or another. The Hornets are in desperate need of drafting a player who can make an impact in a big way, which isn’t exactly something we have ever been able to do. Since Kupchak has announced the team has no intentions of rebuilding yet, it is fair to assume unless something surprising happens no trades will be made, and we will have no money to dish out in free agency. Knowing this, the most important acquisition in the offseason will no doubt be whoever the Hornets pick at number 11 on June 21st.

There are two major holes that need to be answered this offseason: backup point guard and small forward. Night in and night out the Hornets bench blew leads during the late 3rd quarter and early to mid-4th quarter. Before the season started, the expectation was MCW would have a bounce back season and otherwise Monk would gradually learn to play backup point as well because he was an undersized two guard. MCW went on to get hurt early and Monk missed most of the offseason because of an ankle injury, so neither were able to catch up and find their footing, leaving us in a bad spot. The one bright spot was that Monk looked to be making real progress to close the season and seems to be extremely committed to working most of the offseason on his game, but it still seems clear he is a much better shooting guard. The only point guard I see as a possibility at 11 that is worth drafting would be Collin Sexton. For us to draft Sexton it would require him to slide a few picks, but we saw that happen last year with Malik Monk. If Sexton doesn’t fall to us at 11, it seems like there will be no other point guards that will garner enough attention to be worthy of a pick that high. On the other hand, if there is a point guard several picks back the team is highly interested in such as Arron Holiday, the Hornets could trade back and possibly dump a contract in the process. The only problem with Arron Holiday is he was turnover prone in college at UCLA, which is the last thing we need from someone who is trying to facilitate an NBA offense when Kemba is off the court.

The second position of need is a small forward. We are paying Nic 22 million and it is highly unlikely we are going to be able to get him off the roster any time soon. Behind Nic is MKG who we are paying 12 million to only play one side of the ball. I personally don’t know which situation is worse or who annoys me more, but I do know neither showed starting capability last year. The problem with drafting a small forward is we become loaded at the position since we already have Dwayne Bacon, and that is another player at a position we are already poring out 35 million to. If we do decide we want to go with a small forward, there is much more of a selection than point guard. Mikal Bridges, Kevin Knox, and Miles Bridges are all projected to be picked right around the 11th pick and with a small slide Michael Porter could also end up being available.

Image result for collin sexton

(Image from WFNZ.com)

As of right now I feel if Collin Sexton is available, the Hornets should take him. It seems like 11 is very high to take a backup point guard but it will allow flexibility. Currently he would fill a much-needed hole, but If the season doesn’t look good by the trade deadline and we decide we want to rebuild, we would no longer require a point guard with other pieces in return for Kemba. Collin Sexton and Malik Monk would be a very promising back court to build around for the future and they are also very young as well. If Sexton is available, it is a win-win opportunity for now or for the future. If Sexton is not available Michael Porter and Mikal Bridges are the two best options but could be gone by the time the Hornets select, which would leave Kevin Knox and Miles bridges as the two remaining. Neither would be optimal in the moment because Knox was very inconsistent in his one year at UK and Bridges is a tweener between the two forward positions. Hopefully the Hornets will be able to right their wrongs and nail a draft that could make the difference in if we will choose to rebuild or not.

The Charlotte Hornets Season Has Officially Become One Huge Mess

 

cliff and ref.jpg(Image from Boston Herald)

Where should I begin? There is no easy way to describe this season for the Hornets, it has been riddled with injuries, chemistry issues, and rotation problems, but don’t all teams battle some of this? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but that should not have rolled over into this mess of a season you would not assume. As of right now the Hornets sit at five and a half games out of the playoffs with 22 games to go in the season. Nobody wants to be in the situation we have found ourselves in, but here we are. We have a lot of issues to address this off-season, and maybe the next several off-seasons, but let’s take a look at everything that has gone wrong and needs to be addressed.

The first and most immediate mistake is the cap situation. We have dug ourselves a hole by offering Nic Batum, MKG, and Marvin Williams long term, high salary contracts. This is easily the hardest to work with, it makes trades difficult to make because you have to fit it into your salary, and during free agency you can’t really sign anyone who will make a significant difference. What you do with these bad contracts though is the real problem. Nobody wants to touch our contracts, and I do not blame them. Who knows what the front office was thinking giving these players as much as they did, but they better figure a way to get out of it. At this point if you can get any one of MKG, Nic, or Marvin off the team without losing Kemba you do it. They are all good supporting pieces, but none of them are worth the money, nor good enough to play in the role we have them in.

The next issue is one I think has caused the majority of our problems, and that is Rich Cho. When we first got Cho, I was excited I felt hope for the organization. He has been nothing less than exceptional in trading, but I think it needs to be accepted by everyone he has sucked at drafting and signing. Cho’s contract is up after this season and he has to be out the door, hopefully for someone that if nothing else will hopefully be a competent drafter. We could also take the route the Panthers did several years ago, signing Dave Gettleman as GM to manage the cap. He was ultimately too conservative, but he was able to make tough decisions that many people would hesitate to do.

The third problem that this team has is bench production. We have overpaid the starters and now have no cap to improve the bench through free-agency, so the only to ways left to strengthen it for cheap is internal improvement (Monk, Bacon, Hernangomez), or by drafting quality pieces. A backup point guard has to be priority one, but I think a replacement for Frank is easily second. I have had my limit with Frank, and I want him traded more than anyone. Watching Frank back down a point guard when he gets the switch, only to turn and do a dirk fade away is enough to make me break my TV, not to mention his incompetent shot selection. Just because of his annoyance alone I could easily move his replacement to the top priority, but I’m being realistic.

 

At the end of the day, the blame does not lie on Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, or coach Cliff. Following the trade deadline Howard seems to have taken a step back, but looking at the season as a whole he has played fantastic. Calling for a new coach also just is not reasonable. Cliff is a very strict all business coach who many teams would love to have, we have just offered him nothing to work with outside of Kemba which obviously isn’t enough. And finally, the case for Kemba, if you wanted him traded before the deadline you have lost your mind. If you live Outside of Charlotte like me, I can promise there are very little Hornets fans, and when I happen to see a Hornets fan I always go out of my way to speak to them. More times than not they want to talk about Kemba, or only know Kemba. Without Kemba all these fans would be gone, I promise. This season has been a catastrophe, but lets be cautious where we place the blame, and what we want the team to do.

Nic Batum Needs to “Shoot His Shot,” or Else…

092915-NBA-Hornets--Nicolas-Batum-pi-ssm.vresize.1200.675.high.42.jpg

(image from Scout.com)

Nic Batum has been the basis of my frustrations through the first half of the Hornets season. My anger with Batum isn’t his play style, I understand the type of player he is and I realize he is not going to change, but my problem lies in the difference in his production from the 2015-16 season to now. It isn’t that I feel he needs to change his play style to be effective like some couch coaches, it is that I have seen him be much more effective before by playing the exact same way. In the 2015-16 Batum was very talented, talented enough to land him a 120-million-dollar contract over the course of 5 years. Looking back to when we gave Nic this handsome contract, we had just come off of a playoff series which saw us lose to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. This team looked to have a lot of potential, and one of the key players who had an expiring contact was Batum. Entering the off-season, we let Jeremy Lin walk, and signed Batum with the expectation being he would continue to improve adjusting to being a leader of this team, and hopefully help Kemba change the narrative of this franchise by leading us to more playoff consistency. Fast forward to today and none of that has come to fruition, we failed to make the playoffs last season and we are currently sitting 5 games out of the 8th seed half way through this season, and something needs to give.

So far, the team has yet to remove Batum from the starting lineup following disappointing outings and fourth quarter struggles, as if they are still trying to justify the contract given to him. If the coaches are not yet willing to move him into a 6th man role, he is going to have to shoot the ball. As it stands Nic is averaging 10 points per game and that just isn’t going to cut it for 30 minutes per game and 20 million dollars a year. He has all of the scoring ability he needs to average a solid 15 to 18 points per game and the idea that he is a facilitator should not be an excuse. Last season Batum averaged 15 points per game to go with 6 assists, while this year his assist total has dipped to 4.7 per game along with his scoring dropping back to 10 points. This proves he can score and pass effectively at the same time, it all just depends on his aggressiveness.

When Batum is making it a priority to score and pass equally it forces defenses to focus more on him, and opens up passing lanes for everyone around him. His best version is when the defense never knows if they should expect the pass or the shot and that is the Batum we need. If Batum can’t find a balance, and the coaching staff refuses to bench him, then Batum, and the team is in hot water. Our hopes to salvage this season rely on this dilemma and it definitely should not be overlooked. Nic might be on the trading block soon if this continues, and we could be looking at more lottery picks for the next couple of years if his contact is not unloaded. We will have no cap flexibility in the FA market, and Batum will continue to soak minutes from developing players on the roaster if this turns out to be the case.

            With all of this being said, I still have a glimmer of hope for Batum and our season. Batum is a very intelligent player and I know he has produced at higher levels before. Clifford is also returning Wednesday, which could produce different results from what Stephen Silas has been receiving. Also, five games out of the 8th seed is not insurmountable, so if things begin to click at the right moment we could manage to recover from this disappointing season so far. I have not given up hope on our season yet, but we are beginning to run out of time to recover.

Charlotte Hornets Early Season Observations

Dwight-Howard

We are five games into the NBA season and we finally have a good enough sample size of the team to formulate our opinions on the 2017-18 Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are currently 2-3 and have shown tremendous upside, while falling just short to a very good team in the Milwaukee Bucks with potential future league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Through these first five games though, one thing has stood out: We are going to be one of the few teams to rely heavily on our big men. In a basketball era where every team wants to chuck threes we have accepted the fact that isn’t our identity. We haven’t been able to see Cody Zeller suit up but for one game this season so it is difficult to measure how he will mesh with Dwight Howard, but we do know he is not going to be a stretch center who launches threes. The big surprise though has been how well Frank Kaminsky has played during the absence of Cody, and how surprisingly well he has been able to fit alongside Howard this quickly. Howard himself has also been stellar early on, averaging 14 points a game to go along with 17 rebounds. Let’s dive into what kind of an impact these two have made thus far.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard has been dominant, to say the least. Howard has averaged 14 points and 17 rebounds, and not on bad competition either. Howard has been able to do this going up against Andre Drummond, Nikola Jokic, and Clint Capela who tailed 20 rebounds and 16 points against Joel Embid’s 76’ers. This is very promising and could be a sign Howard has finally found a place he is wanted and can be productive.  While I do not expect him to sustain this level of play I do think it is reasonable to think he will be able to put up these numbers every few games. The most important factor Howard brings us though, is his presence down low. I remember during the “revenge game” against the Hawks, Dennis Schroder took several drives past Kemba only to meet Howard and throw up a floater before getting close enough to attempt a layup. While this may seem small it plays a huge factor into each possession, it now becomes how to I get to the basket, and when I do how am I going to put it in? This leads to many mistakes, bad shots, and the occasional D12 swat whenever they forget about his presence.

The problem with working a guy like Howard into your lineup is the same as every player, turnovers. This is not because he can’t hold onto the ball or makes bad passes, as the majority of turnovers come from the team being unable to make the entry pass often forcing the ball into a space that isn’t there. Another issue that has hurt us to begin the season is the change of our team when he comes off the court. We have yet to find an identity for our bench unit as it still looks just as pitiful as last year. Hopefully this will change with the addition of Cody Zeller back into the lineup Sunday night against the Magic

Frank Kaminsky

           frank kaminsky

Frank Kaminsky has been a totally different player at the start of this season, compared to last season. For the majority of last year, I did not want him to touch the ball or even be on the court. This season has been totally different, Frank has been very impressive and has sustained this level of play for more than just a few possessions. I am still very nervous to see him attempting to handle the ball, but he hasn’t given me a reason to yell at the TV incessantly…yet. If Frank is able to continue this level of play I will definitely consider erasing how he performed last year from my memory. As long as he doesn’t fall back into his poor habits of taking bad shots and playing bad defense he should be able to find success the rest of the season.

 

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)

 

BUZZ WEEKLY:HORNETS OFF TO STRONG START

So far, so good in Buzz City.

The Hornets sit at 4-1 five games into the season, with their only stumbling block being a loss to the Boston Celtics in their home opener. They have managed to compile this record despite suffering a few injuries along the way to some key pieces to the team.

After a strong debut in the Hornets first game, Roy Hibbert has remained sidelined with what has been described as “knee soreness,” which can certainly be cause for concern for a big man, particularly in the early stages of the season. The Hornets have managed to play well on defense despite his absence; they rank fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing a stingy 95.4 points per outing while also ranking near the top in blocked shots as a team.

As well as Charlotte has played thus far, it would probably be in their best interest to take their time with the veteran big man in order to preserve him for the latter part of the season as he was ultimately brought in to be the veteran defensive stopper the Hornets lacked in the playoffs last season.

Guard Jeremy Lamb is also out nursing an injured hamstring. He is initially listed as being out for 1-2 weeks but, hamstring injuries can be nagging, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team be cautious with this one also.

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Moving on to the early successes of the team, the Hornets have notched victories against Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. While that isn’t necessarily murderers row, it IS four W’s in the win column, and I think Hornets fans will take a start like this any day of the week.

This team underwent an offensive renaissance last season, after years of setting the tone with their defensive identity, by spreading the floor and adopting a four-out, one-in approach that helped them to a good playoff showing last year. While the offensive principles remain basically the same this year, the team seems to have balanced the focus out better this season, with an emphasis on both sides of the ball and their record boasts the results of that renewed focus.

The team has four games coming up in the coming week after a leisurely start to the season. The Hornets start a three game homestand Monday against the Indiana Pacers who, after a slow start to the season, are coming off a strong showing against the Bulls. It will be a homecoming of sorts for former Hornets big man Al Jefferson, but most of the focus will be on superstar Paul George, point guard Jeff Teague and emerging young center Myles Turner.

Next up will be a second home game against the Utah Jazz. They are another young, up-and-coming team that plays a style similar to the Hornets. They also feature an emerging star big man in Rudy Gobert and forward Gordon Hayward, who is a cognitive piece to their offense, has just returned from injury and looks to be picking up where he left of last season. Newly acquired point guard George Hill is having an offensive resurgence in Utah, leading the team in points and assists.

To finish off the homestand on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors come to town. They are a top five defensive team, they are battle tested and they will be a legit test from a strong playoff contender for the Hornets. Guard DeMar DeRozan has been on an absolute tear this season so far, leading the league in scoring at the moment with 33.7 points per game.

That game should serve as a good springboard for a Sunday afternoon tilt with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. I obviously don’t have to build this one up much, this will serve as the teams biggest test of the season as the Hornets match up with the likes of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. As of now, the Cavs sport the leagues only undefeated record at 6-0, and their offense is clicking as they are leading the league in scoring at 112.3 points per contest.

Those are four tough games on the schedule in the next seven days and they should serve to show us what kind of team we really have this season in Charlotte. Realistically, I can see them coming out of this four game stretch with another three victories, but that will take disciplined play.

The Hornets can ill afford to have slow starts to these games as they did against Brooklyn on Friday. These are all strong defensive teams and if we allow them to set their defensive tone early, it will be tough to get things going afterwards.

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets

Photo Credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Now that all that is out of the way, let’s boast about this team a little bit.

Nic Batum has recently appointed himself as the head of the “Get Kemba to the All-Star Game” committee. (*while having the all-star game here would certainly help his cause…cough, cough*) Walker has had an efficient start to his season so far, averaging 24.4 points per game to go with 4.6 assists and three boards per game. He is shooting more efficiently this season and it’s obvious how much the team trusts Kemba down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Batum is filling the stat sheet across the board and MKG has injected a spark into this team on a nightly basis while leading all small forwards in rebounding with 9.2 boards per game.

Cody Zeller has played efficiently and Frank the Tank is getting the opportunity to show off the versatility that led the Hornets to draft him. Marvin Williams hasn’t had the best start to the season, struggling with his shooting in a few games, but he has so far shown a penchant for making the right shots when we need them the most.

Belinelli has seen his minutes increase with the absence of Lamb and he has answered the call with his court vision and basketball IQ that made him a player that Cho has coveted.

Even Spencer Hawes, the player most often brought up in Hornets trade scenarios, has shown where he fits in on this team. Hawes isn’t going to wow anybody with his athleticism or his man bun, but he does have an accurate shot with range and an incredible basketball IQ as well. He has filled in well during Hibbert’s absence and he has provided a steady hand in the Hornets strong start to the season.

And then there are the intangibles; the chemistry and culture that this team has built in the locker room is conducive to winning. On Friday, former Hornet Jeremy Lin echoed the sentiment from last season that the Hornets locker room is how all NBA locker rooms should be. He’s not the first player, current or former, to comment on the chemistry this team exhibits. Coach Clifford has helped build a culture in Charlotte that the players can buy into, and that’s something that takes time and enough belief in each other to handle the responsibility they’re given.

While the teams 4-1 jump out of the gates is very encouraging, this week’s slate of games can help us get a better scope of what we have in this team. We’ve got a good thing going here at the Hive this season, so sit back and enjoy the view from up here Hornets fans. Until next time, KEEP BUZZIN’!!!

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.