As we move into the third month of the NBA calendar, The St8 of the NBA returns after an extend (and undeserved) holiday break. Let’s get right into it: four on the Hornets, four on the rest of the league (CP3, Simmons, LeBron and more).
So, things aren’t going so well for the Charlotte Hornets at the moment. The Hornets are 3-9 over their last 12 games. Close loses to teams like Cleveland (twice) and Boston were significant missed opportunities.
Over this stretch, Charlotte has given up 108 points per 100 possessions — No. 21 in the NBA. A number that’s far too high for a team that features an average offense. For Charlotte to win 45 games this season — a reality that’s likely passed at this point — the Hornets had to be a top-10 defense. This isn’t going to get it done.
That number balloons even higher when bench mob groups that feature Frank Kaminsky defend. The second unit, as my friend Spencer Percy would like to say, resembles a bunch of traffic cones. Take this week’s game against Toronto.
Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are awesome players, but they got whatever they wanted. It was all way too easy. (And yes, that is owl enthusiast Drake on the play-by-play call)
Kemba Walker has been solid over this stretch — 20.6 points, 6.4 assists — but the shooting numbers are down (55 percent true shooting), and now he’s dealing with a shoulder injury, which he suffered in the lackluster defeat to San Antonio.
Stop me when you’ve heard this before: When Kemba sits, things get soooo much too. Charlotte has scored just 99 points per 100 possessions with Kemba on the bench over the last dozen games (191 minutes). Not great, Bob.
If this keeps up for another few weeks, well, Charlotte’s front office may have to make some unpopular choices. Check out the BuzzBeat Radio podcast Spencer, Richie Randall and I recorded this week on that topic.
I’d Lik to see Monk get more playing time
Malik Monk has a ways to go as a defender in the NBA; he’s prone to zone out off the ball and die on ball screens. That’s totally normal for a 19-year-old, but it’s also the kind of defensive profile that drives Steve Clifford mad.
It probably doesn’t help that Monk isn’t much of a ball-mover on offense. He can certainly electrify with passes out of the pick-and-roll, but he has a tendency to get the ball and go into his own world
As Charlotte has struggled, Monk has found playing time harder to come by. Over the last nine games, hasn’t played more than 19 minutes in a game. In two of those games, Monk got hit with the dreaded DNPCD. This of course coincides with the return of Michael Carter-Williams.
Look, Clifford know this team better than anyone — let’s get that clear. However, it’s probably time to put those frustrations aside. This team needs offense and it needs shooting; Monk provides both. The days of Dwayne Bacon, another rookie, getting more minutes than Monk should come to a close.
The rookie has drained nearly 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers. When he’s had the opportunity to play next to Kemba, the results are promising: 109 points per 100 possessions, a true shooting rate of nearly 56 percent.
No Sheep Thrills in the pick-and-roll
When it comes to pick-and-roll basketball in the state of North Carolina, Kemba Walker is the kingpin. However, Jeremy Lamb — in the midst of a career year — is running good offense out of this action, too.
Lamb is shooting 47 percent on pick-and-rolls, and scoring 0.94 points per possession, per league tracking data. Both of those numbers rank inside the top 11 of the NBA (minimum five possessions per game).
His improved three-point shot can keep defenders off balance, but Lamb has a strong floater game that he loves to get to. Cody Zeller makes for an excellent pick-and-roll partner.
This isn’t the crutch to lean on
The Hornets attempt 35.4 percent of their field goal at the rim. That’s a healthy number, and ranks in the top 10 of the league. However, Charlotte is a little too reliant offensively on midrange attempts; that plays right into the hands of opposing defenses.
According to Cleaning The Glass, 37 percent of Charlotte’s attempts come from the midrange — 10th most in the NBA. The Hornets attempt just 26.2 threes per game — No. 24 in the NBA. The Hornets don’t have a surplus of shooters, but with Kemba, Lamb, Monk, Nic Batum, Marvin and Kaminsky — that number needs to get higher.
Charlotte is sixth in the league in three-point percentage from the corners (44.1 percent); however, only five teams take a smaller percentage of corner threes, per Cleaning The Glass. It’s reductive to simply say, hey, move some of these shot attempts around. It’s not that simple. But this coaching staff has to find additional ways to create more efficient looks.
Chris Paul: Reinventing his game
After one of the offseason’s marquee trades, folks spent the whole summer wondering/worrying about how Chris Paul would fit next to James Harden in Houston’s spread pick-and-roll offense.
Well, after Paul missed a few weeks with a knee injury, things are going just fine in H-Town.
The Rockets, who were already playing awesomely in Paul’s absence, have hit a new level since the Point God returned. In the six games since CP3 rejoined the lineup, Houston is undefeated, has the best offense in the league (118.5 points per 100 possessions) and the league’s top defense, too (97.2 points per 100 possessions).
Since Chris Paul returned, Houston scoring 119 points per 100 possessions with CP3/Harden on the floor, 72% assist rate, 64% true shooting.
With CP3 on, Harden off: 129 points per 100 possessions (lol!), giving up just 75 points per 100, 71% assist rate, 67% true shooting
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) November 29, 2017
Houston’s broadcast team refers to Paul as The Conductor, which is kinda lame, but look at how some of his teammates are shooting after a pass from CP3. That nickname lacks in creativity, but it’s accurate.
- Harden: 59 FG%, 61 3P% –
- Anderson: 78 3P%
- Capela: 64 FG%
- Gordon: 83 2FG%
Paul has also retooled parts of his shot distribution, too. Almost 51 percent of Paul’s field goal attempts this season are of the three-point variety, which would be a career high for the master of the midrange. Only 34 percent of Paul’s attempts have come from the midrange, per Cleaning The Glass, which would be a career low.
Over his career, Chris has looked to manipulate 1-5 pick-and-rolls. CP3 would make sure to get the switch, and then go to work on a slow-footed center. Paul would want to show-off the handles, and dribble his way into a midrange pull-up.
Now, he’s doing the same thing, but launching from much further out, though. Welcome to Houston, CP3.
Right now, the Houston Rockets are the second best basketball team in the world. The No. 1 team is of course the Pitt Panthers.
The New Wave Broad Street Bullies
As everyone is still trying to process what exactly is happening in Philadelphia, the 76ers have somewhat quietly removed Joel Embiid’s minutes restriction. Over his last eight games, Embiid has played nearly 32 minutes per contest.
Embiid has played 390 minutes with Ben Simmons so far this season — about 23 minutes per game. In those minutes, the Sixers have been awesome: 108 points per 100 possessions, allowing 98 points per 100 possession. That’s the rate of a top 10 offense and a top five defense — wowzers.
Simmons passes to Embiid more than any other teammate — around 21 percent of the Aussie’s passes go to JoJo. Embiid is shooting 51 percent on two-point attempts after a pass from Simmons, too. It’s effective.
Those two can make it look so damn easy, at times. Check out this nifty lob from Simmons back on Monday against Cleveland. Embiid can’t finish the dunk, but my word, this type of look out of pick-and-roll action is straight filth. Also, with Bob Covington (42.5 3P%) spacing in the weak-side corner, Jose Calderon is less apt to slide down and help on Embiid (and end up on a poster) — Simons can make that crosscourt laser pass with ease.
Later this week in the win over Washington: Just watch these guys go. Good freaking lord.
Also, while we’re on Philly: #FreeJah
Two-man game: LeBron and Kyle Korver
With Isaiah Thomas still on the mend, the Cleveland Cavaliers need production from anyone willing to contribute. It can’t be all LeBron (well, sort of). Kevin Love has been awesome, no doubt, but so far, the team’s third best player has easily been 36-year old Kyle Korver. All hail Threezus.
Korver has been absolutely lights out from beyond the arc, especially next to LeBron. According to Cleaning The Glass, Korver has connected on 50 percent of his corner threes. Nearly 64 percent of Korver’s field goal attempts have been above the break three — on pace to be a career-high mark, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s shooting a ridiculous 45 percent on these attempts.
Obviously, most of Korver’s attempts come off the catch; the former Creighton star has drained 47.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. He’s also shooting 50 percent on threes after a pass from James. Hey, speaking of…
A lot of Korver’s attempts look just like this; here he comes off a double staggered look last Friday against Charlotte. MCW is nowhere near him by the time he’s ready to fire.
The Cavaliers, however, offer some variation, too. Here’s a catch-and-shoot bomb from the corner — with an assist from LeBron and a hammer screen from Jeff Green
Cleveland can also simplify things and just have LeBron and Korver run some double-wing pick-and-pop action. Here’s another look from the earlier Hornets game. Channing Frye sets a nice flare screen on Jeremy Lamb (not the world’s most vigilant off-ball defender) to buy Korver an extra second.
Escape from LA…hopefully without an injury
The injuries to Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverley are a serious bummer. The Clips are currently 8-11, and could be on the brink of free fall. The next month could be very telling, but keep an eye on All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan — who on an expiring deal could quickly become a very enticing trade asset. Hello, Cleveland and Washington.