BG’s St8 of the NBA: Nic Batum returns, Hornets continue to slump & Capela Dunkbot 9000

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Welcome back, Nic Batum — and never a moment too soon

Let’s start with the good news first, shall we? In his first game back since a preseason elbow injury, Nic Batum looked solid. It was the type of performance that should inspire a small amount of hope in the midst of this five-game losing slog.

Batum played 32 minutes — 10 more than coach Steve Clifford projected to play him. In his time on the floor, the ball flowed nicely, and Charlotte scored at the rate of a top 7-8 offense. A lack of in-game conditioning may have come back to limit Batum in the second half, but in the first two quarters, Charlotte posted a net rating of +20.4 points per 100 possessions with Nic on the court.

Partnered up with Kemba Walker, Nic Batum made a handful of hard, smart basket cuts, and the Bronx native found him for multiple slams at the hoop, including this second quarter dime out of a horns set.

The Frenchman handed six assists; three of those went to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had an outstanding offensive game. More importantly: Batum helped keep the second afloat on offense when Kemba sat — a huge issue for the Hornets all season.

Call in the reserves — no, wait, don’t do that

Speaking of that second unit, yeah, not great, defensively. As my one of my podcast partners, and a friend of SC8, Spencer Percy notes over at Queen City Hoops, Cleveland carved up Charlotte in the second quarter — largely with reserve units in.

Rookie Dwayne Bacon has had some strong moments of play this season, but defensively, he’s behind the curve. Wings that can’t defend will have trouble finding consistent minutes in Clifford’s system — especially once Michael Carter-Williams gets healthy again.

Things went poorly for this bunch even when LeBron sat on the bench. Kyle Korver is an excellent screener, but this is too damn easy. Teams continue to attack Frank Kaminsky.

The Hornets need this to improve, quickly. More minutes for Nic with this group should help, but he isn’t a stopper. Time to button up.

How’s the honeymoon going?

I would say that overall Dwight Howard has been a net positive on the Hornets this season; it’s probably too early to make any sort of broad judgment, too. However, there’s one thing we can conclude: Dwight post-ups won’t work. This type of offense needs to end, like yesterday.

Howard’s averaging 5.9 post-ups per game (sixth most in the NBA); 35.2 percent of the possessions he’s used have been spent in the post. This is clearly being done to appease Dwight; it’s not how Clifford would prefer to run his offense. It supposedly keeps him engaged — running, screening, and contesting shots. But it’s simply not working, and it’s hurting Charlotte’s offense. The team stops moving — there’s no rhythm or flow.

According to, Dwight scores just 0.60 points per possession on post-up — which is awful. It’s the worst in the league amongst players that use at least three post-ups per game. Part of the problem: he turns the ball over 35 percent of the time, which is also the worst in the NBA.

These turnovers usually occur when Howard catches the ball off the block and tries to back his way slowly to the hoop.

Dwight is also attempting a lot of face-up shots from the midpost. He frequently tries to use the backboard on them, which, okay. Regardless, it never goes in. Dwight is now 2-of-25 (eight percent) on field goal attempts from four to 14 feet, per Cleaning The Glass.

Dwight plays 95 percent of his minutes with Kemba on the floor, too — moments of the game when Charlotte must maximize its offensive utility. Setting five or six possessions per game on fire is hurting a team that’s already playing on too small of a margin, especially in minutes of higher leverage.

Light at the end of the tunnel: Chicago Bulls

Charlotte gets exactly what the doctor ordered to cure this losing slide — one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls rank dead last in the NBA in offense — 92.9 points per 100 possessions — and second to last in net rating (-12.7). Chicago has only two wins on the season; the team’s best player is a rookie; and Bobby Portis punched a teammate. If the Hornets can’t pull one out up in the land of Kanye, locate the Panic Button, immediately.



Rockets, Flying High

James Harden has picked up right from where he left off last season — MVP-form in his second year with Mike D’Antoni. Even without Chris Paul, the Rockets continue to rip nets — No. 3 in the league in both offensive efficiency and net rating.

Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson space the floor while Harden pulls all of the strings and levers, perfectly. But one of the big reasons Houston smokes fools: Clint Capela.

Watch this gorgeous set Houston ran against Indiana. Trevor Ariza and Gordon are spaced wide to the weak-side of the floor — tucked deep into the corner, like a receiver split wide Chip Kelly’s offense at Oregon. Harden, Anderson and Capela now get to play 3-on-3. Good luck, sweet Pacers.

Anderson screens Harden’s defender, and Thad Young must show — Harden can’t have a walk-up 3 or a clear path to the basket. As soon as he screens, Anderson darts toward Capela, looking to come off a flare screen — one of Houston’s favorite actions. Capela has other ideas, though; he slips the screen, and yeah, nothing Indy can do here. Dunk time.

86 percent of Capela’s field goal attempts come at the rim, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s shooting 74 percent in the restricted area; Capela has already stuffed 17 alley-oop slams this season. Capela also scores 1.46 points per possession as a roll man in PNR action — No. 2 in the NBA.


Bledsoe for dolo

This has to be one of the most exciting basketball seasons in Milwaukee in lord knows how long. The rise of Giannis is a sight to be seen. Jabari Parker is still sadly on the mend, but the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe has kicked things up another notch. Milwaukee’s play has followed suit.

The offense is still a little shaky, but the team has ripped off a four-game win streak; since Bledsoe joined the lineup, the Bucks have allowed less than 97 points per 100 possessions — fifth best in the NBA in that stretch of time.

It’s an absolute show to watch these dudes run up-and-down and turn offense into defense — yo, hold that.

When Giannis and Bledsoe share the floor, Milwaukee has been awesome: scoring 110.4 points per 100 possessions — 64.7 percent assist rate, 57 percent true shooting. They’ve allowed just 0.94 points per possession with Bledsoe and Giannis flying around, causing havoc.

The Greek Freak isn’t the only Buck to enjoy the arrival of another ball handler. Khris Middleton, who roasted the Hornets for 43 two weeks ago, is heating up, too.


Brandon Ingram: Still searching for a jumper

The second-year pro played some good ball against Philadelphia on Wednesday night (An Evening with Joel Embiid) — 26 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Ingram is off to a decent start in 2017; he’s upped his scoring (14.7 points) and gets to the line more. However, after tinkering with his shot in the offseason, the former Blue Devils looks even more lost shooting three-pointers.

In fact, he’s down right allergic to them at this point. What happened, did Lonzo poison this dude?

Ingram’s three-point attempt rate has been slashed in half — only 12 percent of his attempts come from beyond the arc. Over the last six games, he hasn’t made a single three-ball — on only four attempts.

For the season, Ingram is just 1-of-8 on corner treys, per Cleaning The Glass; he has, however, splashed 46 percent of his above the break triples.


The best big men combination Curren$y can buy

The New Orleans Pelicans are 8-7 after a loss to the frisky Toronto Raptors. The Pels rank in the middle of the pack in terms of both defense and offense, but when their two stud big dudes — DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis — share the floor, they cook.

The Pelicans attempts nearly 37 percent of their field goals within four feet of the rim — No. 6 in the NBA, per Cleaning The Glass. They shoot 68 percent in this range, which belongs to Boogie and AD and ranks fourth in the league. Davis is one of the best in the league (79 FG%).

When it’s just one or the other, though, well, it doesn’t go so hot.

Both On

New Orleans: 108 points per 100 possessions, 99.7 points per 100 possessions, +8.3 net rating, 81.3% defensive rebound rate, 58.7% true shooting

Cousins: 32% usage rate, 56.5% true shooting, 45 FG%, 34.1 3P%

Davis: 23.9% usage rate, 69.1% true shooting, 61.3 FG%, 47.6 3P%

Boogie on, AD off

New Orleans: 100.9 points per 100 possessions, 107.7 points per 100 possessions, -6.8 net rating, 76.7% defensive rebound rate, 55.7% true shooting

Cousins: 38.1% usage rate, 63.2% true shooting, 52.4 FG%, 37.5 3P%,

AD on, Boogie off

New Orleans: 104.7 points per 100 possessions, 114.3 points per 100 possessions, -9.5 net rating, 72% defensive rebound rate, 56% true shooting

Davis: 31.1% usage rate, 55.4% true shooting, 46 FG%, 28.6 3P%