Reinis Lacis's Basketball Blog

Hornets Week 1: Growing Pains on Offense

The legendary first post of a recurring blog that hopefully will survive throughout the season. Right now I’m figuring it could be things I did like and things I didn’t like from the Hornets during a certain period of time, since I probably won’t be able to keep this up every week. I suppose that there also will be times when I’ll focus more on one specific storyline or tendency. But, either way, with no further ado, let’s get this started…

What I didn’t like:

1) Does the starting five really fit Coach Clifford and Alfense?

Very hard to begin the blog with positives when the most talented Horncat squad ever is 1-3 and the 3rd worst offensive team in the league….

It’s seemingly easy to understand the motive behind our moves during the summer even if you’re analyzing it while sitting behind a computer in another continent. Despite our last year success, only two of our starters (Al and Kemba, and even with him it’s not certain) would have been locks to start for any other playoff team in the league. Coach Clifford had set a defensive foundation that allowed our limited, yet hard-working players to succeed in this league and now it was time to add some talent to take the next step, even if the fit wasn’t quite there. We acquire Lance Stephenson on a deal that is superb (rarely do you get the opportunity to steal a 24-year-old borderline all-star from another team) even if this doesn’t work out and start looking for a power forward who would help us with long-range shooting since Lance is shaky in that part of the game. Whether Marvin Williams is the right man for the job is a topic for another discussion, however, I have to question Clifford if he’s even using Marvin the right way.

The concerns about Marvin’s three point percentage from the right side of the court were legitimate (honestly, I can’t figure out where to find short charts on this new design, but either way that’s the one spot from which he has been bad). That’s the place from which, per example, Anthony Tolliver could get open looks off Al’s post-ups, which traditionally take place on the left side on the court. The thing is though – we have no freaking idea how Marvin could shoot from there since our only dangerous three-point threat is placed in an absolutely worthless place whenever Al posts up.

Look at Marvin’s movement. That’s how one would move if his objective was to station himself on the other side of the paint whenever the ball is entered to Al in the post:

I mean, Marv has one specific skill that makes him a starter and that is shooting. What good is he if he spends half of Al’s post-ups near the paint!? An offensive rebound from him is unlikely and if you expect him to make a cut along the baseline (or from any place for that matter) and catch a pass from Al then you better look up Antetokounmpo’s block on Marvin (by my observation, the only time Williams has so far attempted a cut during a Jefferson post-up).

Then there’s the other possibility of Marvin being positioned in what we call on the Hornets RealGM board as Clifford’s shame corner. Here’s a snapshot of how that looks like on a rare Al post-up on the right side:


Al is no Marc Gasol, but, man… With Lance prone to wandering around and MKG usually being there in Marv’s spot near the other side of the paint, it’s simply impossible to make that pass to Williams who’s standing in the opposite corner. Part of the blame might be on Marv who needs to have the right feel for the game and start a movement alongside the three-point line to the top of the key, but you can’t deny the fact that our only floor spacer is put in positions where it’s impossible for him to space the floor.

We try shifting things up with cuts that would potentially catch defenders asleep when guarding our weak shooters, but almost always it ends up in guys crowding the paint, then ending their movement in positions where it’s safe for defenders to leave them and then double-team Jefferson with the whole opposing team basically ending up with five guys in the paint (props to W_HAMILTON from RealGM for bringing up our worthless cutting):

Aaand one more snapshot that I can’t resist posting. The point guard will be okay with leaving Kemba, MKG and Lance aren’t dangerous threats and take up space standing in mid-range spots, while there’s absolutely no use for Marvin to be where he is:


2) Lance’s place within the offense

On a very similar note…. I don’t blame Stephenson for how he has started this season. Yeah, he’s 1 for 16 on shots that came from further than 5 feet.  He also has been very sloppy with the ball, making some head-scratching turnovers. Occasionally, he has played some questionable defense as he did the time he allowed Tony Allen two straight drives through the middle in a row:

He absolutely deserved to get benched in the fourth quarter against New Orleans and Memphis. However, I do believe that Stephenson is truly confused about what he’s supposed to do to contribute on offense and he compensates by taking these off the dribble jumpers which we’ve already had enough of:

But the man also proved during the third quarter in the New York game that all he needs is an opening to the middle of the court and he can get things done. The same applies for Kemba. We have two great creators who’ll run the defense amok if they’ll get the opportunity to get to the middle of the court. I wish we saw more of these kinds of opportunities for Lance:

The first play shows what Stephenson can get done if has the opportunity to attack in a faster pace. Change of direction, an opening reveals itself and it ends in a successful drive. The second one is about what kind of a pick-n-roll threat he can be. All you need is a tricky pick by Maxiell, where he changes the side on which the pick is set at the last second, and Lance is in attack mode. That brings me to the next thing I didn’t like…

3) The bench line-up

The bet of successfully playing with a Roberts/Neal/Henderson/Zeller/Maxiell line-up on the court seems to be an unlikely one. It’s a line-up we have rolled out for what would have been nearly 7 minutes per game if MKG wouldn’t have got hurt (I’m counting the minutes Hairston played with them in New Orleans as the same line-up) and the game clock does seem to tick a whole lot slower while you wait for Lance to check back in after Kemba has taken a seat. You’re basically banking on Neal to keep the Hornets close with his jumpers, while the other team has two starters out there since their coach has heard of a thing called “staggering minutes”.

And, man, do I dislike the way the bench runs pick-n-rolls to the side of the floor, which in 2014 means exactly what the defense wants you to do. This is basically the exact opposite of what I liked about Lance getting to the middle of the court and I seriously hope we stop doing this. God forbid, Hendo ever saw a base-line jumper he didn’t like:

They will often have a tough time scoring and Clifford seriously needs to figure out a way to make sure a starter is on the court at all times. It could, perhaps, be the moment where Lance Stephenson enjoys freedom outside of Alfense and creates for others.

Last but not least – Jason Maxiell shouldn’t be playing. I don’t even want to get in to this and present you video examples. Just a watch a second of him playing basketball and you can conclude that he is in no shape or form ready to play minutes as a center in the NBA. No matter how hard-working he is or how well he can read offenses, he’s simply not fast enough and athletic enough to protect the paint. At this point I don’t care if it’s Vonleh or Biyombo who get’s his minutes as long as Maxiell doesn’t hit the court.

For what could be a weekly fun thing, here’s how he slates against Biyombo’s last year performance when he was the league leading rim protector among those players who faced at least 4 opponent field goals at the rim per game:

Biz – 1.7 OPP FGM at rim/4.4 FGA = 39.1% vs. Maxiell – 2.8 OPP FGM at rim/3.8 FGA = 73.3%, company of Spencer Hawes (71.4%), Ryan Anderson (78.3%) and Enes Kanter (83.3%)

Honorable mentions: Kemba Walker’s shooting (33% in catch-and-shoot situations), Jason Maxiell, Al’s slow start to the season on offense, the fact that this isn’t just a slow start for Al on defense, Jason Maxiell, Kemba and Lance falling asleep on defense from time to time, Jason Maxiell and Jason Maxiell.

What I did like:

I might have to expand on some of these ideas in the future since these here will be shorter write-ups considering the overall outlook on the Charlotte Hornets basketball team in the last week… But either way kudos to three players:

1) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

He’s 4 for 6 on jumpers between 16 and 24 feet after the 3 games he has played. Mike also shot twice as many free throws per 36 than he ever has for a full season before. He looked confident, exercised the opportunities he has on offense, played with the most heart and probably was the best player on our team before going down with that rib injury.

If it wasn’t for Kemba’s heroics vs. Milwaukee, I would nominate this as the Hornets play(s) of the week:

2) Gary Neal

It kind of can be feast or famine with Neal and his mid-range jumpers (or for that matter any player who relies on mid-range jumpers off screens) so praising him for a week of made jumpers could be viewed as a too shallow of a opinion. The reports of him working hard during the summer do seem noticeable now though. His scoring output is self-evident, but Gary also seemed ready for the season in other facets of the game. He’ll give up points due to the sheer fact that he’s a 6’4 shooting guard in a league which each summer drafts new 6’9 mutant wing players. But otherwise his effort and attention to detail on defense has been top notch:

(I like how he closes out the second play by doing a proper face-to-face box out on a bigger player)

3) Cody Zeller

Things for Cody to keep up:

His mid-range shooting (he’s 5/13 from 16 to 24 feet, as bad as it sounds it is a major improvement);
His drives to the rim (7/10 from the restricted area, has generally spent less time being knocked down to the floor);
The good job he has done defending on the perimeter (if we forget the two times Ryan Anderson burned him):

Honorable mentions: Marvin Williams matching his shoes with our uniform colors, Lance’s dunk over Sanders, Kemba’s heroics vs. the Bucks, Marv fronting and battling Z-Bo and Anthony Davis, this play (although, all in all, the three other teams we faced disregarded Marv as a threat in the pick-n-pop and trapped our ball handler hard):

I swear I can’t remember the last time when we’ve run something like this with a capable ball catcher and a three-point threat just dangerous enough to keep Anthony Davis from helping out on the pick-n-roll.


One comment on “Hornets Week 1: Growing Pains on Offense

  1. Pingback: The Channing Frye Effect: Explaining the Orlando Loss | LamarMatic's NBA Blog

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