By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
I typically am used to skipping almost all of the preseason. There are years when I don’t watch a minute of preseason basketball. When I’ve seen the full 48 minutes of the game, there’s usually some significant reason for it. For one, I remember watching Bismack Biyombo‘s preseason debut against Atlanta. That might not seem that significant now but back then our RealGM Charlotte board literally didn’t know what to expect. There was footage of him in Spain and all, however, his abilities still seemed like a mystery to us. Moreover, I swear that there was a pre-game segment on which Stephanie Ready (or, perhaps, Steve Martin?) interviewed Michael Jordan about him and he threw out the Hakeem Olajuwon comparison. Take that for some significance!
That being said I seem to have got the joneses for current NBA basketball earlier than in most autumns. Maybe deep down I just felt like writing a blog about the Hornets again. Either way here are some observations of the game at Miami and just some thoughts about the team overall.
(Side-note – I will act as if the Orlando game didn’t happen. Seriously, you couldn’t tell a thing watching that jumbotron feed.)
A Fun Play for Frank Kaminsky and His Impact on the Offense
Three-point shooting at the four position can open up a lot of things for an offense. Here’s an example.
We ran a very cool play for a Frank Kaminsky three-pointer. It starts off as a pick-n-roll between the point guard and the center, while Kaminsky is stationed right underneath the basket. The second Tyler Hansbrough (the center) hits the defender with the screen, Kaminsky sprints outside to the corner for a three:
The idea at work here is that Josh McRoberts, Kaminsky’s defender, is put in a tough position. One the one hand there’s a seven-footer diving to the rim hard for the possibility of a shot at the rim, on the other hand a good three-point shooter might be open in just a second. Since McRoberts is a big his natural senses might tell him to protect the paint and lazily wave a hand so the wing picks up Kaminsky. But, BOOM, Jeremy Lin is there to set a solid and hard screen for said wing and Brian Roberts finds Kaminsky for the open three.
And you know what? McRoberts treated Kaminsky with the respect he should have for the rest of the game. Here’s Brian Roberts getting two completely uncontested drives to the rim just because Kaminsky was involved in the pick-n-roll action:
Such players can open up the court and we desperately missed guys like that last season, which is part of the reason for our ho-hum boring offense. You wouldn’t have ran the same play with Cody Zeller last year. The subsequent Brian Roberts drives thus also wouldn’t have happened. Creative players (Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin) and bigs who can shoot (Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes) might change that.
PJ Hairston vs. Jeremy Lamb for the Starter’s Role
I take it that these two guys could be potentially fighting over the starting position besides Nicolas Batum on opening night if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist indeed misses some considerable time (Edit: a recent update indicates he will miss the whole year. gulp…). Jeremy Lin should stay in his back-up point guard slot and close out games alongside Kemba Walker in the manner in which Steve Clifford likes to use his best guard off the bench.
At this point the spot seems to be up for grabs with both players having less than productive games at Miami and just overall being similar as far as their strengths and weaknesses are concerned. Both are more than willing to fire it up off the dribble once getting the ball (slight edge to Lamb as he seems to be better at finding not-so terrible looks). Both can go through awful shooting slumps (slight edge to Lamb as Hairston only has one year on his resume and it was just… bad). Both can’t really create for others. Both don’t get to the rim and can’t finish there if they do attempt to do so (slight edge to Lamb as his Free Throw Attempt Rate is a bit better). And both are rather negatives on defense (slight edge to Lamb as he hasn’t got on my nerves yet for a full season).
All those close rulings in favor of Lamb and his longer track record does make one think that he has the upper hand in this one. Jeremy Lamb also supposedly score 16 points at Orlando in an NBA preseason game which might or might not have happened. Last night’s poor showing from both of them made me think though that P.J. Hairston still has a chance of proving himself if he put together a few nice performances.
His problems are still the same though. He seems to be ready to challenge Charlie Villanueva for the 2015-16 Biggest Chucker Award (my formula placed Hairston second in the league last season in this glamorous race, while Charlie V took home the trophy) with two threes thrown up within 2 seconds of Charlotte getting the offensive rebound. He’s still inexplicably bad at shooting threes (0/5 last night) for a supposedly good marksman. Meanwhile, one couldn’t see him having improved at reading screens or dealing with his defensive-ADHD problem. Here’s Luol Deng cutting to the paint as Hairston day-dreams about dyeing his hair:
After committing not the smartest fouls due to over-aggression on Luol Deng and Chris Bosh and-one plays, he randomly decides that he’ll stay home on Justise Winslow (off whom he absolutely should help) and not come over from the weak-side to stop this drive by Goran Dragic:
One shouldn’t make assumptions based on a preseason game, however, Hairston played exactly like I’ve got used to him playing the previous season.
As for Lamb.. His main advantage in this battle in this particular game was not being PJ Hairston.
In all fairness, it would be a lot different if we had seen a normal broadcast of the Magic game where he scored in double digits but my biggest take-away from this particular contest was that he had a one track mind in the pick-n-roll. What I’ve seen of him previously as well suggests that the one thing he has figured out how to do at the NBA level is getting himself a jump-shot. It doesn’t seem like he is capable of seeing how the bodies move on the court and deducting where he could throw a pass. Or, perhaps, he isn’t just willing to do other things besides shooting himself.
Either way, I obviously won’t make a judgement on that at this point but the video I want to upload of him is Lamb’s body spasming when given the assignment to actually pass out of the pick-n-roll:
When he didn’t find an angle he likes for a shot, the slow “here, you take it” pass out to the perimeter lead to very Hornets-like stagnated possessions that we’ve come to see regularly. Guards driving past the pick to the 16-foot range before dumping it off for the next man to do the same unsuccessful thing.
The Three-Pointer Revolution
It kind of started already late last season when Troy Daniels joined the team and was let loose during our mini-tankathon/shut-down-of-key-players. Back then Daniels helped us break a 19-year-old franchise record, per Basketball Reference’s data.
Troy Daniels and Brian Roberts turned out to be the main participants in the event of breaking this record. In the last week of the season the team managed to approach the record real close (30 attempts in Atlanta), break it (32 attempts against Houston, 6 for Daniels, 12 for Roberts) and then settle one 3FGA above (33 attempts in Toronto, 13 for Daniels, 6 for Roberts).
We’ve started off this preseason by going 12/31 (at Orlando) and 12/29 (at Miami). Considering the summer additions to the team it seems clear that the front office has got the message – we won’t climb out of the dregs in the offensive efficiency standings if we don’t add three-point shooting to the team. Just last season going 12 from 31 would be challenging a 19-year-old franchise record (quite frankly it’s shocking that we had a record that old for three-point field goal attempts in this day and age). As of now we’ve done that five games in a row (games 80, 81 and 82 and the two preseason exhibitions).
The fun part about the Miami game was that even Cody Zeller joined the fun by making two long bombs.
Joshua Priemski from AtTheHive has already reported that Zeller has been working on his three-point shot, an aspect of the game coach Clifford encouraged him to improve during this off-season. It’s impossible to say whether Zeller will be a real weapon from downtown this season, however, it’s an encouraging sight, especially given the shoulder surgery which affected his summer.
Jeremy Lin’s Drives
A Charlotte fan at this point probably doesn’t know how does it feel like to watch a guard who can both get to the rim numerous times and make smart passes at the same time. I have no idea how the hell Lin managed to make this play:
For the record, this should be considered a real no-look pass. Not some cheesy look-away at the last second. He drives to the basket and looks at the basket before dropping off a bounce pass (to his rear, I might add) to a spot where he hadn’t even looked.
Josh McRoberts Going Behind the Back
It was great to see old friend Josh McRoberts on the court, especially after the short season he had last year due to a torn meniscus. McBob randomly decided to attempt as many passes behind his back as he could as if he were Larry Bird. Fun stuff, even if it didn’t lead to anything good in particular the first three times:
Tyler Hansbrough Going All Out
Has somebody informed Tyler Hansbrough that this is still the preseason? Who the hell grabs 17 rebounds and falls down three times in fierce off-the-ball battles in the second game of the preseason?
I sometimes hate the use of this cliche but I already feel the effect of this phenomena on me. Hansbrough is my definite “hate when he’s an opponent, love when on my team” guy. And that says a lot since he has replaced one of my personal favorites in the league – Bismack Biyombo.
I’m still undecided whether to make a season compilation out of him being the provocateur, yet earning a foul against the opponent or to compile each time he falls. Maybe I should do both…
Edit: The recent news that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might miss the whole season weren’t known to me when writing this piece. Obviously, the Hairston vs. Lamb debate now deserves a more insightful and serious look. I reckon that Jeremy Lamb will be the starter though.
Also, I’m disappointed that it’s already past 10PM and in Latvia one isn’t able to (legally) buy alcohol any more. These are depressing news.