NBA Today: Hornets Lack Same Sting
Despite the addition of sixth-man James Posey, the Hornet offense has gone into the tank this season.
No one is going to try to tell you that the New Orleans Hornets aren’t a great team, one capable of challenging for the Western Conference title this spring. However, despite the team’s success – they have won five of their past six (and six of eight), have a chance to finish a perfect 3-0 on their current home stand with a win over the pathetic Warriors on Friday, and are likely headed for a second straight 55-win season – the Hornets are not nearly the powerhouse they were in 2007-08, at least offensively.
Last season, the team had a top 10 offense and top five defense, but can make only one of those claims this season. While the defense is even better this year – only Cleveland and Boston are giving up less points per game – the Hornet offense is now among the league’s worst with just over 96 PPG. While the addition of James Posey has helped, none of the team’s big four – Chris Paul, David West, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler – are doing better this season, and in the case of the latter two, are actually doing much worse offensively.
Despite the offensive struggles, the Hornets sit just one game out in the Southwest Division, with a huge game in San Antonio on Saturday for division supremacy.
We suggested considering Devin Brown back in November, for he had been promised extra minutes. Sure enough, he got them, averaging over 20 MPG in December, but Brown failed to impress and he’s barely played so far in 2009. In fact, he had taken three straight DNP-CDs before an injury to Morris Peterson in the first half Wednesday opened up a chance for Brown. And take advantage he did, to the tune of a season-high 18 points with three treys and a steal. Everything he heaved up was falling (6-for-7), so don’t expect that to happen very often. Brown hasn’t had the opportunities to earn starts and play significant minutes this season like he did last year with Cleveland, but that could change. Put him back on your watch list and see how things play out.
As for MoPete, his injury won’t exactly send any owners scurrying to the waiver wire. Jeez, has he ever fallen off the map — Peterson hasn’t even played as many as 10 minutes in over three weeks. While he’s getting into more games this month, he’s so low down in the rotation that it doesn’t matter at all. And the fact that Peterson hasn’t been as aggressive this season – and hence has not been able to take advantage of his solid FT shooting when he does play – has only helped exacerbate the fact that he’s never been more irrelevant.
The hallmark of any great team is its ability to dominate at home. Well, after a rough start (splitting its first six games), New Orleans has been virtually untouchable at the refreshingly corporate-name-free, yet-screaming-for-some-marketing-touch-to-its-moniker New Orleans Arena, winning 13 of 15 since, including the past four after taking out Denver Wednesday night.
How good has Paul been? Can you believe this dude has dropped at least 10 dimes in 30 of 40 games this year? Sick. Fantasy MVP? Me thinks so, despite King James’ exploits.
New Orleans can definitely thank the second unit for this latest win. While Denver’s starters were outscoring the Hornet front five by 14, the battle of the benches was a completely different story, as the Hornets won this by a whopping 29 points, 42-13. And that was despite the fact that sixth man Posey absolutely stunk the joint up (1-for-13, six points). Brown’s huge night and continued solid work from Sean Marks (six points, seven boards and a block) made the difference on this night.
The incredibly frustrating year continues for Chandler and his owners as he missed his fourth straight game Wednesday because of an ankle injury. We mentioned above that his offense had taken a beating this year, but if his fall were limited to scoring, it would be only half bad. Heading into the season, we had Chandler pegged a shade below top 10 centre status, but thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, he’s barely in the top 50 now, and to wit, has been winding up on the waiver wire in smaller leagues. Chandler had been shooting well recently before getting hurt, but he gets so few touches per game, that it’s hardly noticeable. The bottom line here is that with his no-longer dominating rebounding totals, Chandler contributes in far too few categories. His FG percentage has dropped significantly this season, he’s never sunk a three-pointer in his entire career, he’s a lousy FT shooter who has gotten worse this year, he’s scoring three less points per game, and his assists have been cut in half. Damn, the only thing Chandler’s doing better this year is blocking shots. He’s swatting 1.4 per game, up from just 1.1 BPG last season, but still down from his career-best 1.8 BPG which he matched in his first season in The Big Easy. He’s supposed to be back before the All-Star Game, so no point in cutting him yet, but if I owned him, I’d wait for him to post a double-double or two, then I’d shop him like mad.
Also MIA for the Hornets lately is West, out the past five games because of back spasms. We ranked West as a top 20 forward this season, but he has not quite been able to build on his career year in 2007-08. The timing of West’s injury was particularly lousy, as he had been putting up his best numbers of the season in January, averaging almost 22 PPG. While West’s TOs have dropped this year, unfortunately so have all the rest of his numbers. At this point, he’s day-to-day, but despite his decreased output this season, West remains a must-own player.
Best sign of the night for the Hornets: they shot 48.6 per cent from the field even though Paul had a crappy 3-for-12 game. Despite their less than impressive offensive numbers, the Hornets haven’t been a bad shooting team (46.01 per cent, good for 11th in the NBA), but to have a night like this against a tough Denver defense (the Nuggets are fourth best in the NBA at limiting opponents’ FG shooting) when Paul struggled with his shot definitely bodes well.