One Team, One Stat: Hornets donít beat themselves

NBA.com Global on Oct 15, 2017 08:33 AM
One Team, One Stat: Hornets donít beat themselves
Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) is fouled by Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) while driving to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Charlotte Hornets, who don't like to give the ball away.

THE STAT

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets committed just 11.7 turnovers per 100 possessions.

THE CONTEXT

That was the lowest rate in the 40 seasons since the league started counting turnovers (1977-78).

The Hornets have been the league's worst shooting team over the last five seasons, with an effective field goal percentage of 47.9 percent over that span. But, for the last couple of years at least, they've kept themselves afloat offensively by taking care of the ball.

League-wide turnover rate has dropped each of the last five seasons and the Hornets have had the league's lowest turnover ratio in each of last four, coinciding with Steve Clifford's tenure as coach. That has afforded the Hornets more scoring chances than their opponents, while allowing their opponents fewer opportunities in transition.

Last season, the Hornets were one of two teams (Golden State was the other) that had an assist/turnover ratio better than 2/1. According to SportVU, the Hornets were the least likely team to commit a turnover after a ball screen (just 4.3 percent of the time) and on drives (4.5 percent of the time).

Synergy tracking, meanwhile, tells us that Charlotte has ranked in the top five in each of the last two seasons in regard to preventing transition possessions from their opponents. The Hornets rank sixth defensively over the last four years, with transition defense being one of the biggest keys to that success.

The Hornets' ability to take care of the ball starts with Kemba Walker, who had the lowest turnover ratio (7.6 per 100 possessions used) among starting point guards last season. The Hornets also had four of the 24 players who had a turnover ratio less than 7.0 in at least 15 minutes per game over 40 or more games.

The numbers are good, but weren't good enough last season, because the Hornets couldn't hold onto late leads. Even though they were the only team that had an assist/turnover ratio higher than 2.0 on clutch possessions (with the score within five points in the last five minutes), the Hornets had a league-high 22 losses (three more than any other team) after leading in the fourth quarter. They were 0-9 in in games decided by three points or less, finishing as one of two teams with a positive point differential and a losing record.

Better execution in close games, as well as drop-off from some of their Eastern Conference competition, should have the Hornets back in the playoffs. In regard to turnovers, they're a team that doesn't beat itself.

HORNETS NOTES - GENERAL

1. In the 13 years since the Bobcats entered the league, Charlotte has made the playoffs three times, but never in consecutive years.

2. Had the league's biggest win decrease, going from 48 in 2015-16 to 36 last season. But they had just the sixth biggest drop in NetRtg, from plus-3.3 to plus-0.3.

3. One of five Eastern Conference teams that had a positive plus-minus against the West. The other four were the East's top four seeds.

4. Outscored their opponents by 430 points at the free throw line. The next best FTM differential was plus-277 (Chicago).

5. One of two teams (Miami is the other) that have played at a slower-than-average pace each of the last 10 seasons.

HORNETS NOTES - OFFENSE

1. Scored 109.7 points per 100 possessions (seventh in the league) after the All-Star break, up from 105.0 (16th) before the break. Only Miami (+6.0) saw a better post-break, OffRtg improvement. (The Hornets' improvement came with the league's biggest drop in pace.)

2. Shot 81.5 percent from the free throw line last season, the best mark in the league and for any team in the last four seasons.

3. Isolated on just 4.1 percent of their possessions, the lowest rate in the league.

4. Led the league with 13.1 screen assists per game. The 73.0 ball screens they set per game were third most in the league (behind Utah and Toronto). The 2,784 that Walker used ranked second behind James Harden (3,169) and the 1,900 that Cody Zeller set ranked third behind Rudy Gobert (2,736) and Anthony Davis (2,461).

5. In a season where the league attempted 7,181 more 3-pointers than it ever had, the Hornets were one of seven teams that made fewer threes than they did in 2015-16. 25.6% of their 3-point attempts were contested, the second highest rate in the league (behind only that of the Lakers).

6. Were the league's most consistent offensive team from quarter to quarter.

HORNETS NOTES - DEFENSE

1. 2016-17 was their first season in four years under Clifford in which they weren't a top-10 defense.

2. Their opponents took 36.3 percent of their shots from 3-point range and 2,576 total 3-pointers. Those were the highest opponent marks in NBA history. According to SportVU, 77 percent of their opponents' 3-point attempts, the second highest rate in the league, were off the catch.

3. Were one of two teams (Phoenix was the other) whose opponents had an effective field goal percentage better than 50 percent on shots from outside the paint.

4. According to SportVU, the opposing ball-handler shot only 21 percent of the time after a ball screen. That was the third lowest rate in the league.

5. Had the league's second worst clutch defense, allowing 124.5 points per 100 possessions with the game within five points in the last five minutes. That was an increase from 105.2 allowed on non-clutch possessions, and that was the biggest such increase in the league.

HORNETS NOTES - LINEUPS

1. Their eight most-used lineups were a plus-200 (plus-5.2 per 100 possessions) in 1,702 minutes. All other Charlotte lineups were a minus-184 (-3.4 per 100 possessions) in 2,260 minutes.

2. Opponents attempted just 16.0 free throws for every 100 shots from the field against the Charlotte starters. That was the second lowest opponent free throw rate among 46 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. The starters also had the fifth highest defensive rebounding percentage among that group.

3. Were a plus-248 (plus-7.5 per 100 possessions) in 1,541 minutes with Walker and Zeller on the floor together. That was the second best on-court NetRtg among two-man combinations in the Eastern Conference who played at least 1,500 minutes.

4. Zeller, who had the team's best raw plus-minus, played 1,706 of his 1,725 minutes at center, logging just 19 minutes alongside Spencer Hawes or Miles Plumlee.

5. Outscored their opponents by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with Walker on the floor without Nicolas Batum, but were outscored by 6.2 in 427 minutes with Batum on the floor without Walker.

HORNETS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL

1. Nicolas Batum's effective field goal percentage of 47.2 percent last season was the lowest mark of his career. In each of his last five seasons, he's seen an increase in the percentage of his shots that come from between the restricted area and 3-point range, from 24 percent in 2011-12 to 46 percent last season.

2. Michael Carter-Williams had an effective field goal percentage of 39.1 percent last season, the second worst mark among 279 players who attempted at least 300 shots.

3. Dwight Howard ranked third in offensive rebounding percentage and fifth in defensive rebounding percentage among 294 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games. The only other player in the top 10 in both was Andre Drummond (fifth and first).

4. According to Synergy play-type tracking, Howard scored 1.18 points per possession as a roll man (1.3 possessions per game) and 0.84 points per possession on post-ups (3.7 possessions per game). He was one of four players to shoot better than 70 percent on at least 300 shots in the restricted area.

5. With Howard on the floor, Atlanta opponents took just 26.3 percent of their shots in the restricted area. That was the lowest rate among bigs who were on the floor for at least 2,000 opponent shots.

6. Frank Kaminsky was one of three seven footers who played at least 40 games and grabbed less than 10 percent of available rebounds while he was on the floor.

7. Among the 133 players who took at least 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers and 100 pull-up jumpers, Kaminsky had the second biggest difference between his effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot attempts (49.7 percent) and his eFG% on pull-ups (18.9 percent). That mark of 18.9 percent was the worst among 167 players who attempted at least 100 pull-up jumpers.

8. According to SportVU, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist spent more time (29.4 minutes) guarding LeBron James than any other player in the league last season. James scored 49 points on an effective field goal percentage of 63.5 percent against MKG.

9. Jeremy Lamb grabbed 12.7 percent of available rebounds while he was on the floor. That was the second highest rebounding percentage (behind that of Russell Westbrook) among 141 players shorter than 6-7 who played at least 40 games.

10. As noted above, Kemba Walker used 2,784 ball screens, second most in the league (behind only the 3,169 used by James Harden). The 793 shots Walker took after a ball screen were 113 more than any other player.

11. Walker had an effective field goal percentage of 70.2 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, the best mark among 231 players who attempted at least 100.

12. The 28 charges Walker drew ranked third in the league and were the most among guards.

13. As noted above, Cody Zeller ranked third with 1,900 ball screens set. He also ranked third with 5.9 screen assists per game. He set career-high marks in effective field goal percentage (57.1 percent) and true shooting percentage (60.4 percent).

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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