The Charlotte Hornets have always had a defense near the top of the league in defensive efficiency under head coach Steve Clifford's tenure. This season has been no different, with the team currently ranking in the top ten on the defensive end.
One of the things that Charlotte has made sure to do in order to bring about a successful defense is hold teams to bad shooting percentages from three. With the NBA trending more and more towards an era that encourages 3-point shooting, having a team that can keep teams in check from deep will help against this revolution.
The spot-up 3-pointer is the easiest three to take because it doesn't require much effort. According to Synergy Sports, the Hornets have the fourth-lowest points per possession allowed on spot-up attempts. This is due to their ability to get out of those shooters. According to Synergy, the Hornets have the third-highest amount of guarded catch and shoot attempts in the league, showing that they are closing the air space of the shooters when teams swing the ball to the open man.
A big part of this success has come in the Hornets' ability execute their defensive scheme to perfection. Their principles and rotations are spot on and help them to bother teams when they are trying to run their offense. Take this possession from the Memphis Grizzlies as an example.
Teams try to use a ball screen to try and generate an advantage. The goal is to get another defender to commit to guarding the pick and roll in order to create an opening for a shooter. Courtney Lee in the middle of that possession is going to get a ball screen from Marc Gasol. In order to stop Gasol rolling to the rim, Marvin Williams has to come help off of his man, Matt Barnes. This is called "chucking the roller."
Now when the ball is swung to Barnes from Lee, Williams doesn't have enough time to recover and contest the open look. This is where the next piece of the puzzle comes in to play. Kemba Walker is currently in help on his man, Mike Conley. Since Williams went to help in the pick and roll, it is Walker's job to essentially guard two players at the same time, the open man in Barnes and his man in Conley. Walker is going to make Barnes think about shooting the shot twice by performing a "stunt." This is just a simple step or two towards Barnes to make him think about shooting it or not.
Once Walker stunts, he has to retreat back to his man in order to stop Conley from getting an open shot. Barnes hesitates, meaning that Walker has done his job. When Barnes hesitates, it gives Williams just enough extra time to get back and contest the shot and force a miss. Here it is again, all in one beautifully executed sequence.
This requires so much attention to detail, practice, and preparation. Contesting open shooters is no easy task and Clifford has gotten these guys to play extremely hard and stay locked in on the defensive end, despite not having what most people would consider to be long and active defenders individually.