Kemba Walker’s influence on the Charlotte Hornets this season has been self-evident. Not only has the All-Star point guard had a career year, the Hornets offense has also fallen apart whenever Walker has been on the bench.
The bees have been good for 109 points per 100 possessions with Captain Courageous on the court which is the best mark on the team. That number is down to a meager 101.6 without Walker, a distinct team-low. While Walker has been the face of the team for a while now, one might have forgotten that this wasn’t exactly the case in previous years where stronger bench units were capable of holding down the fort.
This time, though, there wasn’t much potential for a successful “next man up” scenario, especially with the Italian body twisting expert Marco Belinelli out due to a injured left index finger.
With all due respect to Brian Roberts’s professionalism, it’s questionable whether he’s a competent backup point guard at the NBA level, let alone someone who could fill in as a starter. The suave and not particularly aggressive Nicolas Batum won’t work as a primary option on most nights, either.
Thus the usually reliable starting unit struggled to score altogether and posted a pathetic, yet somewhat unsurprising offensive rating of 73.2 with Roberts in Walker’s place.
Although none of the information that was mentioned above was bound to blow your mind, it kind of puts things into a neat perspective and truly shows how much Charlotte relies on the construct of its team rather than the individual parts. Play someone less capable than Walker in the Hornets motion offense and those pick-and-rolls lose much of the level of threat that they usually have.
The plus/minus hero Cody Zeller all of the sudden had much less impact on the game, even if he probably would have made a couple of the layups he botched on a normal night.
Same goes for the savvy veteran in Marvin Williams, always capable of reaching double digits with timely threes around Walker’s and Batum’s artistry.
However, the occasion did work as an opportunity for coach Steve Clifford to give extended minutes to some of the players who haven’t had the chance to experience such playing time. Both Miles Plumlee and Briante Weber saw career highs in minutes played in a Hornets uniform.
It was also the second most minutes Treveon Graham has played in an NBA game.
All in all, that’s pretty much the only thing that mattered about this mid-April exhibition. Rest your injured rotation players, gladly pick up the L not to enter a tie with the Detroit Pistons in the win column and see what you have in your less used guys.
More of them in this game’s...
The irony is that the bench squad actually played at a decent level and was the factor that kept Charlotte in the game against the playoff-bound Bucks.
Frank Kaminsky’s expert passing had the Hornets scoring 108.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the court despite one of those bad Kaminsky shooting performances (1-12 from the field) where just nothing seems to go his way. Jeremy Lamb was reliable for his usual scoring output.
And then there’s the rookie Treveon Graham. Graham’s 2-for-2 from behind the 3-point line has him at 9-13 for the year. Though, he commits mistakes on defense — something you can expect from a first-year player — he continues to respond well to the challenges of picking up star players.
Graham should be playable in the role of a wing who takes spot minutes as a defensive stopper, which, of course, has one salivating that he could be that elusive 3&D player everyone needs these days.
However, finishing around the basket hasn’t come to easy him. He started the season with what seemed like a fall to the ground on almost every layup he took.
Wait, here’s the second field goal attempt he had in that game against the Toronto Raptors:
For that reason it was encouraging to see Graham finish not one, but two layups in the paint.
It’s likely that catching and driving won’t ever be niche. The rook lacks the elite athleticism that other role playing wings have. However, you can always develop a feel for when such opportunities can be successfully taken. Here he senses that even if Khris Middleton isn’t giving him the middle, he could blaze past him with a lighting quick first step and be home free:
As far as Miles Plumlee is concerned, what’s intriguing is that he remains fairly passive in regards to shot attempts. The oldest Plumlee bro has attempted only 4.6 field goal attempts per 36 minutes in a Hornets jersey, a clear-cut career low.
There isn’t an NBA player who has played more than 100 minutes this season and been more shy about taking a field goal attempt, per Basketball-Reference.
It’s understandable that a big, whose primary game is rolling to the rim, needs to develop chemistry on a new team. Yet, given his athletic abilities, Plumlee has passed up a few seemingly possible opportunities for dunks and layups.
Couldn’t he have slammed it down with his right hand over Matthew Dellavedova on the other side of the rim?
A subpar pass by Briante Weber probably limited Plumlee’s chances on this play, much to Weber’s own frustration with himself:
That being said, it again didn’t seem like anything was preventing a player with Plumlee’s gifts to go up and see whether Dellavedova has the quickness to bother a shot so close to the rim.
To his credit, the Blue Devil kept giving the earthbound Greg Monroe fits by attacking the glass and preforming the Tyson Chandler tap-out play:
Lastly, there’s the always active Briante Weber.
Here’s Weber’s defense in a nutshell. Some extra handsy effort produces a nice deflection on the very dangerous Giannis Antetokounmpo + smaller guard pick-and-roll. Yet he follows that up with some questionable and unnecessary weak side defense to give up a Delly 3-pointer as the shot clock expires.