Last month, I broke down where a systematic flaw was holding back the Hornets defensively. Fresh off the heels off the heels of a 131 point performance against the Sacramento Kings, now felt like the perfect time to touch on the failings of the Hornets offense.
The most obvious and least fixable problem is the shooting. As of January 4th, the Hornets are 29th in field goal percentage, 26th in 3-point percentage, 27th in free throw percentage, and 27th in true shooting percentage. Not great. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to fix those things in the short term without adjusting personnel other than to hope guys like Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum find their respective shooting strokes, which could be happening.
But internal improvement of player shooting isn’t the only thing the Hornets can do to improve their offensive efficiency. As crazy as it sounds, putting the team in more situations where it thrives is a good place to start.
The Hornets are currently average 1.17 points per possession in transition, the 4th best mark in the league. Despite their success, transition offense only makes up 11.8 percent of the Hornets offense, which is the 6th lowest rate in the league. If a team is good at something, they should try to utilize it as much as possible. That’s especially true when you factor in this:
There’s a slight, rather insignificant positive correlation between how often a team scores in transition and how efficient their offense is. The big takeaway, however, is that just 2 of the 11 teams that sport an above average offensive rating don’t utilize transition a great deal. While it’s not impossible to have a good offense that slows the pace, it’s clearly difficult.
That’s not to say getting out in transition is a cure all. The are seven teams that utilize transition frequently but still aren’t efficient: the Thunder, Nets, Pistons, Magic, 76ers, Suns, and Lakers. Fortunately for the Hornets, they are better than all of those teams in transition situations.
The perceived downside to this is that speeding up the tempo of the game on offense opens you up for easy looks on the defensive end. However, based on this year’s numbers, there isn’t a significant correlation between how often a team utilizes transition offense and how often they are forced to defend in transition, and there’s nothing to suggest that attempting shots in transition opens up your defense to be scored on easily.
This leads us to the most confounding pair of principles that the Hornets live by. The Hornets don’t go for many offensive rebounds under the correct assumption that offensive rebounding doesn’t win in the NBA. On the other hand, the defensive principle of foregoing transition opportunities in favor of crashing the glass to prevent offensive rebounds seems contradictory. In fact, just like with offensive rebounding, there’s no correlation between defensive rebound rate and winning.
The Hornets should let the bigs focus on the rebounding and better position the guards as outlets to get the ball moving up the floor quickly after a miss. They may give up a few more offensive rebounds, but that should easily be counteracted by more efficient offensive possessions.
If the Hornets are smart, the increase in transition offense will come at the expense of post ups. Post ups currently account for 9.9 percent of the Hornets offense, which is the 4th highest mark in the league. Those possessions average a meager 0.76 points per possession, besting only the Jazz and Trail Blazers who only post up on 2.1 percent and 7.2 percent of their possessions respectively.
Much like their defense, the Hornets offense appears to be stuck in the 1990s. Charlotte is one of the few teams relying on frequent post ups despite the rest of the league shifting to a more uptempo, perimeter oriented game, and it’s dragging the offense down. They need to utilize transition more, even if it comes at the expense of their historic defensive rebounding numbers. The shooting has been woeful, but if the Hornets start going to where their bread is buttered more often, we may start to see those field goal percentages rise.
All stats courtesy of nba.com and are accurate as of 1/4/2018.