The Hornets have played 23 games, putting them just past the quarter mark of the season. The rest of the NBA has done the same, so it’s a good time to look at where the Hornets stand now and where they could be moving forward.
The Hornets are 11-12, the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Amazingly, that 11-12 record is tied for the best mark in the Southeast division, matched only by Steve Clifford’s Orlando Magic. The Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, and Atlanta Hawks all sit well below .500 and are out of the East’s top eight for the time being. The Hornets aren’t lighting the world on fire, but they’re still the best team in their division.
Despite the losing record, James Borrego’s squad boasts the East’s fourth best point differential, behind only the Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics. Eight of the team’s 12 losses have been by five points or less, while the team has only won three games by such slim margins. A simple regression to the mean in close games (if this team is even capable of that) could add several wins moving forward. The Hornets have also thoroughly beat down a couple teams, including the Magic team they’re fighting for positioning with.
The biggest predictor of wins and losses for the Hornets this season is their 3-point shooting. The Hornets have connected on 41.4% of their 3-point attempts in their wins and just 30.7% of their attempts in their losses. They’re 1-8 when they hit fewer than one third of their arc shots, 10-3 when they hit more. The three losses while shooting over 33.3% were by a combined three points. The Hornets are truly living and dying by the three ball. Hopefully the shooting percentages stabilize as the season wears on and we see more consistent results because of it.
23 games in, and it looks like the Hornets have a very good chance to make the playoffs. ESPN’s BPI has the Hornets with a 92.2% chance of making the playoffs, the seventh best mark in the conference. FiveThirtyEight has the Hornets with a 74% chance of making the playoffs, again seventh best in the conference.
If the Hornets maintain the status quo, they should be good for a low seeded playoff berth at worst in an enigmatic Eastern Conference. If they’re able to normalize their 3-point shooting and find ways to win close games, this team has the potential to climb up the standings a bit. James Borrego looks to have a playoff team on his hands already, and there’s definitely reasons to be optimistic for more.