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Getting to the center of the Hornets’ struggles

Three games into the 2020-21 season and either the sky is falling or like the Hornets G.O.A.T. owner so poetically put it “The ceiling is the roof” for the Charlotte Hornets. This type of small sample size can accomplish one thing and one thing alone: confirm existing biases. The Charlotte Hornets are somehow better than the KD/Kyrie led Brooklyn Nets, while being worse than OKC and the Cavaliers who are both at the bottom of the league talent-wise.

For example, the first three games have confirmed my bias which is the following: With the exception of the coronavirus, the worst thing to happen to Charlotte in 2020 is the Hornets center play. Now, at best that statement is baiting hyperbole, at worst it’s insensitive. But the fact remains that, in these three games, the need at center has become woefully apparent.

Bismack Biyombo is the sole center who is able to play on this team. Bis is averaging 28 minutes in these trio of games. In those 28 minutes he’s managed to put up a paltry 13.22 PER. That’s good for 36th best amongst centers, in a league that only has 30 teams. Players who are managing higher PER than Bis include such superstars as Jahlil Okafor, Naz Reid (backup big for Minnesota), Mason Plumlee (that’s right another Detroit center), and Isaiah Hartenstien (backup center for Denver).

The 67% from the field he’s putting up is serviceable. Bismack even scored 12 points against the Nets on 83% shooting. However, he cannot be regularly relied upon to carry any of the offensive load. Watch Biz receive this baseline pass from PJ late against the Nets:

https://youtu.be/vFRS4zWRhNk?t=514

It looks like he was thrown a one ton bowling ball on the catch of that pass. And the shot does go in but only just. Hakeem Olajuwon would be rolling over in his grave if he wasn’t alive and well.

Please do not get it twisted. At least Bismack Biyombo still packs his TMNT lunch box and comes to work. Cody Zeller has a broken hand, out for the next 4-6 weeks, dog bites man news at six. The Hornets drafted two centers in the second round, Nick Richards and Vernon Casey Jr. They have not seen a minute of play; which may point to them not being close to ready, even in a situation where the starting center is out.

All this adds up to something and nothing at the same time because it is too early to tell. Yes, center play for the Hornets is abysmal right now, (aBISmal? That do anything for ya?) but their starting center is out, so that may be expected. This article has not touched on the PJ experiment at center. That could be a solution but there is not enough data to know if it will work or if that is the most prudent place for him to play. However, small sample size or not, confirmation bias or not, something has to be done at the center of this team or it may all unravel quickly.