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The Hornets have struggled mightily playing isolation basketball

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Isolation is good for the coronavirus, but it’s been bad offense for the Hornets this year

Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Charlotte Hornets players are doing what most of the rest of us are right now by striving to isolate themselves from others. If the NBA season eventually resumes this year, the Hornets should do the exact opposite on the court. Data taken from the NBA’s advanced stats page shows just how much James Borrego’s troops have struggled when playing isolating basketball.

Elite isolation players score at a high rate on a per possession basis. James Harden averages 1.12 points per possession (90th percentile) when he gets his defender into an isolation setting. DeMar DeRozan sits at 1.11 points per isolation possession (89th percentile). Damian Lillard delivers 1.08 points (86th percentile) and Kawhi Leonard produces 1.07 (85th percentile).

The Hornets have no such weapons in isolation settings as seen in the table below:

Hornets isolation stats

Player Pts per Poss FG% Percentile Iso Frequency
Player Pts per Poss FG% Percentile Iso Frequency
Terry Rozier 0.88 35.1% 54.7 7.4%
P.J. Washington 0.87 54.5% 52.2 3.1%
Miles Bridges 0.77 40.0% 32.6 4.9%
Dwayne Bacon 0.73 38.9% 25.0 7.3%
Devonte' Graham 0.69 25.9% 20.5 7.9%
Malik Monk 0.63 19.2% 12.0 4.9%

Charlotte’s best isolation player is Terry Rozier but he produces just 0.88 points per possession on 35.1% shooting, an output which places him just above league average at the 55th percentile. P.J. Washington’s 0.87 points per isolation possession is just a shade behind Rozier but P.J. shoots a healthy 54.5%. The downside is he only goes into isolation 3.1% of the time.

Things fall off a cliff very quickly after that.

Miles Bridges (0.77 points per possession), Dwayne Bacon (0.73), Devonte’ Graham (0.69), and Malik Monk (0.63) are all in the bottom third of the league (below 33rd percentile) when attacking in isolation.

Of all of these players the most concerning is Graham. He has the highest rate of isolation plays on the team at 7.9%, but he shoots just 25.9% when he tries to break down his man one-on-one. Overall he has had a fantastic season and his development has surpassed all expectations, but improving his isolation play could help him take the next step.

The better individual players can score in isolation, the more pressure they put on defenses and the better looks they create for the shooters who surround them. This is clearly an area where the Hornets can improve. Let’s just hope they get the chance.