The Charlotte Hornets were one of the coolest stories early on in the season. Unfortunately for Hornets fans, things have slowed down dramatically since then. Before their recent win over the Memphis Grizzlies, they had lost five straight games.
Most people have been pointing to their defense as the main reason behind their recent struggles. So far this season, they rank 28th in the NBA in defensive rating (112.3) and are dead last in opponent’s points per game (117.5). These numbers are unacceptable for a team that wants to be fighting for a playoff spot. If they want any chance at success something has to change on that end of the floor. However, this is not the main factor behind their five-game losing streak.
It’s quite easy to look at the difference in play from the start of the season, as the turning point coincided with the change on the calendar. Charlotte went 5-2 in October but has gone 1-5 in November. Their defensive rating and OPPG in October (110.9 DRTG, 115.3 OPPG) are only marginally better than their numbers in November (113.9, 120.2 OPPG). The real drop-off which has affected their record can be seen on the other end of the floor.
Charlotte was one of the best offensive teams in the NBA in October. With how bad their defense was, it was the only reason they were so successful. They ranked first in points per game (118.6) and second in offensive rating (114.6). Miles Bridges was on a tear and the whole team was shooting well from three (they ranked first in three-point percentage at 41.5%). However, they were almost shooting too well. So well that it was evidently unsustainable.
Since the month of November hit, those numbers have plummeted. The Hornets rank ninth in points per game (109.8) and dropped to 23rd in offensive rating (104.1). Individual numbers have taken a massive hit from month to month as well.
In October, Charlotte had seven different players shooting 37% or better from deep. In November, that number has been cut to four, and three players have seen their three-point percentage drop by at least 10%. One of those players is Bridges, whose field goal percentage has dropped from 50.8% in October to 35.3% in November. Defenses are keying-in on Bridges now that he’s elevated his game, and the next step in his development will be to learn how to adapt to that.
Buzz City’s defense has been horrendous this year, that’s not up for debate. And while fixing that would definitely help improve their chances of winning, this team’s identity was never going to be on the defensive end. It’s their offense that has been letting them down in recent games. They need to find new ways of getting buckets because the days of teams sleeping on Bridges are over. The defense has been a huge problem, but their offense has been the main reason for them coming back down to earth lately.