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Advanced Stats Class: Charlotte’s defensive rating reveals a foundation the Hornets can build on

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Despite a suspect interior, the Hornets defensive rating shows promise.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets finished the regular season with a 33-39 record and the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference. Let’s take a look back on the Hornets team advanced stats and better understand why their season went the way it did. This week we’ll break down the Hornets defensive rating.

Advanced stat: Defensive rating

What it measures: Points allowed per 100 possessions

Hornets result: 112.0, Tied for 15th in the NBA

The Hornets team defense was right at NBA average, ranking 15th in a 30-team league by surrendering 112 points per 100 possessions.

Charlotte did a fairly good job defending shots outside of the paint. They ranked 11th in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage in shots taken from 20-24 feet at 37.9% and they were 13th in shots from 25-29 feet at 36.4%. As the NBA continues to morph into a league that prioritizes 3-point shooting over any other skill, the Hornets above-average ability to defend perimeter shots bodes well for the future.

While Charlotte defended outside shots well the same can’t be said for their interior defense, which isn’t a big surprise when Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are the primary post defenders. Please know I’m not taking a cheap shot at Cody or Biz, either. They are both high-effort, team-first guys but neither of them are known for their post defense at this point in their careers. Charlotte ranked just 22nd in opposing field goal percentage for shots taken within five feet at 62.9% and tumbled to 28th in shots from 5-9 feet at 44.7%. The front office really needs to prioritize interior defense in the upcoming offseason.

Coach Borrego’s troops ranked 19th in opponents points off turnovers, 17th in opponent second chance points, and 21st in opponent points off fast breaks. They were below league average in each category.

From an individual standpoint, among the regular contributors it was Devonte’ Graham who had the best defensive rating at 107.1 followed by Cody Martin at 108.1, Malik Monk at 108.6, and Caleb Martin at 109.5. The names at the top of the list indicate the Hornets second unit tended to yield fewer points per 100 possessions than the starting five.

Among the starers, PJ Washington, Gordon Hayward, and Miles Bridges were all clustered with defensive ratings around 110. LaMelo Ball came in below them at 111.8 and the worst individual defensive rating went to Terry Rozier at 112.9.

The Charlotte Hornets have a solid young core and a promising future. Provided they can upgrade their interior defense next year, Charlotte’s team defense might be what propels them into the playoffs.