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Advanced Stats Class: The Hornets defensive rating was the team’s downfall

Charlotte got lit up from the 3-point line and had a bottom-tier defense.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021-22 Charlotte Hornets finished the regular season with a 43-39 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: Measures a team’s points allowed per 100 possessions

Hornets result: 113.1 defensive rating

League rank: 22nd overall

It’s time to talk about a sore subject - the Hornets defense. Believe it or not, but it’s not easy to be a competitive basketball team when you rank 22nd of 30 NBA teams in defensive rating. Of the eight teams that finished below the Hornets in defensive rating only two made the postseason - the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks - and both lost in the first round.

While Hornets fans have long lamented the team’s lack of interior defense, Charlotte actually fared pretty well in opponent field goal percentage down low. The Hornets opponents shot 62.6% on shots of less than feet which ranked 10th overall. Not bad! Many of us would like a dominant interior defensive presence like Myles Turner donning a Hornets jersey, but let’s give some props to Mason Plumlee and Montrezl Harrell for holding down the fort in the paint. Plumlee, in particular, should be given credit for having the team’s best individual defensive rating for players averaging at least 20 minutes.

Where the Hornets struggled was in allowing opponents to burn them from deep. Charlotte allowed opponents to shoot 36.2% on shots from 25 to 29 feet which ranked 28th in the league ahead of only the lowly Sacramento Kings (36.6%) and the Portland Trail Blazers (36.3%). In a league dominated by 3-point shooting, teams will struggle to win when surrendering open looks and letting opponents scorch the nets from downtown.

One of the main reasons Charlotte surrendered so many points was the team’s relatively low performance contesting shots. On the season the Hornets contested 48.4% of their opponents shots which placed them tied for 23rd in the league. This is a team that needed to close out on shooters more aggressively and have cleaner rotations.

One area where the Hornets did well on defense was getting their hands on the ball. Charlotte averaged 16 deflections per game which ranked third in the NBA. With all of those deflections it’s not surprising the Hornets ranked tied for fifth in the league in the steals department with 8.6 per game. Credit to LaMelo Ball for leading the team with 1.6 steals per game.

The team also fared surprisingly well in blocks per game with their average of 4.9 blocks ranking them tied for 10th. PJ Washington led the way at just 0.9 blocks per game which was down from his 1.2 blocks the season before. Rather than one person blocking a ton of shots, the Hornets had a lot of guys with decent numbers of swats.

Defense was the Hornets downfall. In the end, the team didn’t contest enough shots and surrendered way too many made 3-pointers. This was a consistent refrain during the James Borrego era. We’ll see if the team can perform better under a new regime in 2022-23.