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Advanced Stats Class: The Hornets continue to excel in the assists department

Led by LaMelo Ball, Charlotte once again finished among the best teams in the league in assist percentage.

Golden State Warriors v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

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 assist percentage.

Advanced stat: Assist percentage

What it measures: The percentage of a team’s field goals that were assisted

Hornets result: 65.6 percent

League rank: 3rd overall

For the third season in a row the Hornets were a Top 5 team in assist percentage coming in at No. 3 this year, meaning Charlotte is among the best in the league at setting up teammates for open looks and scoring the ball.

A year ago during the 2020-21 season the Hornets were No.1 in the NBA in assist percentage at 67.2%, so their 65.6% this year was a bit off last year’s pace. While recently dismissed head coach James Borrego could never really solve the Hornets defensive issues, he was effective at scheming players open and leveraging their offensive strengths. Let’s hope Borrego’s ultimate replacement can do the same.

The main driver behind Charlotte’s continued excellence in this statistical category - unsurprisingly - is second-year point guard LaMelo Ball. He led the team with a 34.1% assist percentage which ranked eighth in the NBA among regular players. As the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2020-21, LaMelo averaged 7.7 assists per-36 minutes. That number rose to 8.5 assists per-36 minutes this year, so Ball improved in Year 2 as a playmaker.

As far as the rest of the team goes, Terry Rozier finished a distant second to Ball with a 19.7% assist percentage followed by Isaiah Thomas at 16.9% and, surprisingly, Mason Plumlee at 16.5%. Plumlee has always been a good facilitator for a big man. His per-36 minute average of 4.5 assists was just behind Terry Rozier (4.8) and just ahead of Gordon Hayward (4.1).

Looking forward to next year, it couldn’t hurt the Hornets to add another veteran point guard who can free up his teammates for open shots. Ish Smith was second on the team in assist percentage this year at 28.7% before he was traded, and Isaiah Thomas is, well, old and a bit rusty. When LaMelo Ball is off the court the team’s assist percentage drops by four percentage points from 67.1% to 63.1%. Yes, the team’s top priority should be shoring up rim protection and rebounding, but it couldn’t hurt to add a secondary playmaker for the 2022-23 season.