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Blogcat's Take, 1/2


Despite another dreary week of Hornets basketball, ESPN.com’s Relative Percent Index still has Charlotte ranked 10th overall, while the fuzzier and typically more negative Basketball Power Index only has them two spots lower at 12th. My Personal Eyeball Index, which is based on metrics like “# of f-bombs I drop while slamming the dishwasher door after each game,” has them much lower. If anything, their wins have been less impressive than their losses. That Hornets-Lakers game, for instance, was one of those ones that got me so pissed that I stayed pissed even after the Hornets won (probably because the entire team appeared to be drunk except for Kemba Walker). Still, I’m a numbers dweeb, and despite starting their games with colder openings than a James Bond movie, the Hornets are 6th in offensive rating and 9th in overall net rating, and I’m not going to argue with the numbers.

I might mutter some stuff under my breath at them, though. For one thing, although BPI is forward looking, it doesn’t account for injuries. And while the impact of losing Al Jefferson for 6 more weeks to knee surgery is hazy to all except maybe his wallet, the Hornets are looking at other injuries with very clear ramifications. Jeremy Lin (toe) and Spencer Hawes (back) have no return timetable, and the impact of their absence is trickling down like a leaky port-a-john. Lin has amassed the highest net rating among the regulars (+7.3) and is 2nd best at getting to the free throw line (.439 free throw rate—also, technically, it would be 3rd best depending on whether you count Tyler Hansbrough as a “regular”). Hawes, meanwhile, has been quietly raising his game higher than his man-bun; his net-rating is 4th best (+5.3) and he has the highest defensive rating on the team. Less of those two means more of Brian Roberts (-0.7) and Hansbrough (+0.2), whose tussling with Bismack Biyombo last night nearly tore open a vortex in the time/space/stiff-big-man continuum. The sooner we can get both Lin and Hawes back on the court, the better off all of our dishwasher doors will be.

Besides the return of Lin and Hawes, PJ Hairston would alleviate more pressure than a Whizzinator if he could just…do something, anything. I’m about to read out some stats that are uglier than a lard bucket full of alien fetuses, so bear with me. Hairston’s -0.4 net rating is only better than Roberts’s among the regulars, as is his 48.3 TS%. For context, he makes Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (51.9 TS% last year) look like Reggie Miller, because he’s got the 2nd worst 3PT% on the team (above guess who!), the worst 2PT%, and although he’s a good free-throw shooter, he barely ever gets to the line (.122 FTr, which is only ahead of—what was his name? Oh yeah, Roberts). His 7.9 PER is also the worst on the team, behind even Aaron Daniels and Troy Harrison, who play so little that you probably didn’t even noticed that I swapped their first names. Now, I know Harrison’s big and—to his credit—I definitely see him hustling around out there, but the numbers don’t back up his defense, either. Basketball-Reference-com has him with just 0.4 defensive win shares, which is worst on the team for anyone who’s played at least 400 minutes. ESPN.com has him with a 0.4 DRPM, which is 25th among small forwards who average at least 15 minutes per game. And the team gets WAY stingier once Hairston leaves, allowing just 98.4 points per 100 possessions, compared to 104.9 with him on the court. Hairston’s fine as an on-ball defender, but unless the NBA plans to outlaw pick & rolls, where he’s in just the 2nd percentile guarding against them, we’re going to continue to have problems.

Despite all of Hairston’s statistical diarrhea, I don’t know if there’s any obvious lineup Immodium coach Clifford can find on the shelf. First of all, it’s not exactly malpractice for Hairston to be playing as much as he is (19.7 MPG). Hairston’s overall RPM is -1.21, and yet there are currently 21 small forwards in the league with the same RPM or worse who play at least as many minutes (Let’s all take a moment to laugh at the Brooklyn Nets, whose SF Joe Johnson has a -2.92 RPM and is playing 31 MPG. At least he doesn’t get paid much…HAHAHAHAHA! Sorry.) In terms of lineup tweaks, the most logical option would probably be to move Jeremy Lamb up to the starting 2 guard and shift Nic Batum over to the 3. However, this lineup—Walker-Lamb-Batum-Williams-Zeller—is a net -2.3 together, though it’s only a 33 minute sample size. Swap Lamb for Lin and suddenly you’ve got a net rating of +12.4; and in effect, this is what Clifford is already doing by making Lin-for-Hairston his first substitution on most nights. But you can’t start with that lineup, because that just means more of Roberts in the second unit. Another option would be to go big by bringing Frank Kaminsky into the starting 5, moving Zeller up to the 4, bumping Williams to the 3, and bumping Batum to the 2…and I may be going blind, crazy, or both, but it doesn’t look like a Walker-Batum-Williams-Zeller-Kaminsky lineup has played a single minute together this season. That seems odd, right? I’m not sure what’s so sci-fi about that suggestion. But anyway, my larger point is that there’s unfortunately no big red “EJECT HAIRSTON” button that’s blinking incessantly to be pushed, as much as we’d all like one.

Which is a shame, because three of our next four matchups are the Thunder, Warriors, and Clippers, all of whom can f- up some Hornet commas. The last time we beat the Thunder I had a feathered haircut, a Members Only jacket, and was humming Mr. Mister ballads (okay, it was 2010, but I was still doing all of those at the time). We’re also not beating the Warriors—not without katana blades, at least—and if we can’t defeat LAC without Blake Griffin at home, I don’t see how we’re doing it on the road. We need our injured guys back and Hairston with a clue to even crawl out of January at .500.

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