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Blogcat's Charlotte Hornets Season Preview / Suicide Note


Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but I’ve been too busy pulling my kicked-in testicles out of my groin. The news that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is lost for the season with a torn labrum made me physically ill; it’s tragic on more levels than the Republican primaries. While Coach Steve Clifford was hastily reviewing his options to replace the irreplaceable MKG, I was working my way through my own options, which included: 1) praying, 2) curling in fetal position, 3) sobbing uncontrollably, 4) defecating my pants. Impossibly, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton somehow managed to out-dismal me in his analysis. Not only is Charlotte screwed for this year, according to Pelton, he basically lays out a chain-reaction of disasters in which all of our existing free agents leave, no future ones ever come near us again, the entire coaching staff and front office are fired and are pretty much homeless and strung out on heroin within 6 months, and then Carly Fiorina takes majority control of the team. I’m barely exaggerating, here; the article reads like dystopic speculative-fiction, with MKG’s injury the equivalent of the founding of Skynet. Needless to say, I completely believed every word of it.

Nonetheless, much like Meg Ryan or Renee Zellweger, I’m going to try to put a good face on it (probably with similar results). As you’ve no doubt heard with varying degrees of sophistication, the Hornets are much, much worse when MKG is not on the court doing his thing. On a per-100-possessions-basis last season (which, one of these years, Rick Bonnell is going to grasp, I swear to you), the Hornets decayed from a +3.1 to a -7.7 when MKG was incapacitated (courtesy of NBA.com). To make matter worse, MKG was one of just three Hornets with a positive on-court net-rating (the others being Cody Zeller, and in a textbook case of small sample size, Mo Williams (and just barely, at +0.1)). However, we can mop up some of that statistical bloodbath if we just isolate MKG’s on-/off-court numbers during the time he was healthy, rather than include the final 11 games the Hornets played after his season-ending ankle injury, when they’d fallen to 11th place in the conference and—let’s face it—were basically playing out the wretched stretch of yet another fetid season. But it’s not really much better when you do that: the Hornets a -6.4 with MKG off the court prior to the ankle injury in that apocalyptic 2OT loss in Washington, and they were -8.5 after.

What, that’s not making you feel any better? Well, let’s look at the best non-MKG lineup we had last year and see if we can pull any bodies out of the rubble. Like a Sarah Palin quote, it’s a bit open to interpretation, but according to 82games.com, this was the best one:

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As you can see, a) it’s a small sample size (11 units played more minutes than this one, 9 of which played at least twice as much), :cool: they basically netted out dead-even with the opposition, which doesn’t exactly threaten the ’96 Bulls in terms of greatness, and c) Gerald Henderson and Jeffery Taylor are no longer on the team, so these findings are probably not even relevant anymore. In fact, I don’t even know if Taylor’s still in the league—is he? Wherever he’s gone, hopefully it’s someplace that appreciates r’s inexplicably behind e’s in the name “Jeffery.”

Anyway, despite these flaws in the analysis, it IS encouraging to see the following: this lineup features our two most critical players, who will undoubtedly be getting the most minutes this upcoming season, barring injury (Kemba Walker & Al Jefferson, and I really hope I didn’t need to specify that for you); and this lineup doesn’t include the aforementioned Zeller, our only remaining net-positive player from last year (Zeller was part of multiple positive 5-man lineups last year, all of which unfortunately featured MKG). I take that as a good thing, because we already knew that Zeller was a positive contributor, whereas finding anything good in ol’ Marv’s game sometimes feels like trying to find the good in Darth Vader; I’m sure it’s in there, but I mostly can only sense it, so having some actual proof of it is nice.

Okay, so let’s take this lineup and swap out Taylor with Nic Batum. Last year Taylor put up a vertigo-inducing .034 win shares/48 minutes (courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, and .1 is considered average, by the way). Batum, by contrast, was a .105. That in itself is such a gigantic improvement that I feel like asking Batum to teach me to French kiss. But remember, he was also dogged by a bum wrist all last season, and as a result he turned in the second-worst WS/48 of his career. In 5 of Batum’s seven seasons, he’s been no worse than .123. Thus, there’s no reason to think he can’t quadruple Taylor’s production this upcoming year.

As for the 2-spot, it’s like playing pin-the-tail-on-the-turd, isn’t it? Spin me around a few times, push me toward the stench, and I guess I’ll go with…Jeremy Lamb? Sure, why not? But hold the phone, it says here that Lamb had a .123 WS/48 last year; in other words, he had what I’m predicting/hoping Batum will put up! Bloody hell, can you imagine what it’s like cheering for the Thunder!? They’re not even going to miss this guy, and we’re basically depending on him! Basketball is so unfair. Anyway, Lamb’s predecessor, Gerald Henderson, was only a sub-average .074. So we could see practically as big an upgrade going from Henderson to Lamb as we will going from Taylor to Batum. Of course, this is all theoretical. Most people don’t think much of Lamb at all. A huge part of that perception is his lack of minutes; I say he had .123 win shares per 48 minutes last year, but then I had to go check to see if he even played 48 minutes last year (he did). I seriously think, though, that another part of his nondescript reputation is that last name of his, “Lamb.” Lamb. Is there a less intimidating last name? I mean, his last name might as well be “Butterfly,” or “Bumblebee,” or “Puppykitten,” or something. Yet seeing him in person in the preseason game against the Heat, I have to say that I was mildly encouraged. First of all, he’s a lot taller than I realized—6’5” (probably because I’ve rarely seen him not sitting on a bench). Second, he drove to the hole frequently. Granted, he missed most of those shots, but just seeing him aggressively and competently get to the rim faster than it used to take slow-ass Henderson to pick at his crotch was a pleasant surprise. Lamb’s also just 23 and will be reunited with college teammate Walker, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented to see him jump a rung or two in his performance level.

OK, those numbers on Lamb are so downright jarring that I’m starting to worry that I’m hallucinating. It’s been a jittery week in general. Yesterday at work one of my colleagues brought in her 5-year-old daughter, and I actually greeted her with, “Well, aren’t you pretty?” Then I immediately recoiled at how creepy and molester-y it sounded, although no one else seemed to notice, thank god. It’s been a long week of mourning and suffering over this whole MKG thing, and I probably need a nap. I’ll be back next week with more self-help nonsense and delusional rambling, and perhaps some basketball analysis as well.

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  • 4 Comments

    Nice writeup Blogcat

     

    Hide the razorblades!

    Thanks! Don't worry, I'm not really going to kill myself with razorblades. 

     

    It would be with horse tranquilizers.

     

    On a more serious note, having just watched the preseason game vs. the Clippers, I've turned the volume on my "Jeremy Lamb Battle Rap Mixtape" WAAAAYYY down. 

     

    On the flip side, I've turned my "Jeremy Lin, Starting 2-Guard" bootleg (sorry, China) WAAYY up! He looked GREAT. Really, the biggest flaw with him at starting 2 would be having to give lots of playing time to Brian Roberts at the primary backup 1. I'm not prepared to live in that world.

     

    Also, no sane man can keep starting Marvin Williams over Cody Zeller at the 4. If Coach Clifford keeps doing that in the regular season, he also better start wearing Heath Ledger Joker makeup on the bench. 

    Photo
    Ashevillelin
    Oct 11 2015 01:41 PM

     

    On a more serious note, having just watched the preseason game vs. the Clippers, I've turned the volume on my "Jeremy Lamb Battle Rap Mixtape" WAAAAYYY down. 

     

    On the flip side, I've turned my "Jeremy Lin, Starting 2-Guard" bootleg (sorry, China) WAAYY up! He looked GREAT. Really, the biggest flaw with him at starting 2 would be having to give lots of playing time to Brian Roberts at the primary backup 1. I'm not prepared to live in that world.

     

     

    As I mentioned in the post-game thread, the +/- spread of 34 in favor of Lin was jarring (especially since Lin got almost all of his minutes at the two). Let's hope this is an aberration for Lamb. I'd much rather Lin get the backup point-guard minutes than Roberts.

     

    And a sane coach could start Marvin (for purposes of fit) but give Cody more minutes...

    Also, no sane man can keep starting Marvin Williams over Cody Zeller at the 4. If Coach Clifford keeps doing that in the regular season, he also better start wearing Heath Ledger Joker makeup on the bench. 

    I think Cliff will start Frank whenever he think he's ready. 

     

    Cody has been perfect (literally) playing with Lin and Hawes, not sure he wants to mess with that.