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Blogcat's Take 1/17

After a brief hiatus, on Wednesday the Hornets went back to doing what they do best: pissing the hell out of me in another excruciating loss. This latest compilation, a 5-point flameout against the Spurs, featured some of their greatest hit singles, including: “Fail to Take Advantage of 3 Days Rest Against an Old Team Playing a Back-to-Back,” “Crash Into a Disorganized Heap in the Paint on Defense and Leave Guys Wide Open on the Perimeter,” “Blow Multiple Opportunities to Cash In on a Rare Opponent Cold Streak,” “Dig Yourself a Huge Hole and Then Nearly Come All the Way Back...Only to Re-Collapse At the End,” “Give up Agonizing Buzzer Beaters at the End of the Half,” and everybody’s all-time favorite: “Shoot Like Shit." Regarding that last one, the team shot a hideous 38.4% from the field, which included—and I hate to say it—a 9-for-24 punch bowl turd from Kemba Walker. Gerald Henderson also pinched a 4-for-12 loaf, including 3 misses in the paint, including a wide-the-hell-open-off-the-curl jumper from dead-on at the free-throw line that would have tied it up at 83 midway through the 4th. Not that I’m dwelling on it. Additionally not helping were the 12 missed free throws, including 4 from returning fan favorite Lance Stephenson and 5 from Bizmack Biyombo. Accounting for the value of free-throws and 3-pointers, the Hornets shot an effective FG% of 40.7%. The worst current eFG% in the league is held by the Philadelphia 76ers (just one guess who they’re trailing behind!) at 45.4%. So if we just shoot as bad as the worst team in the league, we win this damned game easily...EASILY! I swear I’m not dwelling on it.

Anyway, I could add some more agonizing anecdotes about this clunker (e.g., how about when the Hornets missed three layups in a ROW in the first quarter; Kemba started it, and then Jason Maxiell missed the putback and then missed his own putback, apparently because he momentarily thought he was playing dodgeball, mistook the backboard for the slow fat kid in gym class who always gets pegged out first and leaves for the nurse’s office in tears, and slung it like Randy Johnson from point-blank, resulting in a horrifically/comically long rebound off what should have been a finger roll. Brutal.). But on the whole they’re still 5-1 in their last 6 games and were competitive if nothing else (and other than a Shawn Michaels, Hell In A Cell-level flop from PJ Hairston, I’m pretty sure there was nothing else) against the defending champs. So in spite of my vitriol, something is going right. Last week I wrote about how Kemba and Henderson have stepped up their performance, and this week I have to give credit where credit is, I guess, due: Bismack Biyombo.

Biz’s pre-Al Jefferson injury stats were 13.9 MPG, 25.6% rebounding rate, 12.6% usage rate, 19.6 turnover rate, and a 58.2 eFG%. Like anyone suffering lingering PTSD from witnessing the horrors of Biz’s first two years in the league, I chalked all of these remarkably non-horrifying stats up to small sample sizes. Biz is basically a basketball possession loan-shark: you don’t turn to him unless all of your options have run out and you’re absolutely desperate. Starting last year the Hornets fully embraced this fact and barely played him in general (Biyombo’s minutes dropped from 27.3 per game to 13.9), and then when he was on, they played offense as though they had 4 humans and a robot who could only rebound and commit offensive fouls. This novel system managed to work in its own way, with the Hornets a somewhat miraculous +5.1 net points per 100 possessions with Biyombo on the court (all stats courtesy of NBA.com). And everyone lived happily ever after until this season, when Al Jefferson tore not only his own groin on December 29th, but the fans’ groin as well, as we all collectively realized that the injury would entail at least 4 weeks of Biyombo playing starter’s minutes. And yet...Biz’s post-Jefferson stats are 25.3 MPG, 21.3% rebounding rate, 10.4% usage rate, 14.4% turnover rate, 57.7 eFG%, and a +4.2 net points per 100 possessions. He’s been incredibly consistent even after being thrust like a cockroach into the spotlight (weirdly, the stat that’s suffered the most is his rebounding, which is the only thing he’s actually good at).

Annoyingly, they don’t do PER splits, but for the full year Biyombo’s holding steady at basically a league-average 15.4. Meanwhile, his real plus-minus is a completely passable 1.54, ranked 14th among centers (and totally due to his defense, but still). Biyombo’s never going to be mistaken for Bill Russell by anyone except maybe Steve Scalise, but the dude is hitting 66% of his shots that are within 6-feet—which are nearly the totality of his shots, period (according to NBASavant.com, Biz has actually attempted 16 shots from beyond 6-feet, all of which my mind must have unconsciously blocked out as a coping mechanism, because I have no memory of them), so we probably can’t ask for more.

Which leads me to my final point/shudder of terror. In the time it took me to write this, Lance Stephenson went from being traded to being potentially highly necessary for today’s game vs. Indiana, now that Kemba Walker is having some knee issues. The real disparity in talent on this team is not between Jefferson and Biyombo, it’s between Walker and Brian Roberts. The Hornets are 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with Walker on the court vs. off the court this season, and they’re 3.6 points worse with Roberts on vs. when he’s off. In terms of RPM, it’s a vomitus nose-dive from Kemba’s 13th ranked +2.87 to Roberts’ 70th ranked -2.86. Fittingly, the Hornets were reportedly interested in one of the few dudes who’s actually performed worse than Roberts, Jarret Jack (currently a 78th ranked -4.91), so I guess we should all be thanking god that the Hornets didn’t pull the trigger on the deal, allowing us to dodge another bullet of mismanagement. But their hearts were in the right place, if not their minds, because we can survive without Big Al, but not Kemba, and I’m glad that the front office seems to acknowledge it.

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