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Blogcat's Take, 12/19

I’ve been spending most of my Hornets life living in a future paradise. Whether the team was tanking or just flat-out ass-stench stinking, or both, I’ve been a daydream believer whenever I’m not cursing with rage, withering in embarrassment, or mourning and pouting over a terrible loss. My dreams center on a pathetic hope that someday we might win—dare I say it—50 games!? When you think about it, even some of the worst keg-of-warm-urine teams in the league have somehow stumbled into 50 wins in the past few years. Since the Hornets reentered the league, everyone in the Southeast Division has done it, save the Wizards. But even Washington has topped 40+ wins 6 times since the Bobcats’ inaugural season; meanwhile, we’ve done it twice. Could this be the year we get to 50? I think about it every night and day. Spread my wings and fly away…

I took a look around on the internet to see how delusional this desire for 50 wins was, on a scale of 1 to Steph-Curry-returns-to-Charlotte-to-play-for-his-hometown. TeamRankings.com projects us to finish with 47.4 wins, and I blame that last 0.6 on a missed wide-open-3 from Marvin Williams. Nate Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight.com also projects the Hornets to finish 47-35. However, that’s up from 41-41 a month ago, so I look at my dream of 50 wins much like my wife looks at my used Q-Tips: immature and gross, but still very much on the table.

Really, what you need to get to 50 wins is a transcendent player, a dude who can turn something out of nothing, and do so often. Except for the Spurs, each of the 5 teams that FiveThirtyEight.com predicts to finish with 50+ wins has an elite scorer with at least 50 plays in isolation. First of all, of course the Spurs aren’t on here, because they don’t have a single player who’s taken more than 50 iso shots; Kawhi Leonard is the highest Spur at 41. God, they make me want to puke. Why don’t they just move to a commune and raise sheep? Jesus. Anyway, back in the capitalist first-world, the Thunder have Kevin Durant (1.17 points per iso possession, #1 among players with 50+ iso’s); the Clippers have Blake Griffin (1.14, #2), the Warriors have Curry (1.10, #3), and the Cavaliers have LeBron (1.10, #5). Nic Batum would be the Hornets’ only candidate on this list, and he’s at 0.83, ranking 17th out of 29th. The Hornets actually do have a more efficient iso scorer in Jeremy Lamb, but the Lamb and Savior has only taken 20 iso possessions so far, which would be only the 4th highest on the team.

There’s an interesting flipside to this story, however. As cool as it would be to have someone on the team who could turn piss into Capri-Sun, relying on that someone too much usually spells disaster for the team’s overall performance. James Harden is more isolated than a Gitmo prisoner: he’s taken a league-leading 225 iso possessions, constituting 28.2% of all of Houston’s plays when he’s on the court (or should I say, “plays”?). Not coincidentally, the Rockets are projected to finish with 38 wins (and possibly an air conditioner “accidentally” falling on Dwight Howard’s foot). Likewise, Carmelo Anthony eats up the 2nd most iso’s in the league, 158, and the Knicks are projected to finish with 31 wins. LeBron James is the only exception to prove the rule, with a 3rd place 134 iso possessions, but a) as I just wrote, he’s also insanely good at it, and :cool: one would imagine that figure dips substantially once Kyrie Irving returns.

I’d love to see the best isolation players in Hornets history. Or perhaps I should say, I’d be morbidly fascinated to see the best isolation players in Hornets history, much like I’d be morbidly fascinated to see Ted Cruz explain why a return to the gold standard is a good idea. Unfortunately, NBA.com only made play tracking available this year, so I can’t go back and look at how many times Stephen Jackson said, “F--- it, I can take this guy, I’m Cap’n F---‘in Jack!” (In my memory, it seemed as though it happened roughly 70 times a game, especially after we hit the 4th quarter). However, a somewhat close approximation is shots taken after 7 or more dribbles, which would imply at least one of the following three things: 1) a guy unable to find anyone open and forced to take a shot out of desperation; 2) lots of end-to-end transition layups; 3) Lance Stephenson. NBA.com has been tracking this for the past three years, and sure enough, in 2013-14 the Hornets had an effective FG% (meaning FG% weighted to account for the added value of 3-pointers) of 40.7% on shots that occurred after at least 7 dribbles. Last year that number bumped up slightly to 40.9%, and this year it’s up to 42.4%. Key #1 here has been Jeremy Lin, who averages 2.1 such attempts per game, with a 44.3 eFG%. More importantly, though, we’ve seen massive in-house improvement from Kemba Walker, who averages a whopping 4.9 such attempts per game (6th most in the league) and is shooting at a 43.9% eFG clip, which is an enormous improvement on last season’s 39.0% on a similar number of attempts.

In conclusion, as critical as the 3PT shooting has been to the team’s turnaround, having guys who can pull something besides turds out of their assess has also been vital. Whether it’s the Frenchman Batum taking someone tête-a-tête in isolation, Walker and Lin dribbling to daylight, or Jeremy Lamb doing both as needed (besides being the most efficient scorer in isolations, Lamb’s 55.9 eFG% on 7+ dribble shots also leads the team, though these occur less than once a game), we’ve got some fallback options that we haven’t had in recent history. Just like adult diapers, you don’t want to have to rely on them too often, but they’re nice to have in a pinch when your options have run out.

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    Lin Skywalker!


    I wonder how Al's iso stats are like this year and the past.