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All-Star Chris Paul (center) is the glue that holds together a Hornets franchise with an uncertain future
Ronald Martinez/NBAE/Getty Images

StatsCube: As usual, Hornets' chances depend on Paul

Posted Dec 2 2011 12:23PM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

The New Orleans Hornets have a franchise star who is just 26 years old, and are virtually assured a playoff berth when he's healthy. But in the aftermath of the lockout, no franchise may have a more uncertain future than the Hornets.

Though there has been interest from multiple parties, the team is currently without an owner. There's also a possibility that it could lose its two best players in the next eight months. David West, who is coming off knee surgery, is a free agent. And Chris Paul has the option to leave via free agency after this season.


2010-11 Basics
Pace: 90.9 (29)
OffRtg: 103.8 (19)
DefRtg: 102.5 (9)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The Hornets have been a top-10 defensive team in three of the last four seasons, with the exception being 2009-10, when Paul played just 45 games. With the point guard healthy again, the Hornets were the fourth-most improved defensive team in the league, behind only Chicago, Memphis and Philadelphia. Last season was the Hornets' best defensive season since 2002-03, their first in New Orleans.

Though Paul led the league in steals per game in 2007-08 and '08-09, forcing turnovers wasn't the Hornets' strength in those seasons. But last year, with Paul playing a full season and adding Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, the Hornets forced 15.8 turnovers per 100 possessions, the seventh-highest rate in the league.

The Hornets were also a top-10 team in keeping their opponents off the free throw line. But the area where their defense improved most was rebounding. They ranked 14th in defensive rebounding percentage two seasons ago, but were the second-best defensive rebounding team in the league last season, grabbing 76.2 percent of available defensive boards.

Emeka Okafor and West were the best rebounders in the Hornets' regular rotation, but Paul also deserves credit for the improvement. Of 62 players 6-foot-3 and shorter who played at least 750 minutes last season, Paul had the highest defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing more than 12 percent of available defensive boards while he was on the floor.

Highest defensive rebounding percentage, players 6-foot-3 and shorter

Chris Paul 80 2880 289 3.6 12.5%
Ramon Sessions 81 2133 209 2.6 11.3%
Jeff Teague 70 963 91 1.3 11.3%
Jerryd Bayless 71 1495 139 2.0 11.0%
Stephen Curry 74 2489 234 3.2 10.9%
Minimum 750 minutes
Offensive regression

Last season, the two things that the Hornets did better than the league average were avoid turnovers and shoot 3-pointers. Paul led the league in assist-turnover ratio, while only three players ranked higher than Marco Belinelli in both 3-point percentage and total 3-pointers made.

The Hornets, however, were mediocre when it came to offensive rebounding, getting to the free throw line and making shots from inside the arc.

Inside-the-arc shots are separated into two groups, shots from the paint and shots from mid-range. And the Hornets were very good at the latter, ranking second in mid-range shooting percentage, with only three teams taking a greater percentage of their shots from between the lane and the arc.

Highest mid-range shooting percentage

Team FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Dallas 901 2,003 45.0% 1 31.0% 18
New Orleans 959 2,259 42.5% 2 35.2% 4
Boston 915 2,161 42.3% 3 34.7% 7
Miami 927 2,195 42.2% 4 34.8% 6
Atlanta 955 2,269 42.1% 5 35.3% 3
%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

Ten different Hornets took at least 200 shots from the field last season, and six of those 10 took at least 40 percent of their shots from mid-range. (The league average was 31 percent.)

It was those other 2-points shots, the ones inside the paint, at which the Hornets weren't so good. They ranked 25th by making just 52.7 percent of their shots in the paint. (The league average was 54.5 percent.)

The CP3 factor

Though Paul led the league in steals and was voted to the All-Defensive Second Team, he made a much bigger impact on the offensive end of the floor. The Hornets scored 107.3 points per 100 possessions (a mark that would rank them in the top 10) when Paul was on the floor and an anemic 94.5 when he was on the bench.

That differential of 12.8 points per 100 possessions was topped by only one player that logged at least 750 minutes with a team.

Biggest difference, on and off-court offensive efficiency

Player Team MIN On Floor Off Floor Diff.
Paul Pierce BOS 2,774 108.0 94.3 +13.7
Chris Paul NOH 2,880 107.3 94.5 +12.8
Steve Nash PHX 2,497 111.2 99.9 +11.3
Gerald Wallace POR 821 112.2 101.1 +11.0
Kevin Garnett BOS 2,220 108.5 98.2 +10.3
Minimum 750 minutes with a team

But Paul Pierce had four teammates that also ranked in the top 14. The Celtics' starters were a dominant group that their reserves couldn't come close to matching. Paul's impact was clearly more individual. The next highest Hornet, West, ranked 46th, with an on-off-court differential of 4.8 points per 100 possessions. The other Hornets starters ranked 57th (Belinelli), 76th (Okafor) and 138th (Ariza).

An unsuitable replacement

When West blew out his knee on March 24, the Hornets were somewhat fortunate to have traded for power forward Carl Landry a month earlier. But at the time, Landry had yet to play with the other four starters. And when he finally did, the new Hornets' starting lineup wasn't nearly as effective (in an obviously small sample size) as it was with West.

Hornets efficiency with Paul, Belinelli, Ariza and Okafor

Power Forward GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
David West 52 881 90.8 106.3 102.9 +3.4 +60
Carl Landry 10 162 88.3 104.6 110.5 -5.8 -18
Other - 91 98.1 96.3 112.2 -15.9 -24
All 63 1134 91.0 105.2 104.7 +0.4 +18

Rebounding was one of the critical issues after West got hurt. Landry grabbed less than 10 percent of all available boards when he was on the floor and had a worse defensive rebounding percentage (12.1) than Paul did.

Pace: 87.7 (15)
Offense: 101.1 (9)
Defense: 110.8 (16)

The Hornets gave the Lakers a little bit of a scare with wins in Games 1 and 4. But they didn't really come close to picking up a third win in the first-round series.

New Orleans had the worst defense in the playoffs, but it was their offense that was the biggest difference between the two wins and the four losses. They scored 115 points per 100 possessions in Games 1 and 4, but just 94 in Games 2, 3, 5 and 6.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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