Benefiting from two straight victories and favorable results in other games over the weekend, New Orleans (30-26) has pulled within one game of eighth-place Portland (32-26), including being tied in the loss column. Both teams play four games over the next six days, beginning Tuesday, when the Hornets will visit league-best Cleveland and the Trail Blazers are at league-worst New Jersey.
Entering the Hornets two-game road trip in Cleveland and Milwaukee, lets take a look at some of the telling numbers revolving around members of the teams current eight-man rotation. Among the 13 players on the roster, Chris Paul (knee) and Darius Songaila (ankle) are injured, while Ike Diogu (knee) is out for the season. Backup centers Sean Marks and Aaron Gray have been used sparingly in recent games:
Darren Collison: +6.5, +3.4
The per-48 minutes increases in scoring and assist average for the UCLA rookie as a starter, in comparison to his production as a reserve. Obviously any players averages will be higher while playing more minutes, so to get a true indication of how much more effective Collison has been in the starting lineup, you must examine the per-48 numbers, which accurately account for his extreme differential in playing time within each role. Over 18 starts, the 6-footer averages 23.3 points and 10.7 assists per 48 minutes. As a reserve in 32 appearances, his averages in the same categories are 16.8 points and 7.3 assists per 48 minutes. In simpler terms, Collison has been about a 40 percent more productive player as a starter than a sub.
Morris Peterson: 43.8
The Michigan State products three-point percentage over the last seven games as a starter (14-for-32). Thats the most drastic example of how much more effective the 6-foot-7 shooting guard has been in this recent stretch as a starter, compared to his play early in the season. Peterson started the first six games of 2009-10, but shot just 26.9 from beyond the arc (7-for-26).
Peja Stojakovic: 26
Free-throw attempts over nine games in February, which averages out to 2.9 per game. In his previous 45 games this season, the starting small forward attempted 64 foul shots, an average of 1.4 trips to the charity stripe. The 12-year NBA veteran seems to be spending more time around the basket on the offensive end than he has in previous seasons with the Hornets, resulting in more free throws and offensive boards.
David West: 4.6
The power forwards assist average over the past five games, including a career-high seven-assist game vs. Indiana on Friday. The two-time All-Star has had at least three assists in each of the five games, the only time hes done that all season.
Emeka Okafor: 46.9
Percentage of the Hornets blocked shots that have been generated by the 6-foot-10 center. Of New Orleans 211 rejections this season, the first-year Hornet has 99 swats. David Wests 37 blocks are second on the team. No other Hornet has more than 13 blocks.
Marcus Thornton: 0
Times since Dec. 9 that the LSU rookie has logged more than 20 minutes in a game, but failed to score at least 10 points. The consistency of Thorntons offensive production has been one of the most impressive aspects of his debut in the league. Over the three-game homestand vs. Utah, Indiana and Houston off the bench, he scored 14, 12 and 12 points, despite averaging 24.0 minutes.
James Posey: 6.1
The 6-foot-8 forwards rebounding average in February. Jeff Bower has frequently complimented Poseys work on the boards recently. The numbers indicate that for whatever reason, he has been much more effective rebounding the ball this month. On a per-48 minute basis, Posey is averaging 13.6 rebounds in February. From October through January, his average was 8.3 boards per 48 minutes.
Julian Wright: 31
According to NBA.com data, the percentage difference in accuracy between the Kansas products shots taken from around the rim (60 percent, 51-for-85) and all of his other shot attempts (29 percent, 16-for-55). By comparison, David West who like Wright, relies on a relatively equal mix of shots from inside and outside the paint is shooting 56 percent at the rim (203-for-360) and 42 percent on all other attempts (193-for-455).