Perley’s Press Pass: What Will the Offense Look Like This Season?

by Sam Perley

Much has been made about the recommitment of the Charlotte Hornets on the defensive end this season, but what’s the plan for the offense? Three of the top-five leading scorers from last year are now gone, meaning there will be plenty of new faces tasked with helping put up points on the board.

Charlotte finished 11th in the NBA in offense last season (110.7 points per 100 possessions), and played at the 21st- fastest pace (99.18 possessions per 48 minutes). Most notably, the Hornets also tallied the 10th-most three-point attempts per game in the league (33.9), a significant jump up from the previous season’s ranking (21st; 27.2).

“We’ll have to play with a little more pace. We’re trying to play a little faster right now,” said Head Coach James Borrego after Friday’s training camp practice in Chapel Hill. “The ball movement has been fantastic this week. [The ball] isn’t sticking. It’s not in just one guy’s hands. Multiple sides of the floor, multiple playmakers on the floor. I am very encouraged.”

The Hornets ranked 24th in effective field-goal percentage last season (51.4%), a metric that calculates shooting efficiency by giving one-and-half times more value to three-point attempts (2-PT FGM + 3-PT FGM X 1.5 / FGA). NBA offense is less about just getting shots up and more about getting the right shots up, even if it means slowing the pace a touch here and there.

“It is about the right shots,” Borrego confirmed. “It’s the combination of the rim, the threes and the free throws. I expect the threes to stay right in that range, if not move up. I expect more shots at the rim than we saw last year. I believe we finished 29th in field-goal percentage at the rim. That has to increase. We have to get better in that area. We’re going to be there a lot.”

Third-year combo guard Dwayne Bacon has been pinpointed as somebody who could lead the Hornets in scoring this year. Bacon averaged 12.6 PPG and 1.8 APG in 28.3 MPG over the final 12 games of last season, shooting an impressive 46.8% and 42.9% from the field and three, respectively.

“Definitely, I can contribute,” said Bacon. “I’m not a guy that’s going to try and do it all by myself. We’ve got some guys that can score the ball in a bunch of different ways. I’m a guy that I feel like can do it in a couple different ways as well. Less mid-range, shooting threes and getting to the rack. I feel like if I master those two things and play defense, I’ll be fine this year.”

Center Cody Zeller played just 49 games last season because of hand and knee injuries, yet still finished second in the NBA in screen assists (5.4) and screen assist points (12.6) per game. Screening-and-rolling is his bread-and-butter and with Kemba Walker gone, Zeller will be called upon to expand his game a bit and take on some new, yet manageable, responsibilities.

“We have guys that attack the rim pretty well,” said Zeller. “I’ll have to do a little more creating action whether it’s for Bacon, Miles or some of those guys. We’ll just have to find other ways to play. I think we’re going to play faster and move the ball. It’s not going to be so much one-on-one play. It’ll definitely take some time to figure out player tendencies and where everyone fits in, but I think it’s going to be good once we do figure it out.”

Something else interesting to also focus on this season will be usage rate, which calculates the percentage of plays that end with a particular player while he’s on the floor. Malik Monk had the highest mark of any returning Hornet from last season (23.6% - third-best on the team overall), followed by Willy Hernangómez (20.6%), Bacon (16.7%), Devonte’ Graham (16.6%) and Zeller (15.9%). For reference, Walker (30.8%) and Tony Parker (24.7%) led the team.

Like any NBA Head Coach, Borrego wants to see balanced play on both ends of the floor. With specific regards to the offense though, he’s looking for a faster (but controlled) pace, ball movement, better efficiency at the rim and more guys involved. If the Hornets can manage to do these things, they’ll be in fantastic shape from a developmental standpoint moving forward.

Notes: Guard Malik Monk (sore right toe) and guard Joe Chealey (sprained right ankle) missed Friday morning’s practice… The Hornets will play their first preseason game on the road against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Oct. 6 starting at 6 PM EST.

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