One Team, One Stat: Hornets take advantage at free throw line
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Charlotte Hornets, who had a huge advantage in one aspect of the game.
The Hornets drew 430 more fouls than they committed last season.
That was double the differential of any other team in the league and the second biggest differential of the last 20 years.
Those are two important numbers. The most efficient way to score is at the free throw line, and getting there often (while keeping your opponents from doing likewise) is an advantage. The Hornets attempted 8.8 more free throws per game than their opponents and outscored their opponents by 5.7 points per game at the line, both league-high marks.
Of course, Dwight Howard was responsible for the Hornets seeing the league’s biggest increase in free throw rate from the season prior. Howard ranked fourth in the league with 582 free throw attempts, 223 more than any Hornet had in 2016-17.
One of the reasons Howard gets fouled so much is that he doesn’t shoot well from the line. His free throw percentage of 57.4 percent ranked 188th among 193 players who attempted at least 100 freebies. Still, a two-shot trip to the line from a 57.4 percent shooter produces 1.15 points, more than the average shot from the field (1.04).
Cody Zeller (the Hornets’ starting center both pre and post-Howard) ranked 18th in free throw rate among 222 players with at least 400 field goal attempts in ’16-17. But at a much lower usage rate than Howard had, Zeller’s free throw rate doesn’t make as much of an impact. So we should expect the Hornets to fall back in the pack in regard to their own ability to get to the line, though the offense isn’t necessarily worse off with Zeller than it was with Howard.
The other end of the floor is where the Hornets should remain at or near the top of the league, because they’ve been there for a while now. Charlotte ranked in the top five in opponent free throw rate in all five of former coach Steve Clifford’s years on the bench, leading the league in each of the last two seasons.
Last season, Kemba Walker (1.3) and Nicolas Batum (1.3) were both in the top four in regard to fewest fouls per 36 minutes (minimum 1,000 total minutes). Frank Kaminsky, meanwhile, averaged the second fewest per 36 (1.9) among players 6-10 and taller.
The Hornets have also ranked first or second in defensive rebounding percentage in each of the last five seasons. Under Clifford, they did not let opponents get to the line or get second chances. And that helped them rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in Clifford’s three seasons. But eventually, there was some slippage in regard to opponent effective field goal percentage (the most important number on defense) and the Hornets ranked 17th defensively in each of the last two seasons.
An advantage at the free throw line is great. An advantage in the ability to makes shots from the field is better. The Hornets’ best season (48-34 in 2015-16) was the only one in their 14 years of existence in which they had a higher effective field goal percentage than their opponents.
Note: Stats marked with an * below are based on possession estimates. All other stats are based on true possession counts.
HORNETS NOTES – GENERAL
- One of four teams that haven’t won a playoff series in the 14 years since they came into the league as the Bobcats. Milwaukee, Minnesota and Sacramento are the others.
- Only team that had the same record each of the last two seasons.
- Had the league’s third biggest differential between their “expected wins” (based on point differential) and their actual wins. Were 36-46 with the point differential (eighth best in the Eastern Conference) of a team that was 42-40.
- One of two teams — Indiana was the other — that won three regular-season games after trailing by 20 or more points.
- Had the best record (23-9) in games played between the 12 teams that finished with losing records.
HORNETS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Ranked third in turnover percentage (12.8 per 100 possessions) after leading the league for four straight seasons.
- Have ranked in the bottom 10 in effective field goal percentage in 10 of their 14 seasons.
- Scored 1.18 points per possession in transition, the second best mark in the league. But only 12.5 percent of their possessions, the league’s fifth lowest rate, were in transition.
- Made only 132 corner 3-pointers, fewest in the league (18 fewer than any other team). Were one of three teams — the Clippers and Grizzlies were the others — that shot better on above-the-break 3-pointers (37.4 percent) than they did on corner 3-pointers (36.5 percent).
- Saw the league’s second biggest increase in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 22.2 percent of available offensive boards (16th in the league) last season, up from 19.9 percent (27th) in 2016-17.
- Were the league’s most improved offensive team after the All-Star break, scoring 113.2 points per 100 possessions (fourth in the league), up from 107.0 (14th) before the break.
- Scored 0.97 points per possession out of timeouts, the league’s second best mark, according to Synergy tracking.
- Had the league’s biggest drop-off in 3-point percentage from non-clutch possessions (37.5 percent) to clutch possessions (25.0 percent).
HORNETS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have ranked no better than 20th in opponent turnover rate in the last eight seasons.
- Saw the league’s second-biggest decrease in the percentage of opponent shots that came from the restricted area or 3-point range, from 67 percent (third-highest rate) in 2016-17 to 64 percent (ninth-lowest rate) last season.
- Opponents shot 79.5 percent from the free throw line. That was the highest opponent mark of the last nine seasons.
- Allowed opponents to score 0.98 points per possession on isolations. That was the league’s second highest opponent mark.
- Allowed 9.5 points per game, second most in the league, from pick-and-roll roll men.
HORNETS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Lineup of Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Batum, Marvin Williams and Howard played 1,086 minutes, second most among all lineups last season.
- Lineup of Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Kidd-Gilchrist, Williams and Howard recorded assists on just 48.4 percent of its field goals, the lowest rate among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. It had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.371, the highest rate among that same group of lineups. It averaged just 6.8 fast break points per 48 minutes, the lowest rate among the group.
- Were 10.4 points per 100 possessions better with Walker on the floor (plus-3.6) than they were with him off the floor (minus-6.8). That was the 16th biggest on-off NetRtg differential among 266 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team last season. He had a similar differential (10.3 points per 100 possessions) in 2016-17.
- Last season, the Magic were 14.4 points per 100 possessions worse with Bismack Biyombo on the floor (minus-14.1) than they were with him off the floor (plus-0.3). That was the second worst on-off NetRtg differential among 266 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team last season.
- Highest on-court OffRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Batum and Walker. The Hornets scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions in 1,744 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Lowest on-court DefRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Walker and Lamb. The Hornets allowed just 101.1 points per 100 possessions in 1,080 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
HORNETS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Nicolas Batum has seen an increase in the percentage of his shots that have come from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line) in each of the last six seasons, from 20 percent in 2011-12 to 36 percent last season. The 36 percent was the 11th highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.
- Batum had a ratio of 1.22 steals + blocks per personal foul ((65+23)/72)). That was the ninth highest rate among players who played at least 1,000 minutes last season. Kemba Walker had the 10th highest rate (1.17).
- Willy Hernangomez grabbed 11.5 percent of available offensive rebounds while he was on the floor, the 10th highest mark among 326 players who averaged at least 10 minutes in 40 games or more.
- Frank Kaminsky allowed 1.30 points per possession on isolations, by far the highest mark among 55 players who defended at least 75 isolation possessions.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took just two (0.4 percent) of his 560 shots from 3-point range. That was the lowest rate among 142 players 6-foot-7 or shorter with at least 300 field goal attempts.
- Jeremy Lamb registered career highs in games played, minutes per game, assist-turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage last season.
- Lamb shot 7-for-32 (22 percent) with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. That was the worst mark among 116 players who attempted at least 25 shots in the clutch.
- Malik Monk attempted 10.2 3-pointers per 36 minutes, fourth most among 311 players who played at least 750 total minutes.
- Monk attempted just nine free throws for every 100 shots from the field (38/425). That was the seventh lowest free throw rate among 223 players with at least 400 field goal attempts.
- Tony Parker averaged 17.5 drives per 36 minutes, fourth most among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Kemba Walker averaged 10.8 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game, second most in the league. His 1.03 points per possession ranked fourth among 35 players who averaged at least five pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game.
- Walker ranked third in both pull-up jumpers and pull-up 3-pointers attempted. He ranked fifth in pull-up 3-point percentage (37.8 percent) among 16 players who attempted at least 200 pull-up threes.
- Walker had an effective field goal percentage of 56.7 percent in the first half of games, but just 46.6 percent in the second half. That was the biggest drop-off among 210 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each half. But Walker’s six overtime 3-pointers (on just seven attempts) led the league.
- Thirteen-year veteran Marvin Williams registered career highs in both effective field goal percentage (57.0 percent) and true shooting percentage (60.3 percent).
- Williams had an effective field goal percentage of 66.7 percent in the first quarter, the best mark among 211 players who attempted at least 100 first-quarter shots.
- Cody Zeller averaged 7.4 screen assists per 36 minutes, most among 353 players who played at least 500 minutes last season.
NBA TV’s Hornets preview premieres at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 11.
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