In a tumultuous season, the Charlotte Hornets sit in a disappointing spot. The team has failed to make the playoffs once again and has not secured a top lottery seed in the process.
Looking through the lineup data from the past season for the Charlotte Hornets, it’s rather grim at a cursory glance. Nearly all combinations are a net-negative plus-minus. Something that might be expected from a team that was outscored by 7 points per 100 possesions. There are a couple of bright spots, the starting line up, with Cody Zeller in, was plus 0.6, this was the Hornet’s most-played lineup.
There are a couple of other winning sets scattered in the mix, but for the most part, the team is being outscored. Going deeper into the numbers, there is just one three-man combination that played more than five minutes a game and outscored opponents.
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The trio of Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, and Marvin Williams boasts a plus-minus of +3.4. It’s curious that this is the group that seems to have found some success in Jim Borrego’s system. Graham is one of only two players on the roster to have a positive box plus-minus (an estimate of a player’s individual impact), the other being Willy Hernangomez.
The group also contains three of the six players who attempted the most three-pointers this season. Could that be the key to their success? When this lineup was on the floor, the team also attempted over four more threes per 100 possessions than usual, another high among all three-man groups.
Marvin Williams was bought out of his contract this past February. The forward was in his sixth season in Charlotte. Williams then joined the Milwaukee Bucks to further deepen their bench. The stretch four has been an underrated defender. This data might not necessarily indicate that the team made the wrong decision in buying out Williams, but rather point to the type of player the team needs.
P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges have shown that they can shoot the rock, but neither have given any indication of being the type of big who can guard the rim like Williams. The Hornets badly need another stretch big who can defend the rim. A player in the upcoming draft like Onyeka Okongwu could fill this void.
The last part of the trio, Malik Monk, is even stranger. The guard came into the league touted as a sharpshooting spark plug who could go off on any given night. Despite his stellar athleticism, Monk’s time in the league so far has been less than impressive. Even though Malik was shooting just 28% from three this season, a career-worst, he still attempted nearly four shots from behind the arc each game.
Defenders are still respecting Monk on the line because he has shown he will let it fly. All of this is to say that if Monk can improve as a shooter, being just 21 years old, it will continue to unlock his potential as a player and as a part of any lineup on the floor.
Its fun to extrapolate from this data and fantasize about how the team can improve, but in the end, the combination only saw the floor for slightly more than five minutes a game. It was the 16th most played this season, and only significant because it was the first one to actually have a positive impact.
This says more about the Hornets than anything else, but maybe there is something to the group’s high 3-point attempt numbers. Modern basketball has been trending towards spacing and outside scoring, and maybe its time for the Charlotte Hornets to trend that way as well.