Expectations and Disappointments

Marco Belinelli: Disappointment?

Hey everybody, my name is Will, and Rohan graciously asked me to contribute to At The Hive. I hope I can add something to this already great site and look forward to sparking some new conversations. I welcome both praise and criticisms, so get back to me in the comments or over on Twitter at @LSUhornet17. Now, onto the stuff you care about.

Last week, John Hollinger wrote a list of the most disappointing players of the season thus far. You can see his full story (provided you are an ESPN Insider) here: Hollinger's All-Disappointment Team. Before I even started reading the story, I immediately figured which Hornet had the best shot at making Professor Hollinger's squad: Trevor Ariza.  Upon reading the article I was pretty surprised to see that he listed EVERY Hornets wing player. To quote Hollinger on the starters:

"The wing players? Eccch. Belinelli has a league-average TS% and brings absolutely nothing else to the table. Ariza, who is owed nearly $22 million in the three seasons after this one, is shooting 38.1 percent overall and 25.7 percent on 3s. This is with the best point guard in basketball setting them up, mind you; one shudders to think how bad they'd be without all the open looks Paul gets them."

And the bench:

"Green had a hot start to the season but has been miserable of late; his PER is 9.24 thanks to his usual routine of shooting lots of long 2s while hardly ever drawing fouls. Jarrett Jack, imported in part because he could play in the same backcourt with Paul, is shooting 34.8 percent as a Hornet. And second-year pro Marcus Thornton, who hasn't been able to stay on the court because of his defense, has also regressed offensively -- he's shooting 39.3 percent after a torrid rookie campaign."

Now I wasn't totally shocked to see his assessment of  the Hornets' wings, but I was a little surprised considering this may be the best assortment of talent at the 2 and 3 in the Cris Paul era (however sad that sounds). I decided to dig a little deeper (using the invaluable basketball-reference).

Marco Belinelli - Belinelli came to town over the summer in a trade with Toronto that shipped out Julian Wright (who I believe may be on many Hornets fans personal Disappointment Lists). The trade came with little fanfare, and besides some flashy YouTube passes and memories of a 37 point Summer League game, I doubt many of us thought much of the Italian at all when considering the upcoming season. Fast forward a few months and Marco has started every game and averages 11.3 PPG, 1.7 APG, and 2.7 RPG. Hollinger cites Belinelli's average TS% and minimal contributions elsewhere as support for his inclusion on the ADT. My argument with this reasoning is: why should we have expected different? Here are some stats from Marco's first 3 years in the NBA as well as this year:

Season PER TS% 3P% PP36 Ast% Ortg
2007-08 (GSW) 8.3 .490 .390 14.2 8.8 97
2008-09 (GSW) 11.8 .547 .397 15.2 15.3 104
2009-10 (TOR) 12.6 .543 .380 15.1 11.8 106
2010-11(NOH) 11.2 .549 .400 14.3 8.2 106
Career 11.6 .542 .392 14.8 11.3 105

As you can see, the only category in which Marco is significantly below his career averages is his assist percentage, which I think is safe to attribute to him being on the court with a guy named Chris Paul, who tends to control the ball quite a bit. Based on these numbers, I believe that Marco has been a nice surprise, and at worst, exactly what we would have projected him to be based on his career up until this season. Marco may not be an ideal starting SG, but compared to the MoPete's and Devin Brown's of the world, I can hardly complain.

Trevor Ariza - Trevor was acquired from Houston in a trade that cost us All-Rookie First-teamer Darren Collison. This was the big move of the Hornets offseason and was supposed to remedy an open sore at the SF position and inject some athleticism into the team.  Not going to spend too much time here, as I mostly agree with Hollinger on this one, but we can take a look at some numbers:

Season PER TS% 3P% PP36 TRB% Ortg
2008-09 (LAL) 15.5 .544 .319 13.1 10.0 112
2009-10 (HOU) 13.3 .488 .334 14.7 8.8 99
2010-11 (NOH) 10.4 .475 .262 11.3 9.7 93

Okay, so I only used the 3 years for which Trevor was a starter (though he only started 20 for the Lakers). The results? Yeesh. When this move was made, Hornets fans were hoping that playing alongside Chris Paul would help Ariza get back to being the guy who helped the Lakers win a title. Instead, Ariza has regressed in almost every way possible. Yes, his defense has been great, but the Hornets will have a tough time improving if Ariza continues to be a black hole on offense. Like I said, I'm with Hollinger with this one. Moving on.

Willie Green - Willie came to us along with Jason Smith in exchange for Songaila and recent draft pick Craig Brackins. This trade was met with several refrains of "Huh?", especially when we were told that the trade was made in order to make Mr. Green our backup PG. Many fans were not amused. Back in the present, I'll go out on a limb and say that Green may be the least popular Hornet I've seen in my short time following the team. Most of this has to do with the man whom many fans believe deserve Willie's minutes, but Green's offensive game of mid-range jumpers off the dribble doesn't do wonders for his popularity either. The backup PG experiment lasted about 5 minutes and Willie has often been the first guard off the Honets bench and a player that Monty Williams has a tremendous amount of trust in. Mr. Hollinger cites Willie's abysmal PER and his aforementioned preference for long jumpers. Let's take a look:

Season PER TS% 3P% PP36 Ast% Ortg
2007-08 (PHI) 12.8 .492 .285 16.8 13.2 101
2008-09 (PHI) 11.1 .493 .317 13.5 14.4 105
2009-10 (PHI) 12.8 .538 .346 14.8 15.8 109
2010-11 (NOH) 8.9 .498 .298 13.5 6.8 97
Career 11.2 .485 .315 15.4 13.2 98

I included Willie's last 3 years in Philadelphia and his year thus far as a Hornet.  Well, these results depressed me a little bit. Everything besides Willie's True Shooting % (possibly due to an improved stroke at the line), are well below his career norms. Everything I read about Willie going into the season pretty much had me ready for what he brought on the court. Given the way he was portrayed in Philadelphia, I'm honestly surprised to see that he was a superior player for much of his tenure as a Sixer. This does, however, bring hope that Willie could show some improvement, as he is only 29, and there's no reason he shouldn't be able to be at least as good as he was as a Sixer (Yay.). I suppose I can't really disagree with Hollinger here, given the numbers. However, I'm not sure Hornets fans were expecting much more out of Sir William than we're getting right now, so I'd consider him a mild disappointment at worst.

Marcus Thornton - Buckets was drafted with the 13th pick of the second round by the Miami Heat and subsequently traded to the Hornets for two future second round picks. Marcus immediately showed signs of being a dynamic scorer (and earned a nickname) and  started to blossom after the firing of Byron Scott and injuries to Chris Paul. Marcus went on to become a reliable scorer averaging 20 points a game after the All-Star break, including a 37-point explosion complete with a 23-point quarter (Dropping the "Lil" in the process)  He (along with Collison) was one of few bright spots on an otherwise forgettable season. Presently? He's receiving sporadic minutes, appearing mostly to compete with rookie Quincy Pondexter for any available minutes. Frequent refrains of "defense" are heard whenever the subject of Buckets' playing time is brought up to Monty Williams. Many Hornets fans are not amused. Some numbers:

Season PER TS% 3P% PP36 Ast% Ortg TRB%
2009-10 17.4 .550 .374 20.3 10.3 111 6.6
2010-11 10.5 .462 .364 15.4 8.4 91 10.5

Yikes. This is why I was a little scared to check out these numbers. Marcus' numbers have plunged across the board, with the exception of a spike in his rebounding. My attempt at explaining this dramatic decline would be directly tied to the inconsistent nature of his minutes, as his numbers truly started to spike last year once Jeff Bower started him playing him big minutes. However, this is the life of a bench player in the NBA, and Marcus needs to adjust if that is to be his role going forward. I think this may be the one case where I (along with many) are even more disappointed than what Hollinger wrote. Coming off last season, many expected Marcus to claim the starting SG spot and become a dynamic 3rd scorer that could put up 20ppg in support of Paul and David West. His slipping of relevance in the team's nightly game plan is probably the single most disappointing aspect of the season to me.

I'm not going to get into Jarrett Jack, because most of his minutes have come as a PG, and Rohan just did a great job of talking about Jarrett here. Also, I'm not looking at Qunicy Pondexter, because it's difficult to have any expectations at all for a late first round draft pick, and he has just started to receive some meaningful minutes.  How do you feel about the situation with the Hornet wings? What are some of your disappointments this year? How about any aspects/ players of the Hornets that are exceeding your expectations? I apologize if this went a little long. Thanks for reading.

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