Nico's Weekend Review: Brian Roberts, Xavier Henry, and More

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a heartbreaker of a weekend.

It's been a tough season so far, with positives few and far between. Most positives that we have seen have been canceled out and then some by depressing negatives.

But the games of this weekend offered plenty of positives. In Year 2 of rebuilding, these are the types of games (not necessarily wins or losses) that will keep fans tuned into the team.

Let's begin:

BRIAN ROBERTS

Roberts is slowly winning me over. Roberts' playmaking is inconsistent - he has an 8 and 7 assist game and he also has multiple 0 assist games despite playing almost the same amount of minutes.

But what makes me feel like Roberts can find a place in the league? Shooting and Pick and Rolls. The guy can shoot. He's consistent -- an important aspect of lead maintenance. He's already one of the better mid-range shot creators in the league.

From 16 to 23 feet, he's shooting 49% on 2.7 attempts while being assisted on only 24% of them. As a 3 PT shooter and spot up shooter, he's shooting 40% from downtown. According to Synergy Sports, on spot up situations, he's scoring 1.45 points per play. Lastly, Brian Roberts currently ranks 12th in the entire league in points per play as the Pick and Roll ball handler. I expected him to be polished offensively via his stint in Germany, but never did I expect him to post the 12th best PPP on PnR BH, almost a quarter into the NBA season. Wow.

AUSTIN RIVERS


Austin Rivers was mediocre in the game against MEM. And the sad thing is, that's 2 steps better than his season average. He had sequences of good plays (a spin move layup followed by a floater, a corner 3PT shot) and sequences of bad plays (missed a few open passes, 2 missed FTs, a few missed rotations).

One thing I did notice with Rivers (that's become more apparent as the season matures) -- he has no move whatsoever that's moving left. It's more evident when he a pick is set that "forces" him to go left. Once Rivers uses a screen that forces him to go left (facing the basket), he more often than not chooses to attack right. But, you know what? That crossover. Ooh, that crossover gives me hope.

JASON SMITH

Jason Smith continues to round into form as an elite 4th big. I really love the way he's worked the PnR lately. He's taken 39 jumpers coming off pops (16 makes), 13 dunks or layups (8 makes).

He's struggled with that jumper, but because of his reputation, he's been able to use it as a weapon for linear drives to the hoop. He's had a hard time with passes while rolling but this isn't entirely his fault -- he fumbles the ball a lot primarily because his guards make extremely tight and difficult passes in traffic usually resulting in a fumble. But even though he turns the ball over 13% of the time, he's still an above average PnR player in the L (35th).

RYAN ANDERSON

If there was anybody questioning Ryan Anderson's status as one of the elite players in the league (and a bargain with a frontloaded 34 million/4 year contract), then Saturday's game should have quieted them.

The Hornets were down by 3 when Ryan Anderson was whistled for his 3rd foul in the 2nd quarter with around 8 minutes left. The Heat would promptly go on a 24-10 run to end the half. To date, Anderson's been smoking offensively. Since taking over the starting role, Anderson's averaged 20 points (on 15 shots), 7 rebounds while barely turning the ball over (0.9). Add all of this up and he's currently registering an ORTG of 122 for the season (which is 11th in the league for players who've played at least 20 minutes and have a USG% of 20% or above).

ROBIN LOPEZ

These weekend games are why Lopez will probably not be a good option as a starting C going into the contention years. One day a dud, another day a contributor. It's hard to have a starter who's this inconsistent.

But due to the lack of options (Anderson being the only true consistent performer and Davis being sidelined), we're forced to stick with Lopez as our starting big. As a 3rd big though? With Jason Smith as the 4th big? That's solid. Now, if only we had a skilled big besides Anderson. Hmm.

GREIVIS VASQUEZ

Similarly, Vasquez is also not fit to be a starter in this league - especially if he's turning the ball over like a hot potato every time ball pressure meets him. At one point in that game crushing 2nd quarter against the Heat, he turned the ball over three times and 2 more others that should been counted as turnovers against him.

His inefficient shooting is not helping him. Learning how to shoot will help him a lot. So will learning how to play on the post (using his size against smaller guards).

XAVIER HENRY

Henry's gotten the start over Aminu in the past 2 games. In both games, he was okay.

It is, however, a welcome sight to see him make multiple threes in consecutive starts. I hope it continues. His shooting (like everybody else's) will be key to him finding a niche in this league. As I tweeted, it was really hard for Henry not to make it in this league. To me, he was one of the safest players to draft -- his floor is a spacer of the Kyle Korver- James Jones - Jason Kapono type. I was actually hoping the Hornets would draft him (we instead traded for Brackins/Pondexter, which eventually turned into Smith/Vasquez).

Injuries have definitely slowed Henry down a lot. As a potential member of the exclusive club of 3-and-D players (a group of players that I have a liking for), I hope he continues this kind of play.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Word's circulating that Davis is nearing a return. Take my advice: tune it out. This season (like the last) has been either heartbreak or unwatchable. Add that to the Gordon debacle and we don't need another false dawn that will give us hope only to be crushed again.
  • On that note, it was surprising to see Aminu get close to 25+ minutes per game, dropped all the way down to a DNP and an 8 minute stint. Why, you may ask? The answer is probably a combination of these 3 things: the need for spacing, lack of effort, and a needed jolt of change.
Ultimately, I take solace in the fact that the Hornets are dealing with a lot of things right now, and yet we're still not the worst team in the league. Our two best players are out with injuries, and we've had the toughest schedule in the league (SOS of 2.32, which is a full .66 points higher than the next tough scheduled team, the Clippers).

Things won't get easier this week when we face only two winnable games (against WAS and probably against POR). So take a nap between Wednesday (at OKC) to Friday (vs MIN) where we'll be facing the best team in the league and a team that will probably have 3 of their best players in uniform (Rubio, Love and Kirilenko). Hopefully it's a return to the win column soon.

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