As fans, we'd love to be able not to focus on our team's weaknesses and instead focus on our team's strengths! And it's true, because as fans we want our teams to succeed and as such, we tend to heap them with praise and then give them a pat on the back on mistakes. And in the process, we fail to actually mention what the mistake is and address it.
Since the Hornets are so inconsistent of late - with a loss to the Wizards (a team that similarly lacks talent), a competitive game against OKC (one of the best in the L) and then a loss to the Wolves - I decided to talk about the Hornets' players "Jekyll and Hydes". I'll focus more on the "Hydes" since most of us already know that players' "Jekyll" side.
The Edward Hydes
1) The Passive Austin Rivers
- Nothing is more irritating than watching a basketball player play passive basketball - indecisive, hesitant and scared. When you're as gifted and as blessed as these NBA players are, with the opportunity to play the game we all love in the highest form of competition, then you should play the game with effort the entire time you're there.
Of course, these are not robots but well conditioned humans who are still liable to distress. That's fine. But when you continually use a pick just to "use" a pick (and not use it to create separation between you and your man) even on supposedly good days (2 days off), then we've got a problem.
Austin Rivers is a major culprit of this -- well, the passive Austin. He usually surveys the defense, and if nothing's there, he kicks it out. I get it. He's trying to erase the memory of his ball hogging ways in Duke. He's trying to take what the defense gives. He's trying to play within the system. But there are times when players - especially players groomed to be scorers - need to take bad shots in order to learn which shots are bad and which shots are good. As Lily Aldrin from How I Met Your Mother once said:
Ok, yes it's a mistake. I know it's a mistake, but there are certain things in life where you know it's a mistake but you don't really know it's a mistake because the only way to really know it's a mistake is to make the mistake and look back and say 'yep, that was a mistake'.
2.) The overly aggressive Greivis Vasquez
- And then there are times when you do something so much that it gets bad. Here, we introduce, the overly aggressive Vasquez.
This "Hyde" is more infuriating because he makes the same mistake over and over and over again -- he decides to shoot a contested shot rather than pass it to the open guy. We get it - Vasquez is the motor that runs the Hornets' offense this year. He uses - and by use, I do not mean the typical usage% - around 50% of the team's time of possession. On a 6 second fastbreak, he dribbles the 3 seconds and makes a 1 second pass. On a 24 second set, he uses around 12 seconds to get to his spot (for a pass to a player).
But he needs to pick his spots well -- when does he take the shot and when does he make the pass? Because as Rohan noted, he's missed lots of passes to open teammates especially on pick-and-roll sets. There are also times when he makes too many risky passes instead of making the simple passes.
Risky passes and aggressive mentalities are a welcome addition to a team that clearly lacks a passer. But their are times when it needs to be reined in.
3.) The 3PT shot happy Anderson
- Anderson was built to be a shooter -- wide stance, quick, consistent and high release, knows how to move without the ball. And a team that ranked dead last, last season, welcomes a player as capable as Anderson in terms of shooting bombs. And with the arrival of Davis - as a roll man - and Gordon (theoretically speaking) as a slasher/creator, the need for a player that can fix his defender to his hip (due to his shooting) is of utmost importance.
But there are times when Mr. Anderson (*cue Matrix*) tries to shoot too many 3 PT shots -- even when the opponent is expecting him to! Of course, why wouldn't they? RyNo takes more than half his field goal attempts from 3 point land for his career! (1337 3 PT attempts over 2406 FG attempts = 55.57%)
But is this a case of "a shooter needs to shoot" even on days when his shot is not falling?? Nope. I can understand a 3 PT shooter taking wide open 3 PT shots even if he's gone 0 for 7 from 3 - it's a smart shot because it's open, it's a 3 PT shot and, historically, it's gone in way more than the average NBA player. So no, I have no problem with Anderson continuously taking open 3 PT shots - as long as they're there.
I have a problem when Anderson takes contested 3 PT shots when he's struggling. And he's taken a couple. It's one of those "NO NO NO NO YES!" shots for most people.
I'm not one of those. I value process over result. I care less about the make and care more about the attempt. This is something that Anderson must learn to control and use to further his ability. He's shown a surprisingly good array of straight line drives - a skill that's made more devastating with a stroke that lends itself to a killer fake. And if he can push the decision ratio of "contested 3 PT shots to straight line drives" from something greater than 1 (i.e. he takes more contested 3 PT shots to straight line drives) to something closer to 0 (i.e. he takes more straight line drives than contested 3 PT shots), then it will make him much more efficient than he already he is.
4.) The daydreaming Anthony Davis/Al Farouq Aminu
- They share the same quality - they are athletic freaks of nature that possess long arms, high standing reach, quick second jumps and a strong legs for lift off. Just off their God-given gifts, they should average near 18% TRB% and should be leaders in points per possession allowed defensively. When you add the desire and passion to pursue every rebound and try to challenge every possession and what we should get is a defensive behemoth tandem in Davis and Aminu (one that showed itself in the first 4 games of the season when the Hornets had a DRTG of 96.13).
But sometimes (or in Aminu's case, regularly) what we get is a player that looks like he's day dreaming while playing. He's not focused into the game, runs slowly on fastbreaks (regardless if it's defending it or running it), slow on rotations and is just lackadaisical all around.
We can forgive tired legs -- especially coming of a 4 games in 5 nights (or something similar). But what we can't forgive is a lack of effort on rested nights (like against POR and that Lillard three).
Is relentlessness a skill? Maybe. Is it a learned or innate? Who knows. What I do know is that when both these players don't give all-out effort, it's a waste of talent.
- - -
All four of these players exemplified both their Jekylls (their good games) and their Hydes (their bad games) with Austin Rivers finally having a great game against MIN after having a couple poor ones against OKC and POR. Anthony Davis had probably his best defensive game this season against MIN but that was followed by the game against OKC where he played like he was day dreaming. Vasquez also had a similar pattern - bad game against OKC and one of his better games the following game (MIN). Same with Aminu (OKC and MIN). Anderson had 2 straight 3 PT donkers followed by an impressive 2 games 3 PT bonanza.