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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
- 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.
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.