We're a little more than halfway through the 2012-13 regular season so its time to evaluate all the Hornets on an individual basis. The grades below largely stem from an expectation versus performance view through the first 43 games (doesn't include Sunday night's win over the Grizzlies.) Darius Miller and players no longer with our team were not considered.
Glossary: PPG (points per game), AST (assists per game), REB (rebounds per game), TO (turnovers per game), MPG (minutes per game), PER (player efficiency rating), TS% (true shooting percentage), PPP (points per possession), Ortg (offensive rating) Drtg (defensive rating), USG% (usage percentage), DREB% (defensive rebound percentage)
1. Eric Gordon (17.6 PPG, 3.2 AST, 1.6 REB, 2.9 TO, 29.4 MPG, 16.2 PER, 52.0 TS%)
B Gordon has only appeared in 12 games so it shouldn't come as a surprise his numbers and efficiency do not reflect star quality. However, considering he's sat in a suit and tie for practically two years, he's performed very admirably. As evidenced by wins and losses, a > 100% Gordon is a much better alternative than him entirely missing games. His presence gives the Hornets a more dynamic option on offense, alleviating Vasquez as the sole playmaker and better masking Aminu's inability to shoot from the perimeter. Defensively, he has stepped right in as our best guard option allowing .83 PPP (rank of 122). As mentioned in the last game thread, there are signs the improvement is already underway, and as long as his knee issues don't flare up, he could still end up as the team's MVP.
2. Ryan Anderson (16.9 PPG, 1.3 AST, 6.7 REB, .9 TO, 31.7 MPG, 19.5 PER, 56.2 TS%)
B+ Many believed stepping out of Dwight Howard's shadow would reveal a vast number of inadequacies in Anderson's game. Well, it's safe to say that theory has been debunked as he currently averages 1.06 PPP (17th), versus 1.09 PPP (11th) a year ago. He's been so good this season that he's only one of eleven players to sport a 115+ Ortg with a USG% > 23% in the last three NBA seasons combined! Undoubtedly, the reason Anderson doesn't get an A grade is his porous defense: .93 PPP (288th). He's never been mistaken for a good defender, but right now, he's on par with Jose Calderon, a fantastic win share total buoyed strictly by results on one end of the floor. Due to this significant deficiency, I'm not at all unhappy with his current sixth man role.
3. Greivis Vasquez (14.0 PPG, 9.1 AST, 4.6 REB, 3.4 TO, 34.3 MPG, 16.5 PER, 51.2 TS%)
A- During the exhibition season, fans were petrified the team had put so much faith into Vasquez. Jarrett Jack had recently been traded for peanuts and the General's shot and turnover rates were alarmingly bad. However, once the regular season started, Vasquez quickly turned things around and is presently enjoying career bests in 3PT%, AST%, REB% and TOV%. In fact, his passing is so spectacular that in the last three years, only several guys have managed to boast a better AST%. Not bad company when that group only contains the names: Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams. Aside the numbers, Vasquez needs to be given serious props for filling the leadership vacuum. He has become the team's undisputed leader so much so that his defensive shortcomings are often overlooked by Monty Williams.
4. Anthony Davis (12.9 PPG, .8 AST, 7.8 REB, 1.4 TO, 29.1 MPG, 20.8 PER, 55.7 TS%)
A- By now, anyone who follows the Hornets is familiar with Davis' better than expected offensive contributions. No, he's not anywhere close to being a go-to scorer yet, but the combination of his athleticism and hands have led to numerous easy opportunities around the basket. Did you know that he's currently on pace to become only 1 of 4 19 year olds to post a PER of 20 or better (others being Kyrie Irving, Tracy McGrady and Andre Drummond?) He's been so good, living up to or exceeding expectations, that it's difficult to not give him a straight A, but there have been a few glaring flaws. First, Davis has had plenty of breakdowns on defense, more than many of us had predicted, and consequently explaining the wide fluctuations in minutes. Second, for someone of his pedigree, it's annoying he consistently fails to employ one of the most basic rebounding concepts: putting his body on his man when the shot goes up. For instance, in our recent loss to HOU, he was primarily to blame for Patrick Patterson having one of his finest games in his career. Nevertheless, provided Anthony Davis avoids major injury, he is on pace to become one of the biggest win producers of at least his generation.
5. Robin Lopez (11.1 PPG, .8 AST, 5.3 REB, 1.2 TO, 25.5 MPG, 19.8 PER, 58.2 TS%)
B- Admittedly, this grade is reinforced by the fact I had zero expectations out of Lopez this season. After a promising 2009-10 season in Phoenix, his career had since regressed to serving as second fiddle to Marcin Gortat. Dell Demps and his staff apparently thought enough out of him to trade for him, giving him a 3 year contract worth approximately 15 million dollars. In hindsight, it's been a very important move as, for at least this season, the Hornets lacked a legitimate starting center to soak up some important minutes. As the numbers indicate, most of Lopez's value is supported by his efficient offense. Thus, it's really a shame that, as a member of the 7 foot+ club, his grade is held back by his ability to rebound the basketball. Out of all centers who have logged at least 500 minutes this season, he has the worst DREB%. He's behind everybody, from rookies like Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard to washed up Brendan Haywood. If he could somehow miraculously improve in this area, an argument could be made he'd be one of the Hornets more important players, but until that day, he'll only remain a stopgap solution.
6. Al-Farouq Aminu (8.1 PPG, 1.6 AST, 7.4 REB, 1.8 TO, 26.9 MPG, 14.2 PER, 53.1 TS%)
A In my opinion, there isn't a player on this roster who has improved more than Aminu. Vasquez flashed his value last season, as evidenced by the similar win shares per 48 minutes. On the other hand, the Chief has added several very important elements to his game. First, he has morphed into an absolute monster on the glass, bolstered by a 25.4 DREB%. That's far better than the majority of power forwards in this league including Zach Randolph, David Lee and Blake Griffin! Second, Aminu has incorporated the concept of shot selection as evidenced by a jump close to 8 percentage points to his FG%. Asides becoming a much better finisher from 9 feet and in, this improvement emanates from an increase in attempts at the rim by over 43%. Third, according to synergy sports, Aminu's overall defense has improved from a ranking of 341 last season to 155, thanks in large part to limiting spot up shooters to .91 PPP, as opposed to .99 PPP in 2011-12. As long as he continues to stick to Monty's gameplan, Al-Farouq appears poised to remain a valuable cog in New Orleans for a very long time.
7. Jason Smith (7.0 PPG, .7 AST, 3.8 REB, 1.2 TO, 17.6 MPG, 15.3 PER, 52.6 TS%)
B Good NBA teams need to be able to count on at least one reserve to bring energy and passion to each game and Smith has cemented that role in New Orleans. Although it is somewhat troubling his game appears centered around his jumpshot (he takes twice as many attempts from 16-23 feet than at the rim), he isn't afraid of throwing his weight around in the paint. At 2.5 million dollars, one would be hard pressed to find another rotation player in the league brimming with solid intangibles, necessary for such an inexperienced team.
8. Brian Roberts (6.5 PPG, 2.2 AST, .9 REB, .9 TO, 14.5 MPG, 14.7 PER, 49.8 TS%)
C- Roberts will never be mistaken for a true point guard and, as a 27 year-old rookie, his potential growth is almost non-existent. However, at times, he has made an impact on this team this season through his best skill, shooting the mid-range jumper. This was more evident when Eric Gordon was sidelined, but it's not the worst thing to have the back of the bench possess a serviceable NBA skill.
9. Austin Rivers (6.0 PPG, 2.3 AST, 2.0 REB, 1.3 TO, 23.8 MPG, 5.2 PER, 39.5 TS%)
D Despite the apparent struggles, Rivers is one of the tougher players to assign a grade. He was obviously not ready to step onto an NBA floor this season, yet, due to Gordon's troublesome knee, his role was exponentially elevated on day one. In hindsight, I'd be curious whether Monty and Dell still believe thrusting him into the starting lineup was the best alternative, as we've witnessed Rivers bottom out entirely - losing all confidence earlier this month. Recently, he has shown signs of life, but plenty more obstacles lay ahead before fans and statisticians accept the Hornets controversial draft choice. In his defense, supporters cling onto the fact he works extremely hard and has moved away from his volume shooting days in high school and college. We can only hope the journey will have been worth it.
10. Roger Mason (5.7 PPG, 1.2 AST, 2.2 REB, .8 TO, 19.1 MPG, 10.8 PER, 59.7 TS%)
A As the oldest player on our roster, Mason was signed to bring much needed experience and perimeter shooting to the squad. He has fulfilled both duties to a tee. Presently, he is in the midst of his most effective season shooting the basketball, a career best 59.7 TS%. In addition, as Monty has attempted to balance player development along with winning, Mason's playing time has oscillated more than most players would willingly accept. He is the definition of a true professional.
11. Xavier Henry (3.8 PPG, .4 AST, 1.9 REB, .5 TO, 11.8 MPG, 9.5 PER, 48.8 TS%)
D+ It is easy to forget that Henry is only 21 years of age, but after spending close to 3 years in the NBA, one would expect some improvement somewhere. Yes, injuries and lack of playing time have likely affected his development, but sometimes organizations have to make difficult choices in selecting which players get the larger opportunity. Sadly, Henry is the least likeliest player to return next season.
12. Lance Thomas (2.6 PPG, .3 AST, 2.3 REB, .3 TO, 12.7 MPG, 8.4 PER, 50.9 TS%)
D+ Thomas is probably one of the best practice players Monty has ever had the privilege of coaching. Well, there has to be a reason why he was rewarded with 9 starts this season at small forward. His numbers have fallen across the board in 2012-13 leaving many wondering about opportunity costs. Is it more important for a team with championship aspirations three years down the line to fill a roster spot with a good systems guy over a more talented individual?
How much do you guys agree or disagree with my evaluations? You don't have to to into any depth (if you don't wish) but what grades would you give each player up to this point? This could make for a very interesting thread to revisit at the end of the season so post any and all thoughts!