With one week of the season in the books, the Hornets have won two of their first three games, despite playing 75% of the two wins with Anthony Davis unavailable. Let’s take a look at how each Hornets player has fared.
1) Robin Lopez, C*–*3 GP, 31.3 MPG, 9.2% ORR, 55.6 eFG%, 15.9 PER
Three games into the season, Lopez has arguably been the Hornets’ best two-way player. He has been all over the offensive glass, converted over half of his field goal attempts, and done a good job of protecting the paint. He is averaging 16.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 mintues, all totals that go above and beyond what most expected from him going into the season. Hopefully, Lopez can continue to play at this high level; if so, the Hornets could make an even stronger argument that they have the best 4-man front court rotation in the entire NBA.
2) Al-Farouq Aminu, SF*–*3 GP, 32.7 MPG, 59.4 eFG%, 12.0 TRR, 11.6 AR, 19.2% TOR, 15.8 PER
If anyone had tried to convince me that Lopez and Aminu would be the top two players in these rankings at any point in this season, I would have suggested that they get drug tested. Nonetheless, here we are three games in and they have been the Hornets’ two most consistent contributors. Not only has Aminu made almost 60% of his shots so far, but he is the only Hornets player to have both a rebound and assist* rate in double digits, a testament to how well-rounded his game has been so far. The turnover rate of nearly 20% is still a concern, but if his improvements in these other areas are legit, then the Hornets can afford to be much more patient in that respect. The million dollar question is if we’re seeing an aberration or if Aminu is finally turning his potential into results – here’s to hoping it’s the latter.
3) Ryan Anderson, PF*–*3 GP, 34.0 MPG, 19.2% DRR, 9.0% TOR, 15.2 PER
Anderson’s PER isn’t anything to brag about thanks to two games not up to his standards, but the Hornets would not have beaten the Jazz on Friday night without his sharp shooting. His 33.3% mark from beyond the arc will undoubtedly improve and drive up that PER considerably. Anderson’s single-digit turnover ratio is a great number, but potentially the most pleasant surprise from him so far is his team-leading defensive rebound rate of just under 20%. The fact that this mark leads the team is indicative of poor defensive rebounding as a team thus far (the 2011-12 league average DRR for power forwards 18.4%), but at least he’s doing his part. Anderson has historically been a very good offensive rebounder but a poor defensive rebounder, so that respectable defensive rebound rate is certainly a good sign.
4) Anthony Davis, PF*–*2 GP, 21.5 MPG, 66.0 TS%, 16.9% TRR, 4.4% TOR, 24.6 PER
Based on performance alone, Davis would top this list, but due to the fact that he has missed a game and a half due to injury, he can’t claim the top spot (yet). As a Hornets fan, you simply cannot watch him play without getting excited. Early returns from Davis on offense are even more promising than many of us expected just three games into his NBA career. His offensive and defensive rebound rates (14.1% and 19.1% respectively) along with his true shooting percentage are all second highest on the team, and his turnover rate is amazingly low. Though clearly a small sample size, it’s hard not to get goose bumps when reviewing his performance thus far.
5) Jason Smith, PF*–*3 GP, 17 MPG, 69.7 TS%, 14.5% ORR, 7.6% TOR, 20.7 PER
Smith has picked up right where he left off last year and then some. While his minutes are down due to the Hornets’ suddenly stacked front court, he has been incredibly efficient in his time on the court, leading the team in true shooting percentage and offensive rebound rate. The result is a PER of over 20, and while that is likely an unsustainable number,* production anywhere near this level would be a huge plus. Should Lopez and Smith continue to produce reasonably close to their current levels, Hornets’ GM Dell Demps will almost have no choice but to at least look into trade scenarios to see if they can find a back court-strengthening deal to their liking.
6) Greivis Vasquez, PG*– 3 GP, 36.7 MPG, 12.2% DRR, 45.0 AST%, 17.2% TOR, 15.4 PER
Vasquez has had his ups and downs, but given the Hornets’ lack of guard depth, he leads the team in minutes played so far, which shows how important he is to the team right now. Though his true shooting percentage of 44.9% is down from last year, he has slightly improved his turnover rate and defensive rebound rate so far. Hopefully, the latter two trends continue to move in that direction, while he becomes a more efficient scorer; he will undoubtedly get ample opportunities to make those things happen.
I left this slot open because of how wide the gulf has been between the production of the players on either side of this divider. If things keep going the way they have through the Hornets’ first three games (unlikely, but not impossible), the drop-off after the team’s top 6 (healthy) players could be even more significant than we expected, which is saying something.
8) Roger Mason Jr., SG*– 3 GP, 21.3 MPG, 65.4 TS%, 4.4% TRR, 7.3% AR, 10.0 PER
Mason earns the temporary title of “best of the rest” with the only double-digit PER among the remaining Hornets players. Mason has done this by recording zero turnovers in his 64 minutes played in addition to his true shooting percentage of just over 65%. Apart from that, however, Mason has done little to help the team; his rebound rate and assist rate are predictably low (5 rebounds and 3 assists total), and he has failed to generate a block or steal thus far.
9) Austin Rivers, G*– 3 GP, 29.0 MPG, 30.6 TS%, 17.3% AR, 8.2 PER
It’s going to be a process for Rivers to become acclimated with the NBA game, but even so, most people probably hoped to see a little more from Rivers than they did through this first week. He has shown a glimpse of a “drive and kick” ability over this span, but apart from that and converting on 8 of his 10 free throws, Austin’s NBA debut has largely been a struggle. His 2.5 rebounds per-36 minutes is a number that ideally will improve, but his 4.1 assists per-36 minutes is encouraging. It is way too early to scrutinize his scoring numbers, so we’ll just say for now that he has nowhere to go but up.
10) Darius Miller, SF –*3 GP, 14.3 MPG, 30.0 eFG%, 16.6% AR, 28.6% TOR, 7.5 PER
Miller has taken 5 shots so far this season, 4 of them being 3-pointers, of which he has made one. With the Hornets’ strength in the paint, ideally he will start to get more open looks and knock them down, something he proved in the preseason that he has the ability to do. Otherwise, Miller has predictably struggled, something that shouldn’t come as a surprise for a rookie 2nd round pick. His five assists in 43 minutes is a good number to see, though; hopefully, he can continue to make smart passes, while limiting his turnovers.
11) Brian Roberts*– 3 GP, 3.7 MPG, 25.4 TS%, 18.7% DRR, 14.4% AR, 14.3 PER
In his 11 minutes so far this season, Roberts has taken seven shots, making one, and converted both free throw attempts. In addition, he has 3 rebounds (one offensive), an assist, and a turnover. Seven shots in eleven minutes is a little much for a backup point guard; hopefully, he looks to get his teammates more involved the next few times he sees minutes.
12) Xavier Henry, SG*–*2 GP, 5.5 MPG, 50.o eFG%, 11.2% ORR, 29.1% TOR, 4.6 PER
Only 11 minutes worth of action for Henry thus far, the limited data available tells the same story as his 2011-12 season. He made one of his two field goal attempts, earning a 3-point opportunity on the shot that he made; as expected, he missed the free throw. Throw in an offensive board, a defensive board, and a turnover, and you have Henry’s season so far.
13) Lance Thomas*– 1 GP, 5 MPG, 0.0 eFG%, 20.6% DRR, 3.6 PER
With only five minutes played thus far, Thomas has missed his only two shots, grabbed a defensive rebound, and committed one foul. Obviously, not nearly enough data for the above statistics to be viewed with any sort of*reliability,*but with more minutes we will get a better look at how Thomas is doing this season.
NR) Eric Gordon, SG; Hakim Warrick, PF