Last season, the Hornets averaged 281.5 passes per game, fifth lowest in the NBA. That doesn’t mean they were selfish, but if a team is going to not keep the ball moving it needs elite isolation talent – the two teams with the fewest passes per game were the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, teams with James Harden and Russell Westbrook (among others) who can thrive in isolation.
With all due respect to Kemba Walker, Charlotte doesn’t have that level or depth of isolation talent.
Which is why new coach James Borrego — out of the Spurs system — is preaching ball movement or guys will sit. Look what he told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
“It’s the spirit of your team because it says, ‘We’re unselfish,’” Borrego told the Observer of his non-negotiable. “That we make the right play and we trust the next guy to make the right play if that is what’s asked.
“It’s at the core of our organization, like if I ask a guy to play a (different) position or come off the bench. I expect you to do that job and do it well. Likewise, when the ball is in your hands, I expect you to make the right decision.: So pass it, drive or shoot it quickly because that makes us hard to guard.”
It’s why Dwight Howard is in Brooklyn right now. It’s not that Howard can’t still defend the paint or put up numbers — 16.6 point and 12.5 rebounds a game last season — but he demands the ball in the post a lot and that just drags down the offense. They become easier to guard. Isolations and post-ups only work well if a player is elite-level efficient at them, and Howard is not that guy anymore.
The Hornets will be an interesting team to watch this season. They chose not to test the trade market for their All-Star Walker, instead they brought in Tony Parker and are banking on a new coach, Nicolas Batum to stay healthy, Jeremy Lamb to take a step forward, and everything to come together in a run to the playoffs. It could go down that way. But if not… just listen for the Walker rumors to start up.