The New Orleans Hornets offense — if you could call it one — was one of the league’s worst last season. Only the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats scored fewer points per 100 possessions.
Adding No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, Duke guard Austin Rivers, Orlando’s Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez will be enough to increase their efficiency this season.
Losing Jarrett Jack, however, will hurt more than most pundits believe. Operating as the primary ball handler in pick-and-rolls, Jack converted on more than half of his attempts resulting from pick-and-roll action. Jack, along with contributions from guard Greivis Vasquez, forwards Carl Landry and Gustavo Ayon and center Chris Kaman, headlined one of the league’s best pick-and-roll offenses.
Overall, Hornets ball handlers fed the roll man more than a third of the time; of which, the big men scored nearly one point per possession. When the defense took away the most efficient option, New Orleans ball handlers scored 0.85 points per possession, an above-average number as well.
So what does this mean for their four matchups, the first of which occurs in nine days, against the San Antonio Spurs? A lot actually.
For starters, the Spurs struggle to defend screens of any variety. This stems from a lack of interior mobility. Second, the Hornets have added an agile big man in Davis that will be difficult to defend on jaunts to the rim. Davis can finish well at the rim and his length will pose a problem for the Spurs frontcourt.
And lastly, Hornets coach Monty Williams has devised multiple ways to score off simple pick-and-roll action. (Hat-tip to Jared Dubin, writing at Hoop Chalk, for explaining the Hornets pick-and-roll action.)
Plays, for instance, where the second big man, away from the initial action, simulates the roll. The simulated roll is intended to move the defense and force additional rotations. The screener, meanwhile, is open to release to the perimeter.
Or, as shown in the accompanying video, the occasional double pick-and-roll to confound the defense further. The presence of Jason Smith, who made 48% of his attempts from 16-23 feet last season, gives this set three options in which to take advantage of.
Just because every team runs pick-and-rolls often doesn’t mean the set can’t be effective. Williams has added a few wrinkles to make it tougher to defend. Along with Davis, there is no reason to be surprised if the Hornets replicate last season’s success.
Having a nice crutch in which to rely upon in late-game scenarios is something bad offenses, a label New Orleans hopes to shed, can’t boast.