The Charlotte Hornets are in position to put a pretty fun-to-watch team in the floor this year with LaMelo Ball, Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier as their guard tantrum. James Borrego has not used them in that way so far with LaMelo Ball coming off the bench mostly in the place of either Graham or Rozier.
However, in the small sample size we see them together, the Hornets boasts a plus-18.2 per 100 possessions. The trio of Ball, Rozier and Graham are a fountain of offensive creation when they share the floor. The guard-trio scores a combine of 11.2 points per game shooting 48.8% from the field and 43.4% from beyond the arc. They are also doing it with great efficiency as they combined for a 57.9% on EFG% and a 61.9 TS% in the 73 minutes they shared the floor so far.
At the start of the season, the Hornets’ head coach James Borrego stated that he is willing to use his three-guard combination at the same time, however he claimed that it was still a work in progress. Charlotte has shown the right balance of offense and defense this year with Borrego being pretty careful in adjusting his lineups using more of savvy veterans like Cody Zeller , Gordon Hayward and Bismack Biyombo early in the season.
“I like the fit,” Borrego said of the fit with Graham. “They’re two playmakers. I like him with Terry as well. We’re going to play all three together. I don’t know how much, but those three will play together. Just like (how) we used Devonte’ off the ball last year, we used Terry off the ball, this is going to be a very positionless style of play as we head into next season. We’re working on it now.”via LonzoWire of USA Today Sports
The off-the-ball ability of Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier is the key factor for the three-guard tantrum to work. Both guards are attempting a combine of almost 16 threes per contest. Rozier has started the season strong making 43.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc, while Devonte Graham is trying to find his footing from the three-point range.
Last years’ numbers were not sustainable for Graham, however his 33.3% from deep this season is not ideal for the three-guard lineup to work. In that regard, Malik Monk could be the answer in those situations as he is shooting the lights out in his first seven appearances making the 45% of his three, while he could be used in several combinations of Borrego small-ball lineups.
The Hornets’ head coach is using Gordon Hayward and MIles Bridges as the fourth-player of a small lineup on some occasions throughout 19 games in the 2020/21 campaign with Bridges being more content in that role in the small sample size we have seen so far.
James Borrego has deployed the lineup consisting of Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier, LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington for just 22 minutes this season. This lineup is an offensive juggernaut in the small sample size we have seen so far scoring 115.9 points per 100 possessions averaging a plus-17.8 per 100 possessions.
Of course, we have to take into consideration that Borrego did not use those small-ball lineups for a good number of minutes so far, as the Hornets play more with Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo protecting the paint and rebounding the ball. That could be the downside of going small even with PJ Washington as a mobile center, the Hornets will have a tough time to defend in the paint and being effective in rebounding the ball.
At the top of that, Gordon Hayward is operating at his best in the small forward position with this Hornets’ team posting averages of 23.2 points on 50.0% shooting from the field and 42.7 from deep. The veteran forward is the big offseason acquisition for Charlotte as the franchise offered him a four-year $120M contract. He naturally became the go-to-guy for James Borrego’s team getting in his spots so far in the offense.
At the same, LaMelo Ball excels coming off the bench and provide a huge amount of energy, scoring and playmaking for his team. Ball is the main distributor of the Hornets, when he enters the floor with his ability to use his size to find different angles in the Hornets’ offseason. The Hornets’ coaching staff plan is working nicely so far with the team getting nine wins in their first 20 games of the season.
As a result, Charlotte is getting more and more accustomed to the free-flowing offense of James Borrego, who may have more ‘weapons’ in is hands to make this team play more attractive basketball in the future. The Hornets could be in the postseason conversation this year, if they continue playing their current brand of basketball, which shot-creators like Rozier, Hayward, Ball and Graham are welcomed to get creative in the offensive side.