Where the Hornets Stand at Halfway Point of 2021-22 Season

by Sam Perley

Following a 103-99 home win over Milwaukee on Monday night, the Hornets have officially reached the midway point of their 2021-22 NBA schedule. A 22-19 record has Charlotte sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, although just four games back of the two seed as of Tuesday morning. Here’s a look at why the team is where it is right now:

Areas of Strength

  • Offense and Pace: This was a major area of focus coming into the season and the results have not been disappointing. Continued internal development of players like LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier mixed with savvy external additions have vaulted Charlotte to the league’s 2nd-best offensive rating (112.6; 23rd in 2020-21) and also the quickest pace (101.34 possession per 48 minutes; 18th in 2020-21).
  • Winning at Home: Charlotte currently owns the Eastern Conference’s 3rd-best home winning percentage (.706; 12-5), trailing only Chicago and Miami. The squad has had one of the league’s heavier road schedules thus far and of its five home losses, four have either come in overtime or by four-or-fewer points.
  • Bench Depth: Kelly Oubre Jr., PJ Washington, Jalen McDaniels, Cody Martin and Ish Smith have spearheaded one of the organization’s better reserve units in recent memory. Oubre especially has been sensational – he currently ranks 2nd in the NBA in bench scoring (16.3 PPG; mini. 20 GP) and then T-8th overall in total 3-pointers (116).
  • Clutch-Time Execution: While the Hornets haven’t statistically been as sharp in clutch time as last year (and frankly, there’s probably some regression to the mean), they’re still ranked in the upper half of the NBA in this category. The squad is 12-11 in these situations (13th-best percentage) and has won five of its last seven such opportunities.

Areas of Improvement

  • Defensive Consistency: The Hornets finished the 2020-21 season ranked 16th in defensive efficiency (112.0), but now find themselves sitting 28th (113.1) ahead of only Portland and Houston. Things have begun trending in the right direction though – over their last eight games (6-2), Charlotte ranks eighth in this category (107.5).
  • Rebounding: Another reason for the defensive shortcomings has been the Hornets inability to sometimes overcome size limitations on the rebounding front. The team is 28th in defensive rebounding (70.2%), last in total rebounding (47.6%) and then 21st in offensive rebounding (26.0%). Much like the defense, this area has started to turn lately, meaning that the Hornets need to keep collectively crashing the boards in order to win the possession battle.
  • Starting Games: This was a bigger issue near the start of the season and has become less frequent as the schedule played out. Still though, the Hornets have the 5th-worst first-quarter net rating this season (-9.2) and far too often, have relied on ferocious comeback attempts to give themselves a chance at winning.

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