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When you look at the statistics of the Charlotte Hornets through the first 11 games of the season, the 6-5 record is not the most telling stat. It’s also not being fourth in the NBA in total steals. But when you look at a team that is 44.9% from the floor (19th in the league), leading the entire league in assists would not be something that most fans would pay attention to.
With the addition of third overall pick LaMelo Ball, the Hornets have picked up their team effort when it comes to passing the basketball. But this is the type of offensive efficiency that Head Coach James Borrego has been wanting to see from the start of training camp.
“If somebody else is more open than you, kick it. This is a team-first culture, it’s an unselfish culture and I expect you to play that way on the court. I think that’s being shown and reflected, it’s really what unites you,” Borrego stated.
This change in culture has paid dividends for the Hornets in the opening few weeks of the season. Even though the rookie Ball has gotten the attention of the national media, it’s third-year guard Devonte Graham that leads the team in assists. Graham is averaging 6.5 assists per game and has four games of eight assists or more.
Graham is making up for his poor shooting start by getting looks for teammates. He leads a group that has six of their eight main eight players averaging over two assists per game.
“Yeah, I think we’re doing a good job of passing the ball. Coach keeps emphasizing that. We’ve been moving the ball and just being in the right spots. Like I said, it all starts with our defense – trying to get out in transition, finding guys running, making the extra pass, the extra plays and then executing out of timeouts,” Graham said.
But the part that stands out even more is that the team is allowing the extra pass to lead to more effective baskets. Charlotte is getting an assist on almost 74% of their made baskets. The team’s extra passes have allowed Gordon Hayward to start off his Hornet career shooting over 50% from the floor, and four Hornets are shooting over 35% from the three-point line.
Even though Charlotte is 22nd in the league in field-goal attempts, the ability to move the ball has allowed the team to make the most out of their opportunities. Those same opportunities have allowed this team to already exceed early-season expectations in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.