Numbers in the NBA are pretty easy to come by these days.
Before Tuesday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned how, with a few key strokes of a computer, he can access specific, detailed information about his team or opponents in seconds. That used to take a day to acquire.
For instance, a coach can type in "Kemba Walker in high pick-and-rolls, top of lane" and instantly get not only Walker’s efficiency in those situations, but a host of video of what and how he performs in those situations.
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Numbers were always a big deal in the NBA. They’re just handier now, not just to the teams but to media and fans. The Charlotte Hornets are 7-3, good for third-place in the Eastern Conference. A look at their first 10 games by the numbers:
The offense-defense balance
There have been times in coach Steve Clifford’s three seasons in Charlotte when the Hornets were terrific defensively and deficient offensively. That tends not to work over time.
Clifford concluded two springs ago that a team needs to be top-10 in offensive and defensive efficiency to be a viable contender. That’s particularly true for a team without a superstar scorer who can create his shot any time in any situation.
The NBA formula for efficiency on both sides of the ball is points per possession. By that measure, the Hornets are close to Clifford’s goal.
They are sixth in defensive efficiency, allowing 0.992 points per possession. They are one of six teams allowing less than a point per possession, which is a feat. Last season, playing good overall defense, they allowed 1.015 points.
They are 11th in offensive efficiency, scoring 1.049 points per possession. That is slightly better than last season, when they averaged 1.034. That has to be encouraging, in that Clifford was prepared for an inferior offense, at least initially, as the Hornets adapted to the departures of Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee.
Walker’s exceptional start – he’s scored 20 or more points in nine consecutive games – has to play a role in this.
The shooting is a wash
The Hornets were a prolific 3-point shooting team last season, averaging 10.64 3-pointers made per game. That was expected to recede somewhat this season, but it hasn’t significantly.
The Hornets average 10.5 3-pointers made. The 3-point percentage is down, but just marginally, from 36.2 percent last season to 35.8 percent now. The overall field-goal shooting is the same at 44 percent.
Regarding the 3-point shooting: Marvin Williams is off from last season’s career numbers (now 34.8 percent, down from 40 percent), but Kemba Walker’s exceptional accuracy (47.8 percent) has compensated.
Getting the ball into the lane
Clifford believes it’s essential to get the ball into the lane for any offense to be efficient, even if the shot ends up being taken from the perimeter. That didn’t happen often enough last season.
Adding 3-point shooters, Jefferson’s injuries and Cody Zeller’s inexperience playing center in the NBA all factored into that last season. Bottom line, they are better this season at the getting ball inside.
They average 41 points in the paint this season, compared to 37.8 last season. That reflects how exceptionally Walker is driving to the rim. It’s also how well Nic Batum feeds Zeller in pick-and-roll and some post-ups by center Roy Hibbert.
Result: more free throws
One of the side benefits of getting the ball to the lane more is it causes opponents to foul more. The Hornets are averaging 25 free throws attempted, up from 23.8 last season. That’s ninth in the NBA.
They average 7.8 more free-throw attempts than their opponents, and that’s as much about defense as offense because they seldom foul. This season, the Hornets’ opponents get to the line only 16.7 percent of their offensive plays, which is second-best in the NBA.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell