The Golden State Warriors are the most profitable NBA pick around these days. But what looked like a promising season for the Charlotte Hornets is turning out to be just as ugly as their uniforms.
Jason’s record as of Nov. 27: 11-9 ATS
There’s no question that the Golden State Warriors (12-2 SU, 10-4 ATS) are one of the greatest stories of the early 2014-15 NBA season. But what happened to the Charlotte Hornets (4-12 SU, 5-9-2 ATS)? This was supposed to be a new era for the re-branded Hornets, with their roster upgrades and their ridiculous Slush Puppie uniforms. If you’re going to dress like that, you’d better bring some flavor.
Things are bad enough that the Hornets opened as 7.5-point home dogs for Friday’s game (7:00 p.m. ET) against Golden State. And our consensus reports show 100 percent support for the Warriors, enough to move the NBA odds to Charlotte +8.5 as we go to press. Is there anything in this particular matchup that makes the Hornets worth a flier?
Let’s take a moment to look back fondly at the final season of the Charlotte Bobcats. They made it into the playoffs last year at 43-39 SU and 47-32-2 ATS, the most profitable record in the Eastern Conference. Al Jefferson (22.7 PER) played like an All-Star, and Kemba Walker (16.8 PER) continued to show promise in his third season in the bigs.
But the best player on the team, at least according to the Box Plus-Minus stats at Basketball Reference, was Josh McRoberts (plus-2.7 BPM). He’s had his ups and downs through his eight years in the NBA, but when plugged into the right system, McRoberts uses his passing skills (5.1 assists per 36 minutes last year) and his 3-point shooting (36.1 percent) to provide flow to the offense.
Repeat Grade Nine
That flow is missing in Charlotte this year. McRoberts went to Miami as a free agent, and the Hornets offense has slipped from No. 24 overall last year (101.2 points per 100 possessions) to No. 25 this year (98.6). Worse, the defense has dropped from No. 6 (101.2) to No. 22 (105.5). McRoberts had a plus-1.5 DBPM in 2013-14; his replacement, Marvin Williams (minus-0.2 DBPM), has been a disappointment in all aspects thus far.
Of course, we can’t talk about Charlotte without talking about Lance Stephenson. He’s been the team’s best defender this year (plus-1.6 DBPM), but despite the sizzle and the occasional threat of a triple-double, Stephenson has been a black hole on offense (minus-2.7 OBPM). And now he’s been dropped from the starting lineup. There’s a reason why the Indiana Pacers didn’t retain his services last year.
The Ace of Speights
No such issues with the Warriors. Their offseason changes have mostly come through – none more so than new head coach Steve Kerr. But as far as his players are concerned, let’s take a moment to acknowledge Marreese Speights (26.9 PER). His offensive skills have never been in question, but now that he’s surrounded by quality defenders, he’s free to be a “one-dimensional” role player without his team suffering for it. Speights has torched opposing benches this year for 27.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes.
On the flip side, Shaun Livingston (minus-4.3 OBPM) and Leandro Barbosa (minus-1.4 OBPM) haven’t provided any offense in relief, but they’ve both been plus defenders since arriving in Oakland. These veteran players have allowed Kerr the luxury to mix and match his lineups as required. Depth is always a huge concern when you make your NBA picks, especially with the Warriors.
Speaking of which, Barbosa is day-to-day with a knee injury, but Charlotte is much worse off. Guards P.J. Hairston (thumb) and Gary Neal (shoulder) are both iffy for Friday, and swingman Jeff Taylor has been suspended 24 games after pleading guilty to domestic violence. It looks like things could get worse in North Carolina before they get better.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Warriors -8.5 at 5Dimes