Can’t Put the Ball in the Hole: The Terrible Three

Basketball is a complex game. Analysts dive into advanced statistics when looking at the NBA, basing conclusions on efficiency ratings, win shares, usage rates, or true shooting percentages. Sounds complicated, right?

In essence, however, basketball is simple. The team who scores the most wins the game. The Toronto Raptors scored more points than the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in four games, so they won the NBA championship. Teams that struggle to score will not win many games in today’s league.

Here are three teams that will struggle to put the ball in the basket:

1. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets return to the 2019-20 season with a similarly built team, the only exception being the loss of Kemba Walker. The loss of the three-time All Star is astronomical, however, as Walker was the main source of the team’s scoring. He ran the most pick-and-roll possessions in the league last season at 11.8 per game and put the Hornets offense on his back. Now, the Hornets no longer have Walker’s 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game to depend on. In the off-season, they replaced Walker with former Celtic Terry Rozier, signing him to a three year, 58-million-dollar deal.

Rozier is nowhere near Walker’s level, however, and struggled heavily last season. He showed no improvement and couldn’t hit shots from the outside, connecting on just 35 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Rozier has never shot over 40% for a single season and will not be any more efficient with an increased volume. This team will struggle to score without Kemba Walker’s shooting and passing ability, traits Rozier simply does not possess.

Coach James Borrego does not have a talented roster in front of him to work with, forcing him to have to develop the young players on the roster. He must start Miles Bridges and Malik Monk and play for the future. Bridges is by no means a competent NBA starter yet, but with increased reps he can become a serviceable wing. Malik Monk has shown flashes on the court, but has also been largely inefficient at times. This season, Monk has the chance to become a reliable shooter for this Hornets team. This group of players will lose many games and finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but Charlotte Hornets fans can call this season a success if Bridges and Monk can develop into solid young players for the rebuild.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have a few solid young pieces in players such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr, with a nice mix of veteran talent, including players like Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Regardless, expect the Cavaliers to be towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference yet again, with the rebuilding and development process as the priority for General Manager Koby Altman.

The Cavaliers had the 5th worst offense rating in the entire league last season and will be coming back with the same team this season, except for a few rookie additions. Kevin Love is another year older, another year away from his prime on the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is no longer capable of being the first option on a playoff team and could be traded later in the season in favor of assets to aid the rebuild. The Cavs simply do not have a go-to scorer or a sound offensive system. Additionally, it will take time for Head Coach John Beilein to adjust to the NBA after spending most of his career coaching at the University of Michigan.

Beilein should look to start Larry Nance Jr. over Tristan Thompson. Nance is younger, quicker, more athletic, a better shooter, and a natural fit next to a stretch four like Kevin Love. Nance is also on a longer team deal, while Thompson sits on a one-year deal and free agency next summer. This is a rebuilding year of the Cleveland Cavaliers, looking for flashes of brilliance from their young players. Don’t expect too many wins, Cavs fans.

3. New York Knicks

The Knicks were supposed to have had a huge summer, with dreams of picking Zion Williamson with the first overall pick and signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Instead, they were forced to settle for RJ Barrett in the draft and Julius Randle in free agency.

This Knicks team is better than year’s past. Julius Randle is an underrated player and could be a perennial All-Star in the weaker East. Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, and Taj Gibson are solid players who provide a veteran presence. The starting lineup, however, will most likely be rounded out with younger players like Dennis Smith Jr., RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson. For that reason, the Knicks will struggle offensively. They won’t be at the bottom of the East, but they will be in the area fighting in that 11-13 seeded range.

Coach David Fizdale should start Allonzo Trier and Marcus Morris over Barrett and Knox. Barrett fits into that sixth man role, where he can take his time adjusting to the pace of the NBA while still getting his shots up. Knox struggled in his rookie year, and if Fizdale wants to win games, Marcus Morris can provide tough veteran leadership and shooting to the starting lineup.

The Hornets, Cavs, and Knicks will all struggle to reach average 100 points per game this season. All three teams are amid a rebuild, and it could be years before any are fighting for a playoff spot. This season, however, they will be the bottom-feeders of the Eastern Conference, struggling to put W’s in the win columns. It’s time to tank!