http://www.atthehive.com/2015/2/2/7962747/Charlotte-Hornets-analysis-Gary-Neal-Lance-Stephenson-point-guardThe Hornets are currently 1.5 games up on the ninth place Brooklyn Nets for the last spot in the Eastern conference playoffs. With Kemba Walker sidelined for at least six weeks and Jannero Pargo still out due to a back injury, the team finds itself without a backup point guard. Rather than sign a free agent, the team has instead turned the second unit ball handling duties over to a committee of Gary Neal and Lance Stephenson.
Enter "Lary Steal".
Prior to Saturday night's lopsided defeat of the Denver Nuggets, the team had played three games with this new personnel: at San Antonio (loss), versus New York (win), and versus Minnesota (win). The statistics from those games were quite telling. In addition to traditional metrics like assists and field goal percentage, with the help of NBA.com's SportsVU tracking stats, it is also possible to track assist opportunities (number of passes that lead to field goal attempts) and passes.
A few things jump out right away when analyzing these figures. First, Brian Roberts played pretty well in these three games. He protected the ball, looked to make plays for others and shot a very respectable 44 percent from the field.
Secondly, Gary Neal had a bad three game stretch as the team's true back up point guard (he only shared the floor with Roberts for a combined 30 seconds). Neal attempted a whopping 18 shots per 36 minutes, didn't average even one assist for every one turnover, and shot more than the number of assist opportunities he created.
Like Neal, Lance Stephenson struggled to find the basket for himself, however rather than trying to shoot himself out of a slump, Stephenson did everything he could to create opportunities for others. The 24 Assist Opportunities per 36 minutes is more than NBA leaders in Assist Opportunities per game John Wall, Rajon Rondo, and Ty Lawson, who all average about 20 per contest. His turnovers are still an issue, but relative to how much he's trying to create, it doesn't appear too detrimental.