Tonight the Pistons will be in Charlotte to play against the Hornets at 7:00pm EST. The Pistons are coming off a 4 game home stand in which they won all 4 games. And the Hornets are coming in on 1 day rest, following a win against the Bulls on Saturday.
The Them: The Hornets are actually looking good this year. And not in the "They've got a decent record so far" good. In the "They have the 6th best NetRtg in the NBA so far this year (3.7)" good. They Hornets have somewhat flipped the script from the last two years, where they were a grind it out defense with a dreadful offense based on Big Al post ups and midrange jumpers. This year however the Hornets sport the 4th best OffRtg (103.9) in the NBA, and are shooting the 5th most 3s (and hitting them at a good clip) to get that rating. The defense is pretty average at 100.3, but is much better without Al Jefferson on the floor. (and he is hurt right now so he will not be playing. And FWIW the offense is also better but by a smaller margin.) Without Jefferson on the floor the Hornets are faster paced, and more of a defense oriented team. The team's best players (without Jefferson, although there is some debate as to whether or not Jefferson is actually the team's best player, and some think the Hornets might actually be better without him.) are Nic Batum and Kemba Walker. Both of whom are off to very good starts, Batum has been a bit of a revelation with the Hornets and has showed that they were not stupid to say he would be one of the top offensive options. Batum is averaging 17.2ppg on 43% shooting, and 40% from deep, although his distributing has been a bit erratic with 3.2 turnovers to go along with his 4.5 assists, but he is a pretty good facilitator. Kemba Walker is also having his best season by far, he is scoring 17.6ppg and smashing his career averages with 44.2% shooting from the field and his 5 assists to 2 turnovers is a decent ratio as well. He also is among the leader in blocks for guards. Beyond those two, Jeremy Lamb suddenly looks like a really solid rotation wing (something that was never really true in OKC.) and Jeremy Lin is struggling a bit as of late but has often been pretty good. (he is also allegedly playing hurt.) Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller are perfectly acceptable bigs (and Zeller gets the bulk of center minutes without Jefferson in I believe) and Zeller might actually be more than just acceptable. Frank Kaminsky has been shooting lights out from deep and also playing better defense than expected, although he does not do a ton beyond his shooting. PJ Hairiston is a good defender, but to say that he is struggling to score would be an understatement. And Spencer Hawes freaking sucks outside of the occasional game where he is ok. (think almost like if KCP also was a horrible defender.) All in all there is some real scoring/playmaking talent at the top with Batum/Walker and quite a few guys who are very solid rotation players behind them, and to tie it all together they have an excellent coach in Steve Clifford.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons bench vs. Not dying: The Hornets sport a very solid bench, and the Pistons bench has been better the past few games, but is still not very good. There is potential for this to be an instance of death by bench. I expect the Pistons starters to have an edge in the game, but it will probably not be a huge one, if the Hornets bench kills the Pistons then the Hornets will probably win the game. I do personally like the way SVG is doing the rotation now, taking one starter out at once in a rotation. If the Pistons bench can put in a good game then the Pistons will have a serious advantage, the Hornets really rely on their bench, while the Pistons usually count on the bench to blow it. It is strength against weakness.
Andre vs. Everyone: This is pretty much the standard at this point. Although without Big Al in the center, Andre could end up with a serious advantage. Even with Jefferson the Hornets are not awesome rebounders, without him they are even more short. Batum is a good rebounder for a wing but probably can't compete with Andre, and neither Zeller nor Hawes figure to have much chance either. Andre has potential for a really big game. The only issue he could have is that both Zeller and Hawes can shoot a wee bit so he will have to deal with the dreaded problem of actually leaving the paint on occasion.
KCP vs. Guarding Batum: A lot of the Hornets offense runs through Batum, and he (generally) is slotted as the shooting guard in the lineup. He is also quite a bit bigger than KCP, which even though he has been excellent on defense this year, the one thing that can still give him trouble is when opponents are just too big for him. If KCP can manage his usual shut down defense then a huge part of the Hornets offensive gameplan has a giant kink thrown in it. But on the other hand if KCP cannot contain Batum then KCP suddenly becomes a not very valuable player.
So in conclusion.
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre has 40 rebounds by half time.
Nic Batum is struggling to do much against KCP.
Spencer Hawes sucks.
Run for the hills if:
Nic Batum is scoring on KCP with ease.
The Hornets bench outscores the Pistons' by 40
Andre is struggling to deal with the shooting of the Hornet centers.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre goes for 25/25
KCP destroys the soul of Batum
Kemba Walker has a big game
The Hornets give some very real issues to the Pistons defense, but the Hornets have no answer for Andre and the Pistons win on the back of a great night for Drummond.
What do you think? Think Batum will eat KCP? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!
P.S. Thanks to /r/charlottehornetsthey were super helpful.
EDIT: Kemba is doubtful with illness. Shoutout to /u/HelpMeWithGimpScript for that info.