2022 Charlotte Hornets: The NBA’s Most Entertaining Team

The 2021-22 Charlotte Hornets started the season 5-1, but after losing 140-110 to Sacramento, they are now 5-5. But in those ten games, the Hornets have emerged as far and away the most entertaining team in the league to watch.

Mind you, I’m not talking about entertainment value if you’re, say, a Hornets fan who wants to watch your team win. Despite the hot start, these guys are legitimately awful, not as good as their .500 record, and they’re probably headed for the play-in tournament as the 9 or 10 seed.

I’m talking about entertainment value if you don’t give a whit about Charlotte as a fan—say, you’re a Pacers fan, like I am—but you love watching high-scoring, every-day-is-the-All-Star-Game basketball.

So what gives Charlotte this honor?

Simple. They have the seventh-best offensive rating in the NBA…and the absolute worst defense.

That means that any time Charlotte plays a team with a good offense, it’s going to be a shootout. Every time they play a team with a good offense and a bad defense, the over/under’s going to be at least 250—the 5-4 Kings are fourth on offense and 22nd on defense.

Plus, the Hornets are fifth in pace. It’s not enough to have a lousy defense. For the points to truly come flying in fast and furious, what you need is a team that plays fast.

Better still, it’s not like Charlotte plays in games that have a bunch of free throws either. They and their opponents each average around 20 or 21 attempts per game, which is usually something like 10 to 12 shooting fouls in a 101-possession contest. Two or three a quarter. Enough to catch your breath, not enough to ruin the flow.

In fact, the combination of a fast pace, a good offense, and a terrible defense has Charlotte both first in pace-unadjusted points per game (that is, the actual score on the scoreboard) and dead last in points allowed (again, on the actual scoreboard.) The average score of a Hornets game this season has been 117-114 in favor of the other team.

The Hornets shoot the ball well from long range—38.8 percent, tops in the league—and they do a good job attacking the rim, shooting 29.0 percent of their shots from 3 feet and in, fourth-best in the NBA. That is to say, almost 30 percent of their shots are layups or dunks. Layups and dunks are fun. So are made 3-pointers, because they indicate that no 20-point lead is safe and there’s always the possibility of watching a big run to swing a game, either breaking it wide open or tightening it in a hurry.

There are other teams with awful defenses that aren’t anywhere near as much fun to watch.

The Pelicans, second-to-last in defensive rating, are seventh up from the bottom on offense. That’s not fun. That’s watching a garbage fire burn, which is only fun if you’re actively rooting for the other team.

No, a truly entertaining team for League Pass purposes has to bring the points on both sides of the ball. Portland does it well—sixth on offense, 25th on defense—and so does Sacramento, as mentioned above.

Likewise, teams like Golden State, Utah, and Miami—the top three teams in the league for Net Rating—are fun to watch when they play other good teams in marquee matchups, but when they play bad teams, they tend to blow them out, and that’s great if you’re a fan of one of those teams but not so much if you want to just watch a wild, high-scoring fun game that feels like it’s got a chance to be close.

After all, Charlotte is 5-5. Sacramento is 5-4. Portland is 4-5. All within a game of or dead on .500, which means on any given night they’re as likely to win as lose, making for even more entertainment value if you like your results to be in a bit of doubt throughout the contest.

But nobody combines great offense with wretched defense quite like the Charlotte Hornets, and that means they’re never going to play a dull, boring game all season. If you’ve got League Pass, you’re definitely going to want to check them out when your own favorite team isn’t playing…or if your favorite team happens to be playing against Charlotte.

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