Look at numbers helps explain Hornets’ rise

Not surprisingly, Hornets center Dwight Howard has been a rebounding machine.

We’re just a few weeks into the season, but it’s not too early to take the temperature of the Charlotte Hornets. Preseason expectations varied widely for Michael Jordan’s club — some outlets forecasted a letdown in Charlotte, while others predicted home-court advantage in the playoffs.

With the help of a few numbers, let’s take a quick look at where the Hornets stand as we head into the winter, the official dog days of the NBA.

14.5 – The average rebounds per game that Dwight Howard has been collecting, tying his career high mark set in Orlando in 2012. The offseason acquisition was polarizing to say the least, but Steve Clifford couldn’t ask for anything more from the 31-year-old center thus far.

7 – The number of road games the Hornets will play in November, trailing only March (9) for most roadies in a month this season. Charlotte will be tested early, as they travel to San Antonio, Minnesota, Boston and Cleveland over the next 30 days.

6 – Charlotte’s league ranking in opponent’s points scored in the fourth quarter this season, up from 18th last season. A staple of any Steve Clifford team, the defensive intensity has seemed to be the best when it matters most this year.

112 – The Hornets average points scored per game at home this season, compared to just 96 away from the Tarheel state. These home-road splits plagued the Hornets last season, as they won just 14 contests away from the Spectrum Center.

7.8 – Fewer total minutes Cody Zeller is playing this year per game, compared to 2016-17. Despite the drop in floor time to accommodate Dwight Howard’s arrival, the incumbent center is still accumulating more rebounds and blocks than last year.

30 – Approximate number of games initially projected to be missed by Nic Batum, according to the preseason diagnosis of a torn ligament in his elbow. Batum may now only be absent for 15 or 16 games, according to reports, and could suit up within the next 2-3 weeks.

16 – Points scored by rookie Malik Monk, out of 18 total by the Hornets to start the fourth quarter versus the Milwaukee Bucks on November 1. The Hornets and Bucks entered the final period tied at 88 when the 19-year-old Monk was set ablaze, dropping shots from all angles. Scoring seems to come more naturally than breathing for the former Kentucky Wildcat.

23 – Charlotte’s league ranking in points scored in the paint this season, up from 29th last season. This modest boost can certainly be attributed to the advent of Dwight Howard and his mammoth presence under the rim.

20 – The Hornets league ranking in fastbreak points scored per game, compared to just 28th last season. Kamba Walker (as usual), Malik Monk and Jeremy Lamb have all been terrific in transition, while the return of Batum will also help the cause.

12 – The difference between the Golden State Warriors fastbreak points scored per game (28) and the second-ranked Oklahoma City Thunder (16). The Warriors are to fastbreak scoring as the Cleveland Browns are to quarterback ineptitude. It’s like they invented it! I recognize this has nothing to do with the Hornets, but that stat is just mesmerizing and incredible… OK, back to the Hornets.

2 – Number of games the Hornets will play in November versus teams who failed to make the postseason a year ago. The New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves are the only clubs on Charlotte’s November calendar that didn’t make the playoffs in 2017. And the Wolves shouldn’t count, as they’ve since added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. Did I mention November will be a tough month for Charlotte?

18 Dwight Howard’s shoe size… as well as his approximate free throw shooting percentage. #analytics

Christopher Kreider | @krydr1