We continue our tour of the Eastern Conference by taking a pitstop in Charlotte to take a look at the Charlotte Hornets.
Kemba Walker G
Jeremy Lin G
Nicolas Batum F
Al Jefferson F
Frank Kaminsky C
Key Bench Players:
Tyler Hansbrough F
Aaron Harrison G/F
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist F
Jeremy Lamb G
Lance Stephenson (traded to the LA Clippers)
In their final year as the Bobcats, Charlotte was able to finish 43-39 and place 7th in the Eastern Conference. Even though they got bounced in the first round by the eventual runner up in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat, the Cats looked like they were headed in the right direction.
However, in their first year as the Hornets since 2001-02, Charlotte could only muster up 33 wins and finished 11th in the Eastern Conference. This year, though, the Hornets look to get back on track and the moves they've made are evident.
For starters, they brought in Jeremy Lin. That's right! Linsanity is headed to Charlotte! Now I realize that doesn't sound outstanding, but Lin and Kemba Walker in the backcourt could be one of the most overlooked in basketball. Both are above average at creating space for their own shot, as well as dishing it off for an easy bucket. They also are pretty decent defenders (not like Smart and Bradley good, but manageable) and are capable of defending the perimeter as well as getting into passing lanes.
An under the radar move they made was bringing in Nicolas Batum. Batum is a guy that can free up space for a guy like Kemba Walker to attack the rim. If help comes, Batum can knock down the 3. I can see him putting up 18 a game now that he's a top 3 option.
Another quiet move they made was in the draft. With the ninth pick, Charlotte took 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky out of Wisconsin. While they left some better players out their like Justice Winslow and Kelly Oubre, Kaminsky is a guy that can develop his game under an underrated post player, Big Al Jefferson. I wouldn't expect a Rookie of the Year, but maybe 10 points and 6 rebounds per game.
And let's not forget about Al Jefferson. The big guy can still get it done if he remains healthy. He's an above average, yet underrated, post player who developed a nice hook shot over the course of his playing days. He took a hit last season and only managed 65 games, but was able to put up 16.6 PPG as well as 8.4 RPG. If Big Al stays healthy, I can see a big contribution from him on a young Charlotte team.
The one guy that Charlotte will "miss" is Lance Stephenson. I use the term "miss" very loosely. Sure, the guy can put up points once in a while, and yeah, he's a good defender, but he's a cancer to the clubhouse, otherwise he would still be in Indiana. I think they'll miss his defense, but definitely not his presence.
Finally, the X-Factor. That would be, Kemba Walker. Walker is entering his fifth season in the NBA and has been steady over the course of his past 3 seasons in scoring. His only problem has been putting the ball in on a consistent basis: Walker's career FG% is 39.5%. If the Hornets want to win, they cannot afford too many empty possessions. Walker will need to improve that average to maybe 42-44% if the Hornets want to win. If he cannot, it'll be tough for the Hornets to be taken seriously.
I see the Hornets improving from last year, finishing this year at 37-45 and falling just short of the 8-seed in the weak conference. But you'll see that the Hornets' future is indeed a bright one.