In the past 11 NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets have made the playoffs just twice, both of which resulted in a first-round sweep. The Hornets are essentially stuck in the dreaded purgatory area – not good enough to consistently make the playoffs but not bad enough to get high draft picks. While the team has a few valuable young pieces, Charlotte lacks a true centerpiece to build around. Their core of Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller is good enough to compete for one of the final playoff spots, but is nowhere near built for a serious title run. Even with the offseason acquisitions of Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin, this team is poised for either another first-round exit at the very best.
What Michael Jordan and his front office colleagues should be celebrating about is how they managed to unload Lance Stephenson after throwing $27 million over three years to him in 2014. The fact that the Hornets received Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes in return is outstanding considering how poorly Stephenson performed in his only year with the Hornets.
Graphic via hoopshabit.
The good news is that the Hornets already have a long-term solution at the coaching position in Steve Clifford. Clifford has transformed this team’s make-up on one side of the ball, bringing them from dead last in the association to two consecutive years with a top-10 defense. All with guys who aren’t necessarily known for their ball-stopping abilities. The addition of a veteran stopper like Nicolas Batum will only further cement Charlotte’s defensive capabilities – however the questions still remain about the big men duo.
With the addition of No. 9 selection Frank Kaminsky, it remains to be seen how the frontcourt pairing along with Al Jefferson will play out. On paper, it seems like a perfect offensive fit, with Jefferson dominating the middle and Kaminsky feeding off of him with his natural game as a stretch 4. However on the other side of the ball is where some serious red flags pop up. Neither has ever been known for their ability to defend well and both aren’t athletic enough to have the potential to adequately protect the rim. With two slow and below-par athletes as your best two big men, it’s going to be awfully hard to win games in this league.
The Charlotte Hornets schedule did them no favors in scheduling an opening night brawl against the hungry Miami Heat. After a disappointing season for both clubs, it looks as if they each have something to prove. Miami’s aging roster is desperate to prove that they’re not yet washed up and Charlotte wants to recapture a playoff seed. Both teams had an injury-riddled campaign last season and will likely be competing with each other for the final playoff spots. Hence this season series, which will see four games on the Charlotte Hornets schedule, may be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. They will tip-off furthermore on December 9th, February 5th and March 17th.
Graphic via bleacherreport