First off, to all Charlotte fans, to the beautiful Buzz City, and most importantly, to the man himself, I’m sorry it’s so low. If it’s any consolation to you, the Hornets are much closer to a league average team than they are to the number 30 Brooklyn Pets. Like a giant, giant, Barclays-sized drop off.
I’m just not that sure what there is here to be so excited for. In large part, the Hornets are bringing back the last-ever Charlotte Bobcats team from 2013-14 that finished two games over .500 and earned a four game sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat. That team succeeded in large part because of a strong Steve Clifford defense and an absolute die hard commitment to favoring lefty Al “Big Al” “Brown Bear” Jefferson post-ups to any kind of fun, exciting spaced out offense. Now, one year after a total flame-out in the Lance Stephenson (no Clippers, nooooo) experiment department, the buzz is back!
Aaaand yikes. A quick dive into last season’s stats shows the Hornets were even worse than I remembered, rounding out the “Holy Trifecta” of horrible offenses along with the Sixers and the yours truly New York Knicks. In 2014-15, the Hornets were in the bottom three in points per game and offensive efficiency, and dead last in both AFG and three point percentage. The only real thing the Hornets did well on the offensive side of the court was to take care of the ball, with a league-low 11.2 turnovers a contest. Which is great and all, but not really the kind of game you’re yelling at the bartender to change the channel to.
Michael Jordan and Charlotte General Manager Rich Cho most likely had upgrading this moribund offense in mind when they went into the summer. Days before the draft, the Hornets packaged Gerald Henderson and 9th overall draft pick and 10 minutes per game baby-face Noah Vonleh for a Nicolas Batum coming off the worst season of his career. The move is pretty decent in a vacuum. Henderson is a crafty scorer and can function as a secondary ball-handler but he’s a career 30% shooter from deep and can’t come close to approaching Batum’s ceiling as a defender or playmaker. The Hornets have already discussed playing Batum at the 2 alongside defensive wunderkind and not-Anthony Davis Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which should give them some serious length at the position and a little more firepower surrounding the twenty or twenty-five Big Al post-ups they’ll run a game.
The only problem is that life is not a vacuum. Taking a gamble on Batum when he’s at his least valuable could pay off big but the guy looked really out of sorts last year and by all accounts also had a fairly miserable Euro basket showing for France (Ain’t nobody got time for that). Not only that but Batum is in the final year of his contract; even if he does exceed expectations this year, they’ll just have to pony up and pay him, all while letting a lottery pick on his rookie deal get away without even getting a chance to see what he can really do.
That sort of commitment to a slightly better, most likely mediocre present seemed very present in Charlotte choosing to draft the polished backup big talents of Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky over a more exciting prospect like Duke’s Justise Winslow. (And thank you again Phil for not trading down!!) While the Hornets may have had very good reasoning in not thinking Winslow’s athleticism/lack of shooting combination would pair well with MKG’s exact same overlap, the last thing these guys really need is some big kind of shooting, no defense playing white guy to back up Spencer Hawes and Cody Zeller. Frontcourt of the future! Kaminsky’s gonna be lucky to crack 20 minutes a game on this team.
I would say that I loved two of smaller moves the Hornets made this offseason, taking a chance on the Thunder cast-off Jeremy Lamb and using the bi-annual exception on Jeremy Lin. Huh, just realized how similar those two names were. Lamb definitely showed some flashes in his time playing in OKC but he was never going to get enough playing time next to those behemoths. Now, in a Charlotte team absolutely devoid of shooting on the wing he might just get that opportunity. And as for the other one? Linsanity? Maaaan, I just wish Melo didn’t hate him so much that we could’ve thrown a couple million dollars to have him play back-up. Miss that guy.
That’s pretty much it on my part. Look for another solid top-10 Steve Clifford defense and an offense that hopefully improves just enough to squeak this team into the playoffs. And hopefully, look for a fun new home for Linsanity and another year of Killer Kemba Crossovers (seriously, he’s got like 10 of those). Oh and yeah, Kidd-Gilchrist is going to miss six months.