NBA Off-Season Preview: Charlotte Hornets
Record (48-34) Head Coach Steve Clifford and the rest of the Charlotte Hornets had a fantastic season, finishing 6th in the Eastern Conference and taking the Miami Heat to the limit in a 7-game, first round playoff series. However, this team could do even better next season, or not even make the playoffs, and here’s why: at least seven Hornets players are free agents this off-season, and it’s fairly unlikely that all seven return. Those free agents include Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, Troy Daniels, and Tyler Hansbrough. Some good news for Charlotte is that a majority of these free agents have indicated a desire to return to Charlotte, and a few have even stated a pay-cut would be taken to stay put. Before getting into all of that, let’s first look at what went well this season. Kemba Walker continues to play with force, hitting shots, and at times, taking over games for the Hornets. He of course has room to improve, but the guard should be the centerpiece for a team that is looking to build on this past season’s strong finish. Spencer Hawes, Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, and Hansbrough all had solid contributions throughout the season, which is important to note because the Hornets also have a second problem, albeit a good one: there are too many sharp-shooters on this team. Walker, Lee, Williams, Lin, Batum (despite short bouts with injury), Daniels, Jeremy Lamb-all had periods where their shooting was difficult to contain, and it’s frankly a wonder how they all even fit on the court. This would be why Aaron Harrison spent most of his time in the D-League, and why late-season addition Jorge Gutierrez saw very little playing time as well. In addition to figuring out who will get court time next year, Coach Clifford will also have to factor in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is expected next season to be a large part of the Hornets rotation after missing this season after an injury sustained during this past preseason. What will help these decisions be made is who stays and who doesn’t. Jefferson, Williams, Lee, and Lin have also explicitly stated that they are interested in staying with the Hornets, although Lin and Lee are both highly sought after, and it would not be surprising to see Charlotte not match a larger contract that’s offered. Jefferson is also expected to be highly recruited, although it is up to Hornet’s brass to keep him as he has been quoted as stating he’d take a pay-cut to stay in purple and green. What’s truly unclear in free agency is if Batum stays with the team, as he is also sought after despite the injuries that limited him in the playoffs this past season. There are some free agency options if a number of these players do decide to leave. If Batum/Lee/Lin or a combination of these three players decides to leave, there are a number of free agents that might fit well in Charlotte. Evan Fournier from the Magic has been improving since his arrival there; Chandler Parsons of the Dallas Mavericks is also a free agent and he could fill a shooting spot nicely, assuming that he can stay healthy and avoid the injury pitfalls of the past few seasons. If Al Jefferson leaves, the Hornets could gamble and see if Timofey Mozgov from the Cavs would be interested. With the 22nd pick of the draft this year, the Hornets could also add Denzel Valentine of Michigan State, Brice Johnson of UNC, or Taurean Prince of Baylor.
NBA Off-Season Previews
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