The Draft Outlook for the Charlotte Hornets
*Photo via Getty Images
The ninth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft belongs to the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets finished the 2014-15 season with a less than fantastic, but not representative record of 33-49. This type of performance usually leads to a decent draft pick. There are several things to look at when breaking down the recent past and the near future of the Hornets. The results of this breakdown may surprise you.
Historically, the Charlotte Hornets are seen as an afterthought. They’re typically placed in that echelon of 8-10 NBA teams who can’t ever seem to get it together. On the contrary, I GUARANTEE that the Hornets will have a better record than last year. Between the three best players on the Hornets, there were 64 occasions that at least one of them didn’t play in a game. Missing your best players USUALLY impacts your record. Usually. This year, Michael Jordan’s trophy squad has a draft pick within the Top 10. If Mike and the Hornets can turn their pick into the honey that holds the bunch together, they should be a playoff team in the East. The question is, who is the player they need? To answer this question, we must understand the current state of the Hornets.
Kemba Walker is the alpha guard on the team, and that’s the way Mr. Jordan wants it. We may not know Walker’s true position, but we all know his heart, and his heart is of a winner. Al Jefferson is the secret weapon of the front-court and a dominant center WHEN he’s healthy. He is currently healthy. He recently accepted his 13.5 million dollar option and is staying with the team. The rising star of the Hornets is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6’7 gritty small forward who showed massive improvement this year in rebounding, and further proved himself as a smart defender and a key piece.
With three pieces in place, what is the fourth piece of this equation? The recent trade between the Hornets and Clippers entails that formerly sad panda and professional air blower Lance Stephenson goes to the Clippers for stretch-five, Spencer Hawes and recently important Matt Barnes. This acquisition of Matt Barnes has me believing that he is the fourth piece. Barnes and Kidd-Gilchrist will be platooning at the small-forward and occasionally, Charlotte’s undersized power-forward position. Gerald Henderson seems to be in line for solid minutes at the shooting guard. Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams are bound to fight for front-court minutes in practice.
All that being said, here’s the Hornets rotation we’re looking at so far: PG- K. Walker
SG- G. Henderson/K. Walker
SF- M. Barnes/M. Kidd-Gilchrist
PF- M. Kidd-Gilchrist/C. Zeller/Ma. Williams
C- A. Jefferson/C. Zeller
We should notice that the Hornets are minute-heavy at their forward positions. Matt Barnes and Mike Kidd-Gilchrist will likely get 30 minutes each, with Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams getting anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes each. Zeller has experience backing up Big Al, and could relieve him when he needs it. This takes away some minute clutter at the 4.
All of a sudden, the small forward position seems to be the deepest position on the team. Al Jefferson is a staple at the center position, with Cody Zeller and occasionally Bismack Biyombo backing him up. (If Biyombo stays) This leads us to look at the point guard and the shooting guard position.
If the Hornets don’t draft a guard, head coach, Steve Clifford is going to have to personally ice Kemba Walker’s ankles after the game. Nobody can handle the amount of minutes that both Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson are due for. Drafting a point guard can shift Kemba to an undersized 2 and Henderson to a 3. This gives the Hornets a lot of flexibility with Barnes and Kidd-Gilchrist. Drafting a shooting guard can bump Henderson to a sixth man role, and that would add fire to the Hornets bench. Mix in the 10 to14 million dollars of cap space, and further intrigue builds for the Hornets’ future.
WHO SHOULD THE HORNETS DRAFT?
If the Hornets are looking to win this year, they draft a dynamic shooting guard like Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, who can play all offensive and defensive aspects of basketball. A one-two-three punch of Walker, Grant, and MKG/Barnes/Henderson has Eastern playoff seed written all over it.
The dark horse option is that if the Hornets plan on parting ways with Al Jefferson next year, they draft a backup center who becomes the starting center when Al Jefferson leaves. This center should be either Willie Cauley-Stein or Frank Kaminsky. All things considered, the Hornets appear to be buzzing.