Which Hornets Need to Step up This Season?
The 2015-16 Charlotte Hornets were extremely competitive after the All-Star break last season, as they had a 21-8 record after the All-Star break. They went back and forth with the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat for the 3rd,4th,5th and 6th seed throughout the second half of the season. In the end, the Hornets went back to the playoffs after a one year absence and ended up with the 6th seed, losing to the Miami Heat in an exciting first-round, seven game series. This offseason saw the Hornets re-sign Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams, but they also lost some key pieces from the previous playoff season in guard Courtney Lee (Knicks), center and sixth man Al Jefferson (Pacers), and guard Jeremy Lin (Nets). The scoring and bench play of Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin will be missed along with the defensive presence of Courtney Lee. The void will have to be filled by a plethora of players this year, and two of these guys will really need to step their game up this year.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (MKG), the talented but often injured forward, will need to make it through at least 75% of the season this year for the Hornets to move on and contend for another playoff spot. While the Hornets were able to make the playoffs without him last year, they also had the firepower and leadership of Al Jefferson to come in off the bench, the ability of Jeremy Lin to run the offense with or without the absence of point guard Kemba Walker, as well as finish games down the stretch.Not to mention, the successful acquisition of Courtney Lee after the All-Star break. Those guys are gone and MKG will need to be productive. Within his first four years, MKG’s game totals have gone from 75 to 62 to 55 and then last year only 7. Before he was injured, MKG averaged around 13 points and 6 rebounds a game while shooting around 55% in those seven games. His scoring will need to increase because as long as he is healthy, he will see a lot of time with the second team. The length of him MKG and Nicolas Batum on the wing will be a troubling sight for opposing teams. And on the second team, he and Batum will have plenty of chances to score. MKG’s defense has always been a staple of his game since he entered the NBA. His combination of quickness and toughness gives him the ability to defend smaller and bigger opponents. The Hornets defense, offense and rebounding rating improves tremendously when he is on the court.
According to stats from http://basketball-players.pointafter.com, MKG’s efficiency on the court and how it affects the Hornets when he is off the court is remarkable. The Hornets average shooting percentage is 53% while he is on the court compared to 50% when he is off the court, and opponents are shooting 46% with MKG on the court and right at 50% when he is off the court. Before he was lost for the season last year, he was on pace to have the best offensive output of his career. Just remember, MKG is only 22 years old. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve those offensive numbers while playing stout defense, the Hornets may go through the season without missing a beat.
Frank Kaminsky stayed relatively healthy his rookie season and actually moved into the starting lineup when Al Jefferson was injured. Kaminsky, however, was not consistent with scoring and rebounding last year and that will have to improve. He more than likely will move into the starting lineup at center. Kaminsky will also need to step up the rebounding numbers as he only averaged 4 rebounds a game. This offseason it was reported that Kaminsky added some more muscle which will hopefully help him in the post this year. “Frank the Tank” showed flashes of being able to the shoot the short/mid-range jump shot and hopefully he has developed somewhat of a game in the low post. With Tyler Zeller backing him up or even possibly playing alongside of him with the second unit, his rebounding and scoring in the post will be needed. Kaminsky will also be looking to improve on the 41% FG shooting, which for a seven footer is fairly poor. This probably comes from fewer attempts near the basket and more jump-shots for a big man. Maybe Kaminsky adds to his strong showing in the playoffs last year as a confidence builder towards the regular season. The addition of Roy Hibbert along with starting power forward Marvin Williams should help provide the veteran big man leadership he will need going forward this season.