By Zach Lang
It is safe to say that the Charlotte Hornets were a bust last season, the first under their renewed nickname. As they try to put their Bobcat years behind them, the team has accepted a face lift for this upcoming season. Newly acquired players from trades and free agency include Shooting Guard/Small Forward Nicholas Batum, Center Spencer Hawes, Shooting Guard Jeremy Lamb, Point Guard Jeremy Lin, and Forward Tyler Hansbrough. Another powerful playmaker is the seven-foot rookie Frank Kaminsky III, drafted 9th overall in 2015. Many of these players can be described as underrated, but they have not had the best of luck in past years. Is this team of misfits capable of making a big push in the East? It all depends on how these players choose to continue their careers.Embed from Getty Images
Jeremy Lin has played for two teams since his short stint with the New York Knicks that gave him his rise to fame. He had signed a four year, 32-million-dollar deal after that season to be with the Houston Rockets, but was traded last season to the Los Angeles Lakers. He has experienced decreasing numbers, and was even stopped by the Hornet’s stadium security because he was not recognized as a player (ESPN). It is about time he puts his name back in the light, even if it is as Kemba Walker’s backup on the roster. He is capable of adding talent to this team as a 3-point threat and ball handler, dishing assists to new teammates in the post. It is entirely possible that the Hornets could run a two PG system with Lin and Walker, which could be devastating to other teams if conducted correctly.
Jeremy Lamb is another player that is looking for a fresh start after 3 low-key years in Oklahoma City. His skills are undeniable, as he was a part of the University of Connecticut team that won the NCAA tournament in 2011. He is now reunited with PG Kemba Walker, who was the leader of that 2011 collegiate title team. Lamb is one of many new players that look to increase Charlotte’s 3 point shot percentage, as it was lowest in the NBA last season. He can provide valuable minutes off of the bench behind Nicholas Batum, but he will see more minutes since starting SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a torn labrum in the Hornets’ 106-100 preseason win over the Orlando Magic (ESPN). Kidd-Gilchrist is out indefinitely and will have surgery, projected to miss 6 months, so it is likely that Batum will move to the starting SF position, making the starting SG position up for grabs for Lamb.Embed from Getty Images
The Hornets are the third team Tyler Hansbrough has played for in his career. He wants to get back to his playing level that he had from his early years with the Pacers, using a mid-range jumper and hitting the boards. Last season with Toronto was dismal for Hansbrough, averaging 3.6 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game (ESPN). Both of these were career lows, but Hansbrough has what the Hornets need offensively. “One of Hansbrough’s natural strengths is offensive rebounding and the Hornets haven’t been particularly strong in that area” says Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. He also exclaimed that Hansbrough is a strong fit as a Power Forward, but can be effective as a Center because of his quickness, but his height could hold him back there. Whether he can prove to be a powerful asset remains to be seen alongside other big men Al Jefferson, Frank Kaminsky III, and Cody Zeller.
Despite the blow of losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, this team has promise. Their starting lineup is generally open besides obvious starters in Walker, Jefferson, and Batum, although it is unknown what position Batum may play. The backups now have ample room to prove their worth and possibly make the starting lineup. The team has proven they can win thus far, having a preseason record of 2-0, averaging 94.2 points per game and 44.1 rebounds per game, 10th in the league. Their wins have been against Southeast opponents Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, focusing on a revised 3-point game. They shot 29 and 31 3-pointers in their 2 games respectively, mimicking the Houston Rockets’ effective game beyond the arc. If this team can put together an effective long range game matched with bench depth and overall court efficiency, they can easily outdo last year’s squad and even be a contender in the Eastern Conference.