NBA TEAM PREVIEWS
Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs
Presenting an NBA preview of the Charlotte Hornets that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.
What’s Good… The Charlotte Hornets have a positive mixture of young talent and excellent leadership from head coach Steve Clifford. Kemba Walker has emerged into a close-to-elite point guard (shooting numbers still too inconsistent to claim fully elite status), Nicolas Batum opted to re-up rather than seek a place elsewhere, and Charlotte has a slew of big men who understand their roles. Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller, and others aren’t going to blow you away with athleticism or statistics, but they fit Clifford’s vision and should continue improving with age.
What’s Bad… There isn’t enough dynamic talent in Charlotte for them to realistically challenge the top of the East. That’s the fascinating aspect concerning this organization – they’ve risen from Eastern irrelevance into a position of success, but the step from maintained quality to championship level is enormous. No player with the Hornets is a go-to post scorer, and no guard aside from Walker is completely reliable for a bucket. This team didn’t exactly struggle for offense in 2015-16 (11th in the NBA in PPG), but the individual offensive talent won’t break open a playoff series for Charlotte.
The X-Factor… I’m going to go a bit off the grid and say Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Batum, Marvin Williams, or others would be logical picks here, but keep in mind that Kidd-Gilchrist only played in seven games last season. And the former No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 class has yet to show he’s worthy of the hype that followed him as he entered the league. With his unproven value and recent major injury, I expect Kidd-Gilchrist to be fully motivated and ultimately capable of a productive season. If healthy, it’s entirely possible for him to thrive under the guidance of Clifford. Hustle, defensive versatility, and quiet production are areas Kidd-Gilchrist could fill.
Bet On… Walker putting up the strongest statistical season of his career. I could see 23 PPG and All-Star consideration for the point guard if he continues to lead the charge on this Charlotte path to contention. You can also bet on Batum attempting to trade some of his established selflessness for aggression in order to prove his worth of his contract. Batum is a capable shooter and strong slasher, strengths that could come out on a larger scale now that he’s being paid like a stud.
The Crystal Ball Reveals… Keep in mind that four squads in the East won 48 games last year. I see Charlotte going from 48-34 to 49-33 which lands them fifth in the East behind Cleveland, Toronto, the Boston Celtics, and the Indiana Pacers. The Charlotte Hornets will once again excite its home crowd and show that they’re no longer the downtrodden bunch they were merely a few years in the past.