Four Keys to Hornets Playoff Success

With the 2016 NBA Playoffs fast approaching, and the Hornets getting closer and closer to clinching a playoff spot (likely 3-6 seed), it is time that we dig a little deeper into the four keys to the Hornets being successful in the playoffs.

The Crunch Time Lineup

A crunch time lineup that Coach Clifford has run with last few games is very interesting. This lineup consists of Kemba, Lin, Batum, Marvin, and Al. Now this lineup isn’t a juggernaut defensively, but when it comes to scoring, ball movement, and creating shots, this lineup takes the cake for the Hornets. It fits Clifford’s “One in four out” philosophy (4 perimeter guys who can shoot, surrounding one big man down low). This lineup can also be interchanged for key defensive possessions, with Lee replacing Lin and Cody replacing Al.

Kemba, Lin, and Batum can handle the ball, score, and set up teammates. The three of them along with Marvin all shoot well from 3 (Kemba 38%, Lin 33%, Batum 35%, Mavin 40%), and Big Al can still do Big Al things in the post. I will be very interested to see how much Coach Clifford uses this lineup going forward, especially at the end of games, because I think it has the potential to score a lot of points.

The Bench

Lin, Lamb, Kaminsky, and Al have been a very up and down bench as of late. Some games they can either take the lead against weaker benches, but some games they give away a lead and don’t perform at their max potential. The inconsistency has been alarming however, and the individuals in the unit don’t always seem to perform well at the same time. Lin went through a rough patch before going on a recent hot streak. Lamb got benched for Troy Daniels because of his mistakes on both sides of the ball. Frank still has the rookie ups and downs. Al still seems to be getting his legs underneath him after missing a big chunk in the middle of the season. Luckily for the Hornets, the bench goes deeper besides these four. Spencer Hawes is finally healthy, and he can contribute if someone is hurt or not playing well. Also Troy Daniels always seems to play well when called upon and can light it up from downtown any game when inserted.

Clifford has tinkered with the fifth man in the rotation trying out Kemba, Batum, and Marvin, and getting mixed results game to game. The bench is going to be very key come playoff time, and if they aren’t playing at their peak, it seriously diminishes the Hornets chances of advancing in the playoffs.

Cody Zeller’s Confidence

Every fan who watches Hornets games consistently knows that Cody can be great or he can be shaky. When he is confident and is playing with confidence, he finishes strong at the rim, sprints from end to end like Usain Bolt, is a strong rebounder, and is a good rim defender (which is vital to the Hornets who lack one). When Cody is lacking confidence, he is picking up cheap fouls defensively, and he seems to get bodied offensively. A key for Cody is to get a bucket early in the game, which is something Clifford likes to do.

Cody is a huge beneficiary of Nic Batum coming to Charlotte. Many of his easy points come off great Batum passes, often off the pick and roll. Getting easy dunks, offensive rebounds, and putbacks are huge for Cody. The Hornets will need to make sure he is confident come playoff time, with likely first-round matchups of Sullinger/Olynyk, Stoudemire/Whiteside, or Horford.

Kemba and Batum

The biggest key to this team come playoff time is simple. Having the two best players on the team play like the two best players on the team. Scoring 20+ points, making plays for others, being efficient. If even one of these two has a bad couple games or a bad series, it could single-handedly sink the teams chances in the playoffs. When Kemba and Nic are firing on all cylinders, it makes life easier for the players around them to get easier shots and perform better as well.

If Charlotte can get these four things rolling come playoff time, there is no reason that the Hornets can’t advance to the second round, or even surprise some people and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

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Game Recap: Hornets Vs. Celtics 12/23/15

By Trace Walker ()

Last year, I failed to make it to a Hornet’s game, so Wednesday nights game against the Celtics was my first game in the new hive. Although the Hornets played as if they were still the Bobcats, it was a great pleasure to see how much things have changed since the return of the Hornets. There seems to be a new found energy in the crowd at Time Warner Cable arena that wasn’t there when it was home to the ‘Cats.

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As for the game, I was disappointed to not see the Hornets come together and play as a team as they have in other games this season. There just seemed to be no flow in the game and the Hornets reverted to playing one on one, isolation basketball. Every time the team started to get something going, it was like the momentum would be immediately crushed by one thing or another.

P.J. Hairston started the game but only ended up playing twelve minutes as he couldn’t knock down wide open shots while giving up multiple offensive rebounds to the Celtics.

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The Hornets couldn’t get any rhythm in the first quarter as they were taking terrible shots, and the good ones they did take, just wouldn’t fall. They also were called for four 3 second violations (They still call those in the NBA??) in the first quarter, which is just absurd.

The game was never really close at any point, and the Hornets fell behind by 20 in the 3rd quarter. The team tried to make a run for the game in the fourth but comeback hopes were squashed when a Frank Kaminsky and-1 was overturned and called an offensive foul. There were also two clear blocks by Hornet players that were called fouls and sent Boston players to the line.

Frank Kaminsky was the high scorer for Charlotte as he had a career high of twenty-three. It was an impressive night for Frank, but it also highlighted his need for future improvement. Kaminsky may have dropped 23, but he also took twenty shots and missed multiple attempts that I feel like he should of made. It was great though to see him knock down some long balls, and showcase some post moves.

I was also disappointed that Jeremy Lin was not rocking his signature mohawk on this night and had his hair down. Lin, alongside fellow guard, Kemba Walker, couldn’t get anything going, between the two, they shot a lowly 30%.

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The Celtics are no slouch of an opponent as this is the second time they have beaten the Hornets this year. Boston had a very distributed scoring output, five players finished in double figures: Olynyk (20), Crowder (19), Bradley (18), Thomas (18), and Lee (10). After a disappointing last couple seasons, the Celtics have played well, starting the year 16-13.

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It was good to see Physco T get some playing time, Hansborough played solid defense and grabbed three rebounds in eight minutes. Surprisingly, Tyler had the highest +/- of any Hornets player on the night.

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There was also some brotherly love in the post Wednesday night. Hornet’s forward, Cody Zeller, got to match up with his brother, Tyler Zeller, who plays forward for the Celtics. Cody had the better game as he had seven points, ten rebounds compared to Tyler’s two points, one rebound. Tyler will have the bragging rights at the Zeller Christmas though, due to his Boston team being 2-0 against Charlotte.

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After a hot start to the season, the Hornets have cooled down. Just last week the team was found in the top five in the East, but have dropped to tenth after losing five of the last six. Looking forward, hopefully the Hornets can get back on track. The team has been without their center, Al Jefferson, for a month.  It was clear to me how much the Hornets missed their big man. The absence of Big Al left the team with no real big men, and no dominant rebounder. Hopefully his presence will help Charlotte return to their winning ways.

Hugo the Hornet showed up ready for the Holiday buzz on Wednesday night.

Game leaders

Hornets

Points- Kaminsky (23)
Rebounds- Zeller (8)
Assist- Batum (7)

Celtics

Points- Olynyk (20)
Rebounds- Crowder (12)
Assist- Thomas (7)

BUZZ WEEKLY: HORNETS GET HOT AT HOME, UNBEATEN WARRIORS ON DECK

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

There’s no place like home. That certainly seems to be the case for the Charlotte Hornets as they have taken full advantage of a recent homestand, going 5-1 during that span, with the one loss being a tightly contested game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

The team is playing well, their defense isn’t quite what it has been in years past but it is still stout enough to be ranked tenth in the league in defensive efficiency. And part of the increase in points allowed could be attributed to the increase in pace on offense, as the Hornets are fifth in the league in offensive efficiency.

 

They are tops in the league in protecting the ball, always a point that has been stressed by Clifford coached teams. They also rebound defensively at a high rate but they leave much to be desired on the offensive glass, where they rank dead last. Still, the early returns on a team that has only played together for a few months are encouraging, and it’s hard to think that the chemistry won’t improve with time.

 

Nic Batum is becoming the player that he was brought in to be; a heady player that can help facilitate the offense while also having the versatility to create for himself as a scorer. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well the past few games and he has the tendency to turn the ball over, but he is becoming more aggressive in his role as a leader and he always helps the team in other areas with his all around skill set.

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Batum’s numbers for the season are on par with some of the best to ever put on the purple and teal. If he keeps up this pace he will join Jamal Mashburn and the late Anthony Mason as the only Hornets to average 16+ points, 6+ rebounds, 4+ assists and 1+ steals per game. That’s certainly good company and it points to yet another reason that the Hornets should retain Batum’s services for the future.

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Kemba Walker has started to hit his stride as well, particularly in a 39-point outburst in an overtime win against the Kings. He has been shooting more efficiently from the field and has looked more comfortable as a facilitator on the floor.

 

Off the bench, the Hornets have continued to ride Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb, currently the NBA’s highest scoring reserve backcourt duo. Lamb has played great all season and continues to look like a steal for Charlotte. He has notched 13 games with 10-or-more points this season, only scoring in double figures 11 times in all of 2014-15. Lin has already logged four 15-or-more point performances in his first year in Charlotte. Lamb is averaging a career- best 12.8 points per game in 2015-16 and Lin is averaging 10.8 points per game.

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO DECEMBER…

 

After Wednesday, the Hornets will enter a December slate that features quite a few challenges along the way. As the standing sit now, every team on the schedule has a winning record except for the underperforming Wizards, the .500 Pistons and the hapless Los Angeles Lakers; and by no means should the Hornets look past those three opponents.

 

The Hornets are 10-7 overall, and 8-2 at home going into Wednesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. The game will be the last of seven straight home games and Charlotte will need to be hitting on all cylinders to beat the Warriors, who are on a historic 19-0 start to their season. But all good things must come to an end, so why can’t the Hornets be the ones to break the Warriors win streak?

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

 

To say this is a big game is an understatement. While Charlotte certainly doesn’t want to get caught up in a track meet style scoring battle with the defending NBA champs they do have the offensive firepower to keep up as long as they can play solid defense against a team that has been moving the ball as crisp as anyone so far this year.

 

The Hornets pushed the Cavs to the brink in a hard fought game a few days ago, so who’s to say that they can’t pull off the upset on Wednesday? A victory could serve as a HUGE punctuation mark for a Charlotte team that is on the rise.

 

The Hornets played the Warriors twice last season; they lost the first game out west by 25, but in Charlotte they carried a lead into the fourth quarter before eventually falling by five…and that was with last season’s slow paced offense. So hypothetically, we can compete with the Warriors if we bring our A game.

 

Of course there’s always a buzz when Charlotte native and defending NBA MVP Stephen Curry comes to town. The Warriors also boast sharpshooter Klay Thompson and versatile forward Draymond Green, the teams leader in rebounding and assists.

 

The Warriors are deep so the Hornets depth will most likely be tested in this matchup. Golden State can take advantage of turnovers with their transition game so protecting the ball will be more key than ever in this game.

 

The Hornets need to come out focused in this game as well. They are 5-0 at home where leading after the first quarter and they are 8-0 whenever they score 100+ points. Just for fun, they’re also 4-0 at home on a Wednesday. They play their best when Batum is scoring the ball well, so getting him into a rhythm will be important for Charlotte.

 

The Hornets have been as stout as any team at home this season. They are averaging the most points per game at home in the Eastern Conference, with 107.8, the second most three-point field goals in the conference per game, with 10.0 per game at home, and they have logged the second most wins at home in the East (8-2).

 

Unfortunately, the Hornets will be playing most of December without veteran big man Al Jefferson though; he went down in the first quarter of Sunday’s win against the Bucks and is likely out for the next 2-3 weeks with a strained left calf.

 

The Hornets built depth in the frontcourt this offseason and it will be on display during the next few weeks as the team tries to make up for the absence of Jefferson. Cody Zeller will likely step into the starting role at center but the minutes will also be spread around to Spencer Hawes, rookie Frank Kaminsky and seldom used, fan favorite Tyler Hansbrough.

 

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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

 

The Hornets haven’t looked this good in a very long time, it’s a great time to be a fan of our local professional sports teams! The games only get tougher and more meaningful from here on out. Until next time Hornets fans, KEEP BUZZING!!!

 

 

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

 

 

What’s The Buzz?: Hornets look to slow down hot Warriors

Steph & Dell via NBA.com

Steph & Dell via NBA.com

 

by Trace Walker

On Wednesday night, Stephen Curry, alongside his Golden State Warriors, will come home to Charlotte. The roots run deep for Steph in Charlotte, as he attended Charlotte Christian HS and nearby Davidson College. Basketball runs in the family as Steph’s father, Dell Curry, played ten seasons for the Hornets from 1988-1998 and is the current broadcast announcer for the Hornets. Dell is also the leading scorer (9,839) and has the most made three pointers (929) for the franchise.

The Warriors come into the matchup smoking hot and have showed no signs of slowing down in the early stages of the season. A youthful Hornets team look to slow down the oncoming train that is Golden State. After losing defensive anchor Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornet hopefuls believed the 2015 season would be yet another year of disappointment, but the young team has overcome adversity to start the year off 10-7. Led in scoring by guards Kemba Walker (18.4) and Nicolas Batum (16.8), the Hornets have seen a spike (and no I’m not talking about Jeremy Lin’s hair) in offense.

 

Many believed that the Hornets would lack offensive power but the team is ranked 7th in points per game (102.5). The defense was also expected to take a hit, but Charlotte is ranked top ten in opponents points per game.
The biggest thing to keep an eye out for on Wednesday night is the ability to hit shots from deep. In the past, being consistent from three for the Hornets was nearly nonexistent. However, this year the addition of shooters Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, and Spencer Hawes have completely revamped Charlotte’s offense. The Hornets are averaging nearly 10 three pointers made per game, which is four more than last year. No stranger to the three point line are the Golden State Warriors whom are leading the league in three point shooting with 13 made a game. At the head of the GSW three point attack is reigning MVP, Stephen Curry. Curry has dominated the league this year, putting up video game like numbers nightly; 31.9 PPG, 6 assist, 5 three pointers per game.
Although no team so far has found an answer to beating the Warriors this year, trying to slow down Curry can do nothing but help the Hornet’s efforts in knocking down last years champions. The job of guarding Curry will fall upon PG Kemba Walker, who will be greatly tested on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for their opponents, the Warriors have proven that they don’t need to rely on Curry to win as he has not played in the 4th quarter in four games this season. Golden state has found great production from the rest of its team. Last week, big man Draymond Green dropped back to back triple doubles, the first Warrior since Wilt Chamberlain to do such. The Warriors have also found double digit scoring from Klay Thompson (16.1), Harrison Barnes (13.4) and Draymond Green (12.8)
What the Hornets do have in their favor is their honeycomb court. At home, Charlotte has a clear edge and have gone 8-2 so far this year. The key for the Hornets in beating the Warriors is not found in one simple answer, but for their best chance to give Golden State its first loss, the Hornets must limit their turnovers, control the tempo, and force the Warriors to beat them from inside and not out. The Hornets will have to do without it’s big man, Al Jefferson. The low post star underwent a MRI on Monday and was diagnosed with a sprained left calf. Charlotte will miss the centers scoring (13.7) and rebounding (6.4), but it is expected he will make a return in two to three weeks.
With an injured Big Al, and a blazing hot Warriors team, the Hornets won’t have their work cut out for them. Hopefully Cam Newton, who was courtside at a recent game, left behind some of his winning ways for the Hornets. Tune into the game Wednesday night to see two young and energetic teams face off at 7:00 PM ET in Charlotte. The game is available for viewing on Fox Sports Southeast – Charlotte and CSN Bay Area. You can catch it on the radio on stations KNBR 680 AM and WFNZ 610 AM. Also follow @BringBackTheBuz on twitter for updates on the Hornets and the Charlotte sports scene.

BUZZ WEEKLY: A TALE OF TWO TEAMS

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                           Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

They are what we thought they were? Five games in to the NBA regular season and we have seen two different versions of the Hornets team that flashed so much promise through a seven game win streak during the exhibition season. After starting off the season with three straight losses against southeast division foes, the Hornets have regained the team chemistry that had fans buzzing in the preseason by winning convincingly against both Chicago and Dallas.

The first three games weren’t completely terrible. They showed flashes of promise in between bad midrange shots and careless turnovers, but they certainly didn’t resemble the mess that was last season’s version of the Hornets. With nearly half of the roster turned over from last season, there was no doubt that it might take a while for these guys to come together; maybe they just needed a few games to get into a rhythm.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

           Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

That began on Tuesday night when the Bulls came to town. The Hornets came out and immediately punched them in the mouth, going up by 17 in the first quarter and they never looked back. Charlotte absolutely dominated Chicago in every facet of the game en-route to a resounding 130-105 victory. That’s right, 130 from the Charlotte Hornets. If anything, this showed us what could be this season with a newly revamped roster and offensive philosophy.

Earlier that day, the Hornets signed wingman Jeremy Lamb to a three-year extension two games into his career in Charlotte. Before anybody could question the move, Lamb responded with 20 points off the bench on an efficient 9-10 shooting from the field. Lamb continued his strong play two nights later, dropping 16 points on 7-11 shooting so, for the time being, it seems that signing Lamb to an extension was the right move and hopefully we’ve just begun to tap his potential.

After the offensive outburst against Chicago, the Hornets showed more versatility in Dallas. They took control of the Mavericks in the second half of the game with Al Jefferson putting on an absolute clinic in the post to the tune of 31 points and nine rebounds on 15-18 shooting. While the Hornets hit only 6-27 attempts from long range, the constant threat combined with crisp ball movement and floor spacing gave Big Al the room needed to effectively operate with his arsenal of old school post moves.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

             Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

The front office folks have done a pretty good job of putting together a talented team with the additions (and subtractions) they’ve made during the offseason. Jeremy Lin looks great as the teams backup point guard, the aforementioned Lamb is blossoming into a valuable asset, Spencer Hawes (despite some bad play the first few games) is a good veteran presence on the floor with the second unit, rookie Frank Kaminsky has shown promise in limited action and Nicolas Batum has proven his worth with his versatility across the board. In fact, every player has gotten into the game in the past two wins, showing that this year’s team is deep and diverse. We have a mix of players with different skill sets and it appears that they compliment each other well.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images

  Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

One of the most pleasant surprises to me so far though, has been the play of starting power forward Marvin Williams, who is averaging nearly a double-double five games into the season. Williams struggled to find his footing last season but has been an important piece to the puzzle so far, coming through for the Hornets when they need a clutch play. He has been hot from long range and has played heavy minutes with both the starters and reserves due to his ability to slide between both forward spots.

If anything, this seasons Hornets are going to be fun to watch. Even in their losses, they managed to at least keep the games close with their new collection of players. While last seasons team was seemingly doomed from the start, this bunch has developed a chemistry with each other that will hopefully vault them into the playoff picture. It won’t be easy in a southeast division that has so many really good teams though, as Miami has a strong roster and both Washington and Atlanta are off to hot starts with largely unchanged personnel that led them both to playoff berths last spring. Charlotte can ill afford to start slowly as they have in past seasons because the margin of error will be smaller, meaning the Hornets shouldn’t put themselves in a position to play catch up all season.

Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

             Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)

Funny thing is, after the 0-3 start I had a column written up and ready to go but something told me to hold off until after the Bulls game, and I’ve never been happier to scrap an article. Hopefully the Hornets can keep this hot streak going; they hit the road to face the Spurs on Saturday, but then their schedule opens up to where the Hornets could really improve their record as seven of their next eight opponents are teams that will most likely end up in the bottom half of the league. I’m not saying we’re world beaters or championship contenders just yet, but we certainly are an improvement over what we’ve seen in years past. Enjoy the ride Hornets fans and, until next time, KEEP BUZZING!!!

you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.

2015-16 Charlotte Hornets: Reasons for Hope, Reasons for Concern

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Coming into the 2015-16 NBA season, there are a lot of fans in Charlotte who are buying into the hype of a 7-1 preseason and a team that looks like it will be fun to watch this year. However, looking at the improvements that a lot of other teams in the Eastern Conference have made over the offseason, I for one am very skeptical of how this season will turn out and have a hard time seeing this collection of players sneaking into the playoffs.

My first concern, which should be obvious to most fans, is the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the year. In an offseason that saw MKG sign a 4-year $52 Million extension, there was a ton of excitement about keeping a 21 year old elite defender on the team to build around going forward. That is why it was such a bummer to see him tear his labrum in the first preseason game of the year. Not only is he an elite defender on the perimeter, he is one of the most efficient rebounders at his position.  He is also a very good athlete who can get to the rim on the offensive end. In 2014-15, Hornets fans were stoked to see his jump shot improving. Outside of 10 feet, his first two years he shot 28% and 27%, but last season that number jumped up to 40%. Now he still has a way to go, but seeing such a big jump is a positive sign going forward. He also led the team in fast break points per game and ranked among the best in the league at cuts to the rim that generated points. The most staggering stat is that the Hornets were 27-28 with MKG in the lineup, and 6-21 without him last season. All that being said, the loss of MKG is massive and will really hurt the team on both ends of the floor.

Some will point to the addition of Nic Batum during the offseason as a reason to not be too skeptical about the loss of MKG.  I do believe the addition of the former Trail Blazer will be a positive one and will make the most impact of any acquisition the Hornets made during the summer. He had a down year last season, only shooting 40% from the field and 32% from 3 (career averages of 46% and 36%), but he was banged up last season.  In a contract year, I expect him to get back to his normal form. I also expect him to be more aggressive than in years past in Portland, where he was the 4th option behind Aldridge, Lillard, and Matthews. In Charlotte he will be a much bigger focal point offensively, and he will still bring it as an elite defender on the perimeter.

JOHANNESBURG, SA - AUGUST 1: Nicolas Batum #5 of Team Africa dribbles the ball during the NBA Africa Game 2015 as part of Basketball Without Borders on August 1, 2015 at the Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)Getty Images

Coming into the season, Steve Clifford had hoped to play MKG and Batum together at shooting guard and small forward, but with no MKG, who does that vault into the starting lineup?

PJ Hairston. This is a GIANT red flag for me. PJ was very shaky as a rookie, both on offense and defense. When I say the name PJ Hairston, what basketball skill comes to mind? Three point shooting correct? Well PJ only shot 30% from and 32% from the field. When your one quantifiable skill that got you into the NBA is shooting, and you can’t shoot, that is what I call a problem. Watching the summer league games, he didn’t perform well either. If you are an NBA starter, and you can’t even perform at a mediocre level in the summer league, that isn’t ideal. PJ is also a below average defender, which isn’t good when you are also below average on offense. Now I was never the biggest Gerald Henderson fan, but one thing he did was bring it every night on both sides of the ball. That is something I have yet to see from PJ, but I would love to see him take a step forward this season now that he is in a bigger role.

My next concern would be the wings on the bench. Jeremy Lamb and Troy Daniels have proven basically nothing in their NBA careers to this point. Jeremy Lamb is in the same boat as PJ. Known as a shooter, but doesn’t shoot at a high percentage at only 34% from 3 for his career. Troy Daniels has been a very good shooter for the small amount of meaningful playing time he has had in his career (39% from 3), but he is only 6’4 so he is a small shooting guard and even smaller small forward. Jeremy Lamb is also only 6’5, so I am unsure who is going to be the backup small forward when Batum is off the floor. Coach Clifford seems to be of the opinion that Marvin Williams is a power forward and not a small forward, which eliminates him from backup small forward. I do believe that there will be stretches each game where Kemba and Jeremy Lin are on the floor at the same time at both guard spots, but I need to see Lamb and Daniels prove it before I actually think they will be positive bench contributors.

The bench big men are also quite confusing since they don’t seem to have a lot of variety. Assuming Cody Zeller starts at power forward, you will be looking at Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky, and Spencer Hawes as your backup big men. All of them are below average defenders, none of whom can protect the rim. Sure they can shoot a little (which is nice since the 2014-15 Hornets were dead last from 3), but their skills overlap, and that will be a layup line for other teams. This is why losing Bismack Biyombo was a bigger deal to this Hornets team than it would be for most teams. For all of his offensive liabilities, he was a great rim defender; and when he was on the court, opposing teams knew it. Cody Zeller is now the best rim defender on the team, and even he is maybe only average at best. With no MKG stopping people on the perimeter when other teams get into the paint, it will be an issue. Now a lighter and more nimble Al Jefferson should help the interior defense, but he still is a liability on the defensive end.

I believe a valuable edition to the team is Jeremy Lin. Watching Jeremy in Los Angeles he was used incorrectly. Jeremy’s biggest skill is as a pick and roll ball handler. Steve Clifford loves some pick and roll, and I’m sure when Lin is on the floor there will be a heavy dosage. Pick and Roll with Al and Cody, and pick and pop with Kaminsky, Hawes, and Williams should be a very effective offense when the team needs a bucket. Plus, with the addition of Batum and Lamb on the wings (in theory), there should be more spacing for the pick and rolls to operate.

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I hope this season Coach Clifford does a better job offensively and closing games than he did last season. In his first year as coach of the Bobcats, Steve Clifford did a great job of taking a talent challenged team to the playoffs. However, last year he didn’t do as well. I do think a lot of this has to do with talent on the floor (looking at you Rich Cho), but this 2015-16 roster has a lot of money invested into it. I think if this team gets off to a slow start, he could be on the hot seat. He is a very good defensive coach, but this season he needs to be better offensively with more offensive minded players on the roster.

I also would expect Al Jefferson to get back near his 2013-14 All-NBA form after a step back last season. He lost roughly 20 pounds in the offseason by cutting out fried chicken, and I think this will help his career trajectory now that he is into his 30’s. He should stay healthier this season, which is a positive because this team takes a massive step back on the offensive end with him off the court. I hope the weight loss also helps him move better on the defensive end because he is a below average defender who often gets targeted by other teams. He is also in a contract year, and at 30 years old he will want to play well to earn one last big deal.

Overall, I feel that the biggest thing that will hold back this team is not having MKG. He is an invaluable asset that, on this team, cannot be replaced. With MKG, I think this team could have competed for the 7th or 8th seed in the East; but without him, I think this team is somewhere between 28-34 wins, and back in the lottery again. In a division with Atlanta, a healthy Miami, Washington, and up and coming Orlando team, I have a hard time seeing this team really put everything together to sneak into the playoffs (I hope they prove me wrong).

Follow Chris on Twitter @ExtraChrisP_