There are 6 Charlotte Hornets players on my mind right now that could possibly be key factors that could change the way the world looks at the Hornets from the 2014-2015 season on.
Now, I need to clarify 2 things for everyone.
First, I excluded Al Jefferson because he’s going to do what he does, and he already fits the mold of a player that WILL sway the season He swayed us last season, and I have no doubt that it will continue. I also omitted Kemba Walker. I omitted him for that very same reason. The guys I’m talking about, with the exception of Lance Stephenson, are guys that I really haven’t seen anyone talking about on this Hornets roster. The focus is completely on Kemba, Al, and Lance to carry the team. The truth of the matter is that it takes more than 3 players to make a team a winning franchise. They guys I’ve mentioned are guys that will have new roles, or will need to step up in order to stay with the Hornets and to launch us into what many Charlotte Hornets remember from the days of old.
Second, I did not include Noah Vonleh or PJ Hairston. They are rookies and totally unproven on the NBA court. We will honestly not be able to make valid statements about either one until we actually see them on an NBA court, in an NBA game, playing against NBA players. Once we see that, it will be an article all its own.
So with that said, onward and upward…
The obvious first guy is Lance Stephenson. This is an energy guy that excels on both ends of the floor. Forget about blowing in ears, this guy can play some basketball on both ends of the court. He does whatever it takes to get the job done on defense and he can score the ball as well. I have a feeling that playing with Al and Kemba, his game is going to elevate to the next level. Kemba can drive the ball, and Al can score in the post, but Lance can do both as well, in addition to having a decent 3-point shot and range all over the court. You have to look to Gerald Henderson’s numbers when mention Lance, because he’s the guy that Lance is replacing. Gerald sometimes looked sluggish on offense, so hopefully Lance will come in and give us a boost at the SG position.
I’m going to use this point to bridge into the next player on my list. Gerald Henderson has been the starting SG on this team for a few years now. How will he perform as a 6th man? If he can score efficiently when he’s in the game, and keep his numbers similar to what they were as a starter, while playing solid defense, he could be a very valuable weapon on the second unit. I just have to ask the question as to whether he sticks as a Charlotte Hornet, or would another team be looking at him and his skills. We have Gary Neal on the team, but Gary’s numbers in categories other than scoring the ball just don’t match up to Gerald’s. Gerald is a more complete player than Neal and his ability to score the ball. It has me wondering if Hendo’s days as a Hornet are numbered. Perhaps a great deal of that will rest on how rookie PJ Hairston blends into the NBA. I have a tendency to believe that Hairston will be a good NBA player, but he has a ways to go before anyone should be mention him as a starter…or as the 1st option off of the bench. I’m glad he’s here, but I’m trying to be honest.
My next guy that could be a breakout player this season is MKG. We all know what that jump shot he has looks like. Well, in all honesty, we know what it did look like. We need to refer to it in the past tense because if you browse over to the Hornets website and look for the video of Noah Vonleh shooting shots, you may see MKG in the background. He’s shooting short jumpers with no awkward hitch, no strange release, and just overall, a nice looking jumper. If Coach Price has tamed MKG’s jumper, that opens up a whole new world for him. In the past, NO defender bit on his pump fake. If those jumpers are falling, he has 2 options; 1) He shoots, he scores, or 2) The defender bites on the shot fake and allows MKG to score on a drive. He has quite the knack for converting and-1s. It can only get better with his shot improving. He was averaging 7.2 points last season, so if his point totals start sticking in the teens, our scoring woes begin to fade away.
I have to look at the possibility of another starter in Cody Zeller. As the season came to a close, we were seeing flashes of him understanding the NBA speed, and he started holding his own. Can he fill the shoes that Josh McRoberts left when he took the longer deal in Miami? I think Cody can fill them, but just not in the same fashion that McBob did. We won’t see flashy passing from Cody, and we won’t see him putting on a clinic with ball handling, but I do believe that we will see a stronger Cody playing a little bit of the Center position, we’ll see him with a few post moves, and I even believe we may see a few 3-pointers out of him. You heard that here first. Cody has a great basketball IQ, and I believe that his number only get better this season. I expect good things out of him. Cody may have to flourish at the C position with Noah Vonleh on the team. Then again, what if Noah isn’t finished growing? Perhaps he becomes the guy over 7’ that is our center of the future. Vonleh’s only 18, so in theory, he could still grow a little bit.
I saved 2 of my favorite Hornets for last. First, Jeff Taylor is a guy that could become something special. Many are down on the guy because he struggled his rookie season. He himself said that he was playing underweight. He’s an explosive jumper and a really good defender. He stated that his biggest obstacle in that rookie year was getting used to the NBA speed. I think NBA players that stay in school longer struggle a bit more with that NBA speed, but that’s just me. For me, it was appearing that JT was really starting to get into the swing of things, and then, his Achilles decided it was done with the 13-14 season. As long as he’s 100%, I truly believe that he’s an x-factor for this team and I hope he will bounce back from the injury and be our solid 2nd option at small forward.
Lastly is my buddy Bismack Biyombo. I’ve stuck with this guy like glue for every year he’s been in the league. He’s another raw player that was young when he got here and had only 4 years of basketball experience as he entered the NBA. Each year I have seen him grow stronger, gain patience, and learn skills that he needed to learn in order to be successful. Last season his patience was evident. He didn’t get as much playing time, but his footwork improved. I have been saying that every season, Biz has added something to himself to make it in the NBA. The first couple seasons were rough ones, with different coaches each season. Stability is a key for a young player to flourish. Having Coach Clifford, Coach Ewing, and Coach Price to anchor him for a second season in a row and to teach him, is a great tool that he did not have before. I believe that this is the season that you will see the development of a short jumper in Biz. I also believe you will get to see a post-game. This is the season that I have been saying will be when Biz breaks loose and becomes a solid bench guy, and possibly a player to consider as a starter for some teams. Hopefully he doesn’t prove me wrong.
Here are a few numbers from my “6 guys” from last season:
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So, there you have it Trade Street Post readers. These are my 6 guys that could be huge chips that change the face of the Hornets franchise. I still could see Hendo or Gary Neal traded at some point this season. Neal would fill the need of a team desperate for a shooter, and Hendo would fill the need for a team who loses their SG to injury, or they just need a solid vet. What would they net us in return? Perhaps Robin Lopez? Perhaps a pick and $? It’s just too soon to tell. All I know is that they are all Hornets and I support every one of them. I even support Jannero Pargo, who is a class act guy who can provide vet leadership to our young team.
Let’s Go HORNETS!