Hey Hornets fans. How ya feelin’? I know exactly how I’m feeling and it ain’t good. I’m sitting here, looking at my one true pro sports passion, the Charlotte Hornets, and I just feel deflated. I have that deflated feeling I had with the 7-win Bobcats. The biggest difference between that dismal season and this one is that on paper, there is ZERO reason we should be riding on a crappy 12 – 22 record. I mean, we have next to the worst field goal percentage in the league; we rank 22nd in 3-point shooting, 17th in points scored, but 2nd in rebounding. I’m thinking that rebounding is so high because we can’t hit a shot. I can go on with this:
30th in fouls
28th in steals
26th in field goals made
18th in 3 point percentage
16th in offense
16th in blocks
15th in rebounds
This is where it gets weird. We are 13th in the league in defense, yet we have only won 12 games all year. We’re 1st in free throw percentage. We’re also #1 in turnovers. Yeah, we shouldn’t be very proud of that last one.
Hip, hip…no. No hooray. I believed that this team was easily a top-4 team in the east this season, and instead, we are an absolute train wreck. We used to hang our hat on defense, and we pushed to build a team that could move the ball well, find the open man, and drain 3-point shots. Instead, we brought in a shot-blocking, rebounding, double-double machine with amazing star power and an exceptional personality, and it’s almost like the whole team now counts on him to will the team to victories. I used to see this happen when the team would play a team like Golden State, or Cleveland. The guys would get caught spectating the superstars on the other team and get blown out. Now it’s like we’re doing it to the players on our own team.
So how do we fix it? Coach Clifford is out indefinitely with a medical issue and Stephen Silas is cutting his teeth in a head coaching gig with a very troubled team until Cliff gets back. I don’t even claim to have the answers, but I can always share my $0.02 worth of ideas.
First, we lead the league in turnovers. That has to stop. Most of the turnovers are risky passes, offensive fouls, or some other sort of nonsense that could be eliminated. If we are 9th in the league in the number of 3-pointers we take but only 18th in the 3-point percentage, I believe we need to be taking less 3s, and work with the 8-time all-star big man that we brought in this season. I’m not saying that we abandon the 3-point shot, but I am saying that if you aren’t hitting a 3-pointer, getting 2 points in the paint is an OK thing. 2 points are better than none. I also point to being 26th in field goals made. I hate delving into numbers, but if we can’t make 3s and we can’t make shots from mid-range, we are in trouble. Why can’t we make shots this year? Are we just throwing the ball at the rim and hoping Dwight rebounds and scores? That is not a good plan. Play an inside-out game. Play a give-and-go game. Play a lot more screen-and-roll plays. Do not make dangerous passes that could result in turnovers. You just have to shift to the basics and play to the strengths of the team. They are there, but it shouldn’t take half a season to find them. I know the Zeller injury and the Batum injury, and all the other injuries that we have had to endure play a part in the struggles, but hitting a shot is not something that can be blamed on injuries.
Let’s move on to players on this team and whether or not they should be here or be traded.
I’ll admit it. I was not a fan of signing Batum to the huge contract, but I trust the process, so to speak. I was not a fan of the contract that Marvin Williams got. I look at many factors in these contracts, and when I saw what Marv got, and his age, and the number of years in the league…let’s just say I cringed. I will say that he has been one of the more consistent players on the team as of late.
Michael Carter-Williams should not still be on this team. He’s number one on my list of players to be moved, and the way he’s been playing, he has to be a “throw-in” guy on a trade that makes numbers work. He has very little value for us. When we signed him I was thinking of having a Shaun Livingston sized PG back with the team that would cause matchup nightmares. Instead, he missed so much time at the beginning of the year with his knees; I knew this was a bad thing. I didn’t give up hope…until he took the court and has been as bad as everyone warned us he was. Then I have to look at what the “best value” players are on this team that we could move. Best value is a player like Frank, who is still on a rookie deal. He still has some work to do in the NBA to be a better fit, and I believe he can get there. His game better suits being a stretch 5, but he needs to add mass so he can play the 5. How long do the Hornets want to wait? Cody Zeller is a great value contract, but I think he is also a great fit with this team. I love the guy, but for what he provides, I think he’s a piece you want to keep unless it’s going to take him to make a deal go through to unload a less favorable contract…like Batum…or Williams. Batum has not had a good year at all. His contract does not represent his game play at all. Marvin is playing well, but that is not a pretty contract. MKG, if he turns a corner and gets aggressive with his game on offense (slashing more, to be specific), his contract is very attractive as well.
I could go on for days talking about how this team looks on paper, but the problem is that the result that we expect from what is on paper just is not showing up on the court or in our record. What can we do to remedy this? I fully believe that if we don’t plan to scrap the season, we have to make moves before the trade deadline. I believe that Cho has a plan. He always does. The Jordan Clarkson rumor about the Lakers wanting to trade him is a move by the Lakers to probe value for him. They always do that. The Hornets never throw names out like that.
You want me to plan NBA Trade Machine with this? Send Marv and Frank to the Lakers for Clarkson and Nance Jr. That’s a move. We throw in MCW for Bogut, who Michael Jordan was a fan of, and maybe we have a deal. You want another one? Let’s send Nic Batum and MCW to the Suns for Brandon Knight and Jared Dudley. I could do this all day. Batum, Frank, and MCW to the Nuggets for Faried and Wilson Chandler (I have faith in Julyan Stone as a backup PG). None of these may make a bit of sense for either teams, but they are all moves…some outlandish, some, not so much. I’ll even do one more because there are some players I just like…and would love to see back in Charlotte. Let’s go with Nic Batum, Frank Kaminsky, and MCW for Bismack Biyombo and DJ Augustin. I mean, why not, right?
Something’s gotta change down on Trade Street, or else the tickets for a Hornets game after the all-star break are going to be really cheap, because no one wants to pay to see a team tank. We have the best colors in the NBA, and Jordan-brand uniforms and gear, but we can’t seem to win games. It may be time to shift focus on that win column and how to fill it. We fill it, we fill the seats too.