Thanks to dinoDESIGNS for their logo concept. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it. Love it!
Let’s take a step away from the trade rumors, the team record, the playoff picture…let’s step away from it all and just look at the team roster.
In yesterday’s article, I briefly touched on the Hornets roster how the future of the team depends on how they continue to play and develop. I had a reason. While 2 of these guys are rookies that are playing right now are exclusive to playing with the Swarm on two-way contracts (JP Macura and Joe Chealey), they are 2 players that are being developed to become possible Hornets players of the future. Keep in mind our overseas stash-away, Arnoldas Kulboka, who I believe that as he adds size and strength overseas, will become a really good player for the Hornets in the next year or 2. Ah the beauty of drafting players and letting them continue to develop overseas. It’s a wonderful thing.
I would next turn my attention to our 2nd round gems that were drafted, Dwayne Bacon and Devonte Graham. Both of these guys show maturity beyond their age (23), they show flashes of being very solid NBA players. They keep getting slid to the Swarm to get more playing time than they are seeing with the Hornets. Even though it is the “G League”, these guys are putting up very impressive numbers:
I’m telling you fans, these guys are the very, VERY bright future for these Hornets.
Let me break this out for you so that I am referencing my article’s title. There are 14 rostered players on this Hornets team. Of those 14 players, 2 are rookies (Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham), 2 are in their second year ( Malik Monk & Dwayne Bacon), 1 is in their 3rd year (Willy Hernangomez), 1 is in their 4th year (Frank Kaminsky) , then the numbers jump with 1 being in their 6th year (Cody Zeller), 2 in their 7th year (Jeremy Lamb & Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), 2 in their 8th (Kemba Walker & Bismack Biyombo) year, 1 in the 11th (Nic Batum), 1 in the 14th (Marvin Williams), and 1 in the 17th (Tony Parker). We are literally talking about an age range from 20 to 36. Almost half of the team has 3 years or less in terms of experience.
I’m going to take the roster now and apply their playing time based on years in the league, and then explain the depth chart beyond that. None of the 5 guys (rookies and 2nd year players) start currently, which could be a good thing or a bad thing (I say bad but we all have our own opinions). Our starting center, Cody, is in his 6th year in the league, and over those 6 years, he has been moved back and forth from power forward to center at least 3 times. His first in line to back him up is Willy Hernangomez, who is in his 3rd year in the league, and has been fortunate to only have played center. Third in line at center is Bismack Biyombo, who is in his 8th season. He basically never sees the floor. There have been talks about needing more defense and rebounding from the center position, and I truly believe that Biz could provide just that, but as long as we aren’t getting solid and consistent scoring from the other 4 positions on the floor, I think Biz will continue to sit on the bench. Frank Kaminsky is in his 4th season here in Charlotte, and in the last year of his contract. He does not start, but is the backup at the power forward position. While I think he has the talent to play the center position, and sometimes he does, I don’t care that much for him on this team, and my guess is that if he doesn’t get traded away, the Hornets will just let him walk at the end of the season. Our starter at power forward is Marvin Williams, who is in his 14th season in the league. He’s a solid contributor to the team, but would most likely be coming off of the bench on many other teams. Hands down, the power forward position is the weakest position on the team and the one that lacks depth the most. If there was ever a trade that needed to be made, I think something should happen that would net us a very solid starting power forward (maybe Aaron Gordon or Anthony Davis). We have tinkered with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at power forward some, and he is in his 7th season in the league, but he’s turned into a bench player, backing up Nic Batum at small forward. Nic is in his 11th season in the league, and while he has the biggest contract on the team, his contributions are far from what that contract is worth. Perhaps he and Frank should be trade material to get a solid power forward for the future, and Marv could come off the bench (see how I’m tying yesterday’s article to today’s?). I will say that at the small forward position, I am very comfortable with our future. Between rookie, Miles Bridges and 2nd year man, Dwayne Bacon, I feel very comfortable with where we stand at that position. I just really think both guys are going to need to see more time on the court. At this point, I think Bacon should be seeing more time on the floor with the Hornets, and Bridges should get some heavy minutes with the Swarm in order to sharpen his defense. Bacon has definitely earned some NBA minutes in my opinion. I brought up Biz, who is in his 8th season in the NBA, but I left out Kemba Walker who is also in his 8th season. At point guard, his game has only continued to improve each year, and the last 2 seasons have put him at the all-star game. I think this is the year he should be pushed as the starter for the Eastern Conference team. At any rate, he has an incredible backup at the point guard spot with Tony Parker in his 18th season in the league. His experience level is so beneficial, not only for Kemba, but also for rookie Devonte Graham, who has just shown amazing skill, maturity, and willingness to learn and adapt to the NBA game. Having Tony Parker on the team is like getting an NBA coach with “hands-on” experience there to help rookies develop quickly. I think his presence will not only help the point guards sharpen their game, but I think he can also help the players in other positions improve their game as well. Over the past 17 seasons, Parker has played with NBA superstars such as David Robinson and Tim Duncan. He has so much knowledge to share, and I believe he is more than willing to share it. I’m struggling to figure out where to place 2nd year player, Malik Monk. I mean, the move was finally made to let 7th year player, Jeremy Lamb, start at shooting guard. At that spot, he has truly flourished. He and Kemba are a deadly duo on the court. I will be the first person to admit that I didn’t think that Lamb had it in him to step up and be the player he is right now. I did not think he could aspire to be a starting shooting guard, and now, there’s no one I’d rather have starting. Monk, at 20 years old, just comes across to me as immature and possibly hard to coach. Maybe I am wrong. I just know that he is not the first option off the bench, he did fall on draft night for some reason, and he keeps making the same mistakes. I still trust Dwayne Bacon over Monk to come in and play at the shooting guard spot if needed. If we use Bacon at the shooting guard spot, I’m OK with it, or I am OK with him backing up Bridges at the small forward spot in the future. I will say that I feel like our other thin spot is the shooting guard spot. At one point, for a long time, the Hornets were very interested in getting players that could play the shooting guard or small forward spot. I think we took it too far, and we wound up with players that were a jack of all trades and a master of none. That’s great for a bench player, but not so much when it comes to the starting 5. You become super flexible, and at the same time, a little bit weaker in order to be flexible. Perhaps Monk becomes another piece that we could trade to get a solid shooting guard (I think 6’3” is too short in the NBA for a shooting guard).
Lastly, I want to talk about chemistry. Our Hornets back in the day had incredible chemistry. You could say Charlotte Hornets, and the first image that would come to mind was always LJ, Zo, and Muggsy. I mean, look at what we are doing this season. We are having magical nights to honor those guys. Flash forward to a few years back when Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee were a part of the Hornets organization. Our team lacked in skill due to injury, but was still playing at an incredible level, considering the obstacles that were in front of us. Take a look at last season with Dwight Howard here. We probably had more talent here than we had ever had since the return of the NBA to Charlotte, and while Marvin Williams said there were no issues in the locker room, Dwight had quite a resurgence in his career and his numbers increased, however, with all of the rebounds and blocked shots he had, setting new records for the franchise, it did not result in a playoff appearance for us. Take a look at this year where we are all complaining about having 16 wins and 17 losses. Last year at this time we had 12 wins and 22 losses. We are a younger team with more rookies, yet our win-loss record has improved. All of the team seems to be getting along together, and the bench looks more like the days of Lin and Lee than ever before. The team looks like it is excited and happy for what every other player is doing on the court. I think you can call that great chemistry, and I think good chemistry leads to more wins.
Now, all we need to do is address the elephants in the room. We need help at the shooting guard and power forward positions. How do we get that help? Well, that’s up to Mitch Kupchak and Michael Jordan. Keep working the phones guys.