2017 NBA Season Preview Series: Charlotte Hornets

2017-18 Charlotte Hornets Media Day

Finally. If you didn’t know, Chief is moving to the CHA area and for months he asked for a Hornets preview. Sadly, it’s not up to me, it’s up to the stoolies, so I’m happy through no coercing whatsoever they were finally picked. I think I had them in at least 5 previous polls and the people just didn’t want it. Glad that’s changed. So, Chief, and any other Hornets fans, this is what you can expect for the 2017 season.

2016-17 Season Highlights

So the season hasn’t started yet, and unfortunately the Hornets are already dealing big the injury bug. Losing Batum for a considerable amount of time is going to hurt them, especially when this is the rest of their roster

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We’ve covered a lot of teams so far in this series, but I’m sorry, this is yet another time I truly feel that for a roster with a salary of $117,316,719, which is the 10th most expensive roster in the NBA, that the Hornets are one of worst bang for your buck team in that Top 10, the other being NO. Two first round exits in their only playoff appearances in the last four years, compared to the teams ahead of them in salary cost (GS, CLE, OKC, MIN, LAC, NO, HOU, TOR) CHA is nowhere close. Just looking at this roster you can see the issue. They’ve paid a lot of “OK” guys that don’t really move the needle. And they brought in that cancer Dwight Howard and made him their highest paid player. I’m sure this won’t backfire whatsoever.

It also feels like every year, people overhype the Hornets. Since they had that 48 win season in 2015, I feel like people thought that was going to be the start of them living in the BOS/WSH/TOR tier. That has not happened. For example, even after knowing about the Batum injury, look where 538 just projected them today

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Third best team in the East!! Am I taking crazy pills? Am I watching a different Charlotte Hornets? I can’t even spin this and I’m trying, it makes no sense. Let’s look at this logically. Last season the Hornets had basically a 0 point differential. They scored 104.9 a night and gave up 104.7. I’m to believe, that without their best overall player, that the addition of Howard/MCW and some young promising talent is going to drastically improve? This isn’t 2009 Dwight. This is basically unemployable 2017 Dwight who looks AWFUL.

If I’m sounding overly negative about the Hornets, it’s not on purpose. While I don’t think their quite as good as 538 predicts, they do have young pieces that I think one day will be really good. This is one of the teams in the East that should be thinking about 3-4 years from now, and anything that happens in the meantime is just gravy. Guys like Kemba, Monk, MKG, Frank The Tank, and even Jeremy Lamb are all decent young players.

Kemba for example is like an Isaiah Thomas light. A first time All Star last year, he is about as legit a scoring guard as you’ll find in the league. The definition of a microwave player. When Kemba has it going he can absolutely take over a game, despite his size. MKG is an interesting case. It feels weird that he’s already 24 and has 5 (really 4) seasons under his belt. The big question with him has to be if he’s done developing as a player. That sounds crazy for someone so young, but for example, we’ve gotten no indication that his outside shooting will ever improve. It’s virtually not existent in his offensive arsenal, and he’s a career 20% shooter. I don’t know how you can be that way in 2017. Defensively, he’s been as advertised, but for a #2 pick, I think it’s safe to say if you’re a Hornets fan that you expect more. Career averages of 9/6 isn’t exactly blowing anyone away, and playing just 283 games so far in his career isn’t great either. It may not be fair, but a lot of the Hornets success depends on if MKG ever does take any sort of leap.

I will say his though, Malik Monk appears to be everything the Hornets will need with Batum out. This dude has been flat our nails this preseason


I think there are going to be a lot of teams that will regret passing on Monk this past June.

One reason why I think there is “hype” around CHA is people expect them to be this elite defensive unit. Well, I’m not so sure that’s still true. They were 14th in opponent points last year, and were middle of the pack in terms of defensive efficiency. Steve Clifford is a good defensive minded coach, and maybe the addition of Dwight will actually help somewhat on that end, but there are still plenty of questions. For example, how good can Cody Zeller be? No that wasn’t a joke, he actually wasn’t half bad last year! This is Year 5 for him as well, and if he can build off his 10/6 last year (126 Ortg), his 4/56M contract looks great. But at the same time, he’s a Zeller so you never know.

The more I think about it though, I can’t understand why the Hornets wanted Dwight Howard on this team. Post offense was something the Hornets almost NEVER ran, with a frequency that had them 26th in the NBA. It’s not how they play. Then maybe you think, “OK maybe it was for Kemba and him in P&R”. Well, Dwight was in the 83rd percentile as the P&R roll man last year, which is a substantial upgrade over the other CHA bigs, so I guess in that regards it makes sense. Doesn’t that seem like you’re doing more harm than good though, just for a slight upgrade in P&R offense? As a rebounding team, the Hornets were again middle of the pack, but last year ATL averaged only 1 more rebound a game, so it’s not like Dwight is going to make a huge impact their either. Remember, the Hawks basically paid the Hornets to take him off their hands, that’s never a good look when you’re hometown team wants nothing to do with you.

Fortunately for CHA, the East is so bad, they should still be in an OK spot despite Batum being out for 6-8 weeks. Fully healthy, this team could probably get up to a 6 seed. I just want Chief and CHA fans everywhere to take a deep breath. Nerd analytics tools are selling you false hope in my opinion. The Hornets should be a playoff team, but let’s say they do in fact get the 6 seed, they have no shot against any of the teams projected to be in the 2-4 range.

Official Greenie Prediction: 43 wins