POSTED: Oct 22, 2015 7:15 PM ET
Hornets Season Preview: Outlook
NBA TV's Vince Cellini talks with Al Jefferson to get his thoughts on the Hornets upcoming season.
The franchise reboot was supposed to happen last season. A fresh new look, a return to the Hornets name and playoff plans for a second conscutive season were all a part of the plan. Somewhere along the way, things went horribly wrong in Charlotte ... starting with the catastrophe that was the free-agent signing of Lance Stephenson. A roster overhaul ensued over the summer and the rebuilding process cranked up all over again. They are, of course, used to starting over in Charlotte. And they'll do it again this season.
Nicolas Batum leads a cast of new faces that includes Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes and rookie Frank Kaminsky, who will be expected to help transform a disjointed roster that was devoid of quality outside shooters. ... In fact, the Hornets were the worst-shooting team in the league last season, with an effective field goal percentage of 45.6 percent. ... Al Jefferson shed 20-plus pounds since last season by eliminating fried chicken and sugary drinks from his diet. ... Under coach Steve Clifford, the defense has never been the problem for the Hornets. Scoring, on the other hand, continues to be an issue. The Hornets averaged just 94.2 points (28th in the league). ... The problem predates Clifford's tenure, actually. In 11 seasons, the Hornets have never ranked higher than 23rd in offensive efficiency.
1. Finding someone to play off of Kemba Walker on the perimeter meant taking a chance on Batum and trading young prospect Noah Vonleh to Portland. It's a risky move from a front office crew, led by GM Rich Cho, that hasn't shied away from bold offseason moves the past few seasons (Lance Stephenson). Batum isn't the wild card Stephenson was, and he has extensive experience playing his role with a dynamic point guard big man combo. He could thrive as the third option to Walker and Al Jefferson.
2. Whatever steps Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have taken this season were thwarted by a torn right labrum suffered in the Hornets' preseason opener, an injury that required surgery and six months of recovery and rehabilitation. MKG's season ended before it started, a devastating blow for both the young defensive ace and the Hornets.
3. Trading Vonleh didn't fix the logjam at the power forward position Clifford has had to deal with the past two seasons. Frank Kaminsky is a better shooter with much deeper range, but it remains to be seen if he will be an upgrade over former lottery pick Cody Zeller.
Whatever opportunities he missed during his time in Oklahoma City, Jeremy Lamb has a chance to make up for now on a Hornets team that desperately needs an athletic wing player with deep shooting range. Lamb could never carve out a niche for himself with the Thunder. He'll have every opportunity with the Hornets, with Batum sliding over to small forward to replace Kidd-Gilchrist and the starting shooting guard spot wide open. Being reunited with his former UConn teammate Walker could be the best thing to happen to Lamb's long term prospects in Charlotte.
Kemba Walker | 17.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.1 apg
Rarely mentioned among the top point guards in the game but has always been productive.
Jeremy Lamb | 6.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.9 apg
Limited minutes in OKC meant limited opportunities. That won't be a problem now.
Al Jefferson | 16.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.7 apg
One of the best low-post scorers in the game should be even better trimmed down and healthy.
Nicolas Batum | 9.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.8 apg
Full of confidence and ready for a fresh start after a rough final season in Portland.
Cody Zeller | 7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg
Certainly looks the part of a NBA power forward, but has yet to put it all together.
Frank Kaminsky | Rookie
Has the ideal skill-set for a team looking for better shooting and floor spacing.
Marvin Williams | 7.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.3 apg
Veteran forward stretches the floor and provides scoring off the bench.
Jeremy Lin | 11.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.6 apg
A 30-game starter for the Lakers last season, he's better suited as a backup.
The influx of talent certainly helps and having Walker and Jefferson in sync gives this team a solid foundation. But they have to find some offensive firepower to go along with that top 10 defense if they want to battle their way back into the playoff conversation.
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