Fan Blog: Let's Get It Started
By John Hartman, hornets.com Fan Blogger
Hornets fan blogger John Hartman is a lifelong Charlotte basketball fan and current Swarm 365 team member. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Hornets organization.
General Manager Rich Cho sure had a busy offseason this year. To put it in perspective, we only have eight returning players from last year’s roster. That means seven new faces heading into the 2015-16 season. I know it’s just the preseason but to go 7-1 with that many new faces, the loss of MKG, and a complete overhaul of the offensive philosophy is promising. We are now a team that puts up 25+ 3-pointers a game while converting on 36% of them in the preseason. Al Jefferson was the only Hornet that didn’t make a three but he also had no attempts, as expected. Let’s take a further look at this year’s roster and what we can expect.
Before I get into the new faces, I wanted to take a moment to touch on the MKG injury. The guy just can’t catch a break. Prior to last season MKG worked so hard to revamp his shooting motion and the results were extremely noticeable. Rumor has it that this offseason he worked just as hard, if not harder, to take his offensive skillset to the next level. Unfortunately it looks like we will have to wait until next season to see the results. Regardless signing MKG to an extension was a smart move. Our defensive stalwart is now locked up long term on a very reasonable contract considering the expected rise in the salary cap.
Although MKG is out for a while, Rich Cho made a move just before the draft that will help ease the pain. The acquisition of Nicolas Batum provides the team with size and versatility on the wing. Batum is the basketball version of a Swiss army knife. He showed throughout the preseason that he can shoot from anywhere, drive to the rim, hit the open man, and play lockdown defense against the top players from opposing teams. His skillset undoubtedly provides a shot in the arm for our offense and helps mask the loss of MKG on defense.
With Batum likely moving to play the three, there is an opening at the two. Throughout the preseason it was primarily Jeremy Lin or Jeremy Lamb starting at the two. After watching the preseason, I prefer starting Lamb at the two with Lin coming off the bench in more of a sixth man role primarily due to his versatility in that he can play both the one and two. With regards to Lamb, I would be lying if one of the first things I think about the Lamb acquisition is that Kemba + Lamb = championship…it worked at UCONN right? In all reality, Lamb just needed a change in scenery with the opportunity to play regular minutes. Playing time was sparse on a loaded OKC roster which makes it harder to develop as a young player. Lamb will have every opportunity to succeed here and that might be all he needs to get to the next level.
As a sixth man Lin should still garner starter level minutes as a result of the lineup versatility he provides. In my opinion Lin, similar to Lamb, just needed a change of scenery with a coaching staff and locker room that support him. The Hornets have a great locker room atmosphere which should allow him to focus on basketball without having to continually deal with the Linsanity label big market media wouldn’t let die. On top of all that how could he not win Sixth Man of the Year with that mohawk?
Although Batum, Lin, and Lamb setup to be the biggest contributors throughout the season, Rich Cho also made moves to bolster our depth. In the preseason Spencer Hawes proved to be Josh McRoberts-esque and exhibited a knack for passing, knocking down the three, and working hard down low. This is starting to become a theme but Hawes is again another player that needed a fresh start with a chance to contribute. Keeping with the theme of skilled big men, drafting Frank Kaminsky gives us an extremely gifted offensive big who can step in and contribute immediately with the potential to be a starter by the end of the season. Although people may have preferred a player like Justise Winslow, the Hornets opted for the more experienced player that fits the system they want to run. I really can’t blame Rich Cho in his decision here as you never know what you are going to get with a young player who had one standout year in college. That and who wouldn’t want to chant “Frank the Tank” during the games? Rounding out the front court, the team went out and signed Tyler Hansbrough showed in the preseason that he will give us 110% every night. His tenacious effort can provide a nice spark off the bench.
Last but not least Rich Cho was able to go out and grab one of the top undrafted free agents in my mind. Everyone remembers Aaron Harrison for his ability to knock down the big shot on the big stage. What I saw in summer league is a player who is a fast learner with a high basketball IQ. Prior to summer league Aaron had never played point guard in his life. However, the coaches had him running the point in summer league. He might have struggled with the intricacies of the pick and roll at times, but Aaron showed his ability to manage the offense and aggressively get to the hoop; often drawing fouls during the process. While he may not contribute right away as he adapts to the NBA, I can see Aaron as a key player down the road for the Hornets and quite possibly one of the biggest steals of the 2015 Draft.
Taking into consideration all the offseason moves and watching the team this preseason, all hope is not lost with MKG going down. In addition to the offseason moves, Al Jefferson and P.J. Hairston trimmed down, Cody worked hard on his outside shot, and we have a healthy Kemba. This is by far the deepest team we have in a while and the roster is full of players hungry to prove themselves. We have a talented team to watch this year and it all kicks off in Miami Wednesday. Time to beat the Heat!