Lauer Sounds Off - Backcourt Filled with Talent
By Scott Lauer
October 2, 2014
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Hornets. His column will appear on hornets.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Hornets organization.
As the Hornets concluded their third day of Training Camp in Asheville, I spent more time analyzing this roster. Their anchor is big man Al Jefferson – we’ve known that for over a year. The backcourt depth though, from starters to reserves, is what strikes me as arguably the best in the NBA. I truly feel that this group of seven, which features Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Brian Roberts, Gerald Henderson, Gary Neal, PJ Hairston and Jannero Pargo, is as strong as any in the league.
Walker has produced 18 points, and six assists per game over the last two seasons (after starting as a rookie three years ago). He’s shown a slight uptick in 3-point and free-throw shooting percentages in each of his seasons and now has more talent around him than ever before.
Stephenson is an absolute bull; I’ve always said that he’s the quintessential player that you want to play with and not against, and more importantly, players such as Walker have echoed that perspective. He led the NBA in rebounding at the guard position last year (seven per game), and logged 14 points, and five assists as well. His five triple-doubles also led the league (at any position). He’ll irritate guys that he’s checking and has a contagious competitive spirit. Both Walker and Stephenson have the chance to enter the all-star conversation.
Coach Clifford will now bring Roberts off the bench as his primary backup point guard, and Henderson as his first shooting guard behind Stephenson. That’s impressive. Henderson has started exclusively in each of the last three years, averaging 15 points over that span. Roberts to me was an excellent and underrated addition; he started 42 games last year in New Orleans, and led the NBA in free-throw percentage (94 percent)! He’s an outstanding shooter, drilling 37 percent from beyond the arc in his career.
Gary Neal, one of the premier shooters in the league, is in top-level shape, having worked out extensively in Charlotte this offseason. According to Coach Clifford, he’s looked as good as anyone in this Training Camp session. On paper, he is third on the depth chart at the 2-guard spot, which is rather remarkable. He drains just under 40 percent of his career 3-point attempts, and also shot 90 percent from the line last year.
Yesterday, I wrote about P.J. Hairston, the rookie who is trying to carve out some playing time himself. He averaged 22 points with the D-League Legends last year and was a first round pick because of his jump shot. Overall, at this shooting guard position specifically, I submit that the Hornets have the deepest talent at this position; it is indisputable.
Pargo rounds out this ultra deep backcourt as a third-string point guard who showed that he could spark a team in quick bursts. Perhaps more importantly, he’s an extension of the coaching staff and a model teammate who promotes a selfless spirit and positive chemistry.
Considering Jefferson’s presence in the middle, along with the aforementioned deep collection of guards, if the forwards can contribute as a group, it’s going to be a very successful season.