By: Will Stevenson
2016-2017 Charlotte Hornets Stats
Record: 8-4, 3rd in NBA Eastern Conference
Last Game: L 116-121 at NOP
Coach: Steve Clifford (8-4)
PTS/G: 105.9 (12th of 30) Opp PTS/G: 101.2 (11th of 30)
Expected W-L: 8-4 (7th of 30)
We have been waiting for a moment like this. As a North Carolina native, there hasn’t been much to cheer for this season. The NBA AllStar game was pulled, Bills have been passed that seem unconstitutional, the Panthers whiffed in the Super Bowl, the Tarheels lost on a game winning shot to Villanova after seemingly hitting a game-winning shot. It’s been pretty bad around here. As a Hornets fan, we usually just sit in the back and wait until the Hornets are good until we cheer, seeing as most of us were scarred by those Bobcats years. It’s funny being a Hornets fan, the Draft isn’t usually a place of optimism for us, because we have seen us pick players that haven’t panned out (the grab everybody from UNC draft), or we just trade them away to other teams (Biyombo). When we draft, we have to hope that a certain player turns out to be a diamond in the rough. Since we aren’t a destination city, nor do we have the destination organization, we don’t get the free agents that teams overdose on during the offseason. Al Horford isn’t visiting. Lebron James. LaMarcus Aldridge. Not even Stephen Curry. We’ve managed to be alright through it all, trading for average players and signing bench glue guys to keep the pace ticking for our offensive style. I want to take us through the good times, the bad, the drafts, and all the up to the current situation of the Hornets. So let’s take a look back through our history to get a gist on what type of team this organization has been building.
If you wouldn’t mind, let’s go back to the 2004 Expansion Draft for the Bobcats. http://www.basketball-reference.com/draft/NBA_2004_expansion.html
Look at that list. Gerald Wallace is literally the only player that was able to be a staple of our team for a few years. Is that Zaza Pachulia, no way. When we started out in 1988, we drafted Rex Chapman, then JR Reid (ehhh), Kendall Gill, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. We had a pretty marketable young team until we didn’t resign anyone as everybody was either traded, or left in free agency when free agency started to mean something. We seemed to have hit the jackpot with Kobe Bryant, but you know how that goes. We drafted Ricky Davis in 1998, but Ricky was Ricky, which he was never able to hone in his ego and talent at the same time. In 1999 we drafted Baron Davis, which was something we hadn’t had in a very long time: A point dynamic point guard that could score at will. In 2000 we drafted Jamall Magloire (the funniest AllStar selection ever), which didn’t pan out very well for the Hornets.
Then David Stern stepped in…. New Orleans Hornets.
So yes, the expansion draft takes place and we take Emeka Okafor (2004) with the first pick. He was a defensive big man who we hoped would bring the championship pedigree to our team: Nope. From 2005-2011 the Bobcats started doing some really weird things, or it’s now known that Michael Jordan was making some pretty bad picks.
2005: Raymond Felton (5th) Sean May (13th)
2006: Adam Morrison (3rd)
2007: Brandon Wright (8th) Jared Dudley (22nd)
2008: DJ Augustin (9th) Alex Ajinca (20th)
2009: Gerald Henderson (12th)
Then in 2011, the tide changed a bit when the Hornets selected Kemba Walker (9th) with their first pick.
2011: Kemba Walker (9th) Tobias Harris (19th/traded)
2012: Michael Kidd Gilchrist (2nd)
2013: Noah Vonleh (9th) Shabazz Napier (24th/traded) Dwight Powell (45th)
2014: Frank Kamisky (9th)
*Jordan turned away picks from Boston, and also turned down the opportunity to take Justice Winslow who, in fact is MKG 2.0 (defense, more playmaking ability, and can’t shoot) just to take Frank Kamisky* (Devin Booker was available)
I don’t know if you seem a few themes here, but Jordan loved taking ACC players, non scorers, non playmakers, and the Hornets always seem to pick 9th overall. What this means is the Hornets aren’t usually super bad enough to get the first pick, they’re only bad enough to sell tickets and keep fans involved. Look at those names, look at those players and who is and was a contributor. There are many teams that have messed around and built their team through the draft: Oklahoma City, Golden State, Portland, Milwaukee (we’ll see), Philadelphia (before the tanking), Washington, Utah and a few others. It takes time, but it can work. Teams have to pick the right players, develop them and hope they stick around and stay healthy. In all of the picks Charlotte has made, only two have been close to being an AllStar, and even that’s a stretch. So whether we’ve taken the wrong guy, or taken guys that didn’t translate under our coaching staff, our draft record is right there, and it’s very underwhelming.
The Hornets have always been a cheap team. Say what you want, but the Hornets aren’t the franchise looking to go deep into their pockets to spend on a free agent. The Hornets, like other teams this offseason, were forced to sign players in order to hit the basement line of each team’s salary cap. Kemba is averaging 25 ppg this season, Cody Zeller is serviceable, Nicholas Batum is ok, but not as efficient, and Marvin, Frank and Belinelli are adding points to the lineup as the Hornets average over 105 ppg this season.
So did the Hornets do it right this time, or did we get lucky with Kemba and Steve Clifford? I can’t count how many coaches we’ve run through on account of Jordan’s hand, but it seems to be a process headed in the right direction. Charlotte hasn’t had a scoring wing in a very long time, and after Big Al’s departure this offseason, the middle seems bleak until Frank can improve his game to take over. Right now, Kemba is playing out of his mind as the pick and roll has been the halfcourt offense we’ve longed for since Baron Davis was taken from us by David Stern. At the moment, we are 8-4 and playing at a blistering pace that has been a long time coming since Clifford’s hire. Our offensive rating is high, and our defensive rating is high also when compared to our pace of play.
Maybe this is the year we make it to the second round. Maybe this is the year we go deep in the playoffs and garner respect from other fan bases. Maybe we’ll change our drafting ideals. Actually, we won’t. We’ll be the same old team we’ve always been management wise, but for right now the players and coaching staff are making being a Hornet fan something to look forward to. I’m actually looking forward to May.
*All stats and draft information are from Basketball-reference.com*