Hornets make key addition in Stephenson and former Pacers star will add real quality…
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The Charlotte Hornets impressed last season as they continue to build, and one free agency addition in particular this summer has captured the imagination.
The Hornets (formerly the Bobcats) ended the regular season with a 43-39 record which secured their place in the playoffs last year. However, a seventh-placed finish in the Eastern Conference meant they faced the defending champions the Miami Heat in the first round.
With Al Jefferson suffering with a foot injury, the Heat advanced comfortably but it didn’t take away from a season of progress for Charlotte who had been awful not so long ago.
An 8-2 run at the end of the regular season showed that they could pick up results under pressure as the New York Knicks pushed all the way. However, if there is one area that stands out for required improvement, it is their offensive threat.
Stephenson impact will ensure Charlotte remain fresh and competitive
Al Jefferson was the star of the show last year after averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game as he became a solid scorer and a reliable star.
Both were improvements on his career averages, but injury woes struck in the post-season and he was unable to play to his full potential. Nevertheless, he was well complimented by the back-court which included Kemba Walker who averaged 17.7 points and 6.1 assists per game, and the duo will be expected to play vital roles once again this year.
However, they have a third option this time round to share the responsibility, and Lance Stephenson is undoubtedly an impressive addition after his time with the Indiana Pacers.
Albeit sometimes controversial and unlikeable, the 24-year-old’s ability on the court is not in question, and he may well find a better fit in Charlotte than he did with his former team. Stephenson will add points, assists and rebounds with his all-round game, but there are still question marks over roster depth.
The Hornets roster is deep but that doesn’t necessarily translate into success, and so the onus will ultimately fall on the starters to get the job done on most nights. Only the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers scored less points per game last season, but in contrast, Charlotte were better defensively than most of their rivals.
Coach Steve Clifford has his first year with the franchise behind him and will be a lot wiser for it, and with their playoff style of basketball being displayed right through the season, they could be one to watch when we get to the business end of the year.
The Hornets need a few things to go in their favour, namely Jefferson’s health and Stephenson’s temperament. If their big man steers clear of injuries and plays consistently, they certainly have a chance against any team. Stephenson adds a bit of class and swagger to their roster, and perhaps that is the missing link to going further in the playoffs.
However, they will need to get consistent scoring from him as well as Walker, while the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson will also need to show improvement.
Charlotte have pieces such as Cody Zeller and Gary Neal as well as rookie Noah Vonleh, and so they will be one to watch as the season progresses and the playoffs should be a realistic target again. Have they improved enough to beat some of the top teams in the East? Not just yet.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Lance Stephenson
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Al Jefferson
Sixth Man: Gerald Henderson