The Hornets have had a strong offseason
The Charlotte Hornets may be the least talked about team in the entire NBA. They’re stuck in that dreaded rut of mediocrity, with perhaps a ticking clock on the Steve Clifford / Rich Cho brain trust.
Given that, I personally think they’ve had a nice little summer so far.
That starts with sitting back, watching the draft play out, and then picking Malik Monk at #11. In fact, I had Monk as high as #5 in my personal evaluations. The 6’3″ guard doesn’t do much but shoot, but that’s a heck of a skill in today’s game. In fact, there’s little reason to doubt his ability to be a top-tier NBA shooter: he shot 39.7% from three in college (on 6.9 attempts per game) and unlike some of the other college stars, he hit his free throws as well (82.2%).
I’m not positive that you can start Kemba Walker and Malik Monk next to each other because of their size, but Monk should thrive as a scorer off the bench.
I also happen to like the Dwight Howard trade as well. No one gets more hate than Dwight, but he’s still a good starter at center. Even last year at age 31, he averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds per game for the Hawks. You can make the argument that the team didn’t need Dwight Howard because younger center Cody Zeller is underrated. I’d agree with that, but also point out that Howard is probably a 25-30 minute player right now, allowing plenty of minutes for Zeller to toggle between PF and C. The fact that they acquired Dwight Howard, and dumped Miles Plumless’ longer contract in the same deal was a great move by them.
And I never thought I’d say this, either: but I actually like their signing of Michael Carter-Williams as well. At 1 year, $2.7 million, he’s a solid rotational player for their bench. Carter-Williams was never going to be a good offensive player, but his length at 6’6″ makes him a “plus” defender at the position. (ESPN’s real plus/minus charted him as the 5th best defender among PGs last year.) Carter-Williams can pair with either Kemba Walker or Malik Monk in the backcourt and complement their lack of size without needing to take much of a playmaker/scorer role himself.
the bottom line
I’m high on the chances of Charlotte making the playoffs next summer, but let’s be honest… I probably would have been no matter what they did this summer. Their 36-46 record was unfortunate and an underachievement, given their +0.2 point differential per game. Throw in a healthy Cody Zeller over 80 games, and this team would have most likely been .500.
Now, with a few tweaks and additions, and I believe they can approach 45 wins again. In the East, that’s not too shabby. A few of last year’s playoff teams will fall off (Atlanta, Indiana, Chicago), leaving a nice opening in the 5-8 range. All in all, I’d expect Charlotte to be around #6 or #7.