Last season: 43-39, 3rd Southeast Division (7th Eastern Conference), Lost 4-0 to MIA in Quarterfinals
Notable Acquistions: G Lance Stephenson (free agent, IND), F Marvin Williams (free agent, UTA), G Brian Roberts (free agent, NOP)
Draft Picks: F/C Noah Vonleh (Indiana, 9th overall), G PJ Hairston (Texas Legends, 26th overall)
Notable Losses: F/C Josh McRoberts (MIA), C Brendan Haywood (CLE), F Anthony Tolliver (PHX), G Luke Ridnour (ORL)
Burning Question: Can the Hornets win a playoff series in 2015?
Last year, Charlotte took a huge step forward when they made the postseason and played against the Miami Heat. Though they got swept, it was excellent experience for their young talent and first-year head coach (Steve Clifford).
In the resurgent East, Charlotte has to develop continuity on both ends of the floor to reach Round 2 this season.
Finally, the buzz is back in the Queen City! It’s over…the Charlotte Bobcats are no more. Everyone break out your teal and purple starter jackets, the Hornets are back in action!
Michael Jordan listened to the fans’ requests and made them a reality…They are now re-branded with a sleek new logo, great jerseys, and an innovative court design. But perhaps even more exciting, the Hornets are a strong contender in the Southeast Division and are almost a lock to return to the postseason.
Last year, Charlotte shocked many with their newfound defensive identity under head coach Steve Clifford. Clifford immediately changed the team culture and is ready to add more pieces to a top-5 defensive unit (allowed just 97.1 ppg).
Under a new coach, Al Jefferson played the best basketball of his career (All-NBA Third Team) and Kemba Walker emerged as the point guard of the future. The two should play even more efficiently with Charlotte’s new additions, including former Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson definitely needed a fresh start following his questionable antics in last year’s postseason. Under a more disciplined coach and a demanding owner (to say the least), expect Lance to play his most inspired ball ever. He is already one of the league’s top all-around shooting guards but he could ascend into a starring role with Charlotte.
Stephenson’s presence automatically gives Charlotte a boost. If he gets extended time playing with Henderson and Michael Kidd–Gilchrist, they could form one the top defensive wing trios in the NBA.
Lance in the starting lineup gives Coach Clifford more options off the bench. Gerald Henderson should settle into a nice role as the Sixth Man/defensive stopper and could thrive with less pressure on him to produce big points. Along with Henderson, Charlotte added veteran shooter Marvin Williams, scoring PG Brian Roberts and draftees PJ Hairston (UNC) and Noah Vonleh (Indiana) to space the floor for Big Al.
Vonleh, selected 9th overall, could turn out to be one of the top players in this year’s draft down the line. The big man from Indiana has a soft touch, can shoot from long range, and is an impressive athlete.
It’s crazy to believe the Hornets are knocking on the door as a potential contender in the East. Well, actually, the Hornets were historically competitive. The Bobcats, however, not so much.
With Coach Clifford, Jefferson, Walker, and Stephenson leading the way, the Queen City could be back on top sooner rather than later.
Projected Starting 5:
The Hornets have a “logjam” at the power forward position after the departure of Josh McRoberts. They could ideally start either of these three players in 2015: Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh or Marvin Williams. Here are some pros and cons for each of them.
Cody Zeller- “The Soph”
Pros: Excellent size (7’0, 240) and length in the paint. Could develop into an excellent help side rebounder playing with Big Al. His improving faceup game is slowly, but surely, becoming an option for Coach Clifford.
Cons: The 2013 number 4 overall selection had difficulty adjusting to the NBA in his rookie year. The size and speed of opposing bigs seemed to overwhelm him at times; he was out of place defensively and could not get great positioning while posting up.
Doesn’t have the ideal range to space the floor for Jefferson and Walker.
Noah Vonleh- “The Rook”
Pros: Youthful, athletic, mobile big with range out to the three-point line. A ferocious glass attacker with a high motor. Should create many second shot opportunities.
Cons: Very raw prospect on both sides. Some rookies struggle starting on playoff teams from day one. High expectations could limit his overall production. Will miss the first part of the year with a sports hernia.
Marvin Williams- “The Vet”
Pros: Ideal stretch four (shot 36% from 3 last year) for Charlotte. Will space the floor very effectively for Jefferson. Veteran leader with tons of playoff experience.
Cons: Undersized power forward (6’9), particularly in the West. Not a great one-on-one defender or passer. Will struggle to contain taller/more active bigs in the middle.
Zeller, Vonleh and Williams all give the Hornets a different dimension. To start the year, Coach Clifford will probably give the edge to “The Vet,” Marvin Williams. But don’t sleep on the young Hoosiers, Zelller and Vonleh should get plenty of opportunities by midseason.
G Gerald Henderson- Hendo should make a big difference off the bench for the Hornets. He will become the team’s sixth man and will be an excellent source of points, rebounds, steals and assists in a less-pressured situation.
Best Case: MJ’s Hornets are among the top teams in attendance, Walker and Jefferson mesh brilliantly with Lance, Charlotte wins the Southeast Division and reaches the second round.
Worst Case: Charlotte has trouble scoring the ball, Lance is as volatile as ever, they finish 8th in the East and bow out in Round 1.
3rd, Southeast Division (6th Eastern Conference), First-Round Exit
“Bring back the buzz!”- Everyone