The Charlotte Hornets have become the dark horse of the Eastern Conference. Last season’s playoff berth was a statement of intent during a season where a good portion of the teams in their position were actively avoiding the postseason. It’s only July, but on paper, the Hornets can compete with any team in the East. They have had a positive offseason so far that will lead to some interesting training camp battles that will only make the team better going forward.
PF – Josh McRoberts (signed with Miami Heat) PG – Luke Ridnour (signed with Orlando Magic) PF – Anthony Tolliver (signed with Phoenix Suns) SG – Ben Gordon (signed with Orlando Magic)
PF – Noah Vonleh SG/SF – PJ Hairston SG – Lance Stephenson F – Marvin Williams PG – Brian Roberts
PG – Kemba Walker, Gary Neal, Brian Roberts, Jannero Pargo SG – Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, PJ Hairston PF – Noah Vonleh, Cody Zeller C – Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo
Training camp 2014 will feature plenty of battles for starting jobs and minutes in general for this suddenly talent-rich roster. Although Lance Stephenson was the closest thing to a marquee signing the Hornets made this summer, Gerald Henderson is a good enough player to challenge him for the starting shooting guard spot. Noah Vonleh vs. Cody Zeller will be the most intriguing of the training camp battles. Both of them are high lottery picks that play the same position. Zeller was underwhelming last season, but a year of experience may give him an upper hand against Vonleh. Vonleh, on the other hand has much more upside than Zeller and his 7”4’ wingspan gives him potential to be very good on both sides of the ball.
The Hornets will be looking to make the playoffs for the second time in a row by building on some of the things that worked for them so well last season. They boasted the #5 defense in the league last year and will be looking to improve that with the additions of Stephenson and Vonleh. Stephenson is known as a willing defender and can wreak havoc alongside the versatile Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Vonleh’s length should add some shot blocking ability to the Hornets front line.
The biggest question mark pertaining to the Hornets will be whether or not they can consistently hit outside shots. They only shot 35% from the 3-point line last season, good for 23rd in the league in that regard. They didn’t have much confidence in their shooting either. They only attempted about 18 3s per game. That’s the 27th most out of all the teams in the league. Hairston should be able to contribute right away with his outside shooting ability. Marvin Williams will also help in that regard as a stretch 4 who will help by pulling opposing big men away from the lane.
This team is moving in the right direction and will be one to keep an eye on as the dust settles in the newly competitive Eastern Conference.