Hornets return in dramatic style, beat Bucks 108-106 in OT - Kemba Walker hit a step-back 21-footer with five seconds left in overtime to give the Charlotte Hornets a 108-106 season-opening victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.Click to Continue »
The Charlotte Observer
Grading Charlotte Hornets' 15-Man Roster - Depth Chart: Kemba Walker, Brian Roberts, Jannero Pargo
Walker didn't make huge strides on the stat sheet last year, but he started to fare better on the eye test. He relished big moments, hit some key shots for this team and also developed a good chemistry with Al Jefferson.
His efficiency did take a slight step back, and that is the area for him to improve this year. With Lance Stephenson around, it will ease some of the pressure on him. No longer will he be the only facilitator in the backcourt.
I would expect his scoring to take a slight hit while his peripherals and efficiency improve.
Brian Roberts was a neat signing after the Luke Ridnour experiment did not work out. He is the perfect point guard to run with this second unit. He has a strong outside shot, makes great decisions and seemingly never turns the ball over. He has been his usual self thus far in the preseason.
Pargo is no afterthought. He, too, will provide a punch off the bench. Look to see him contribute around 10 minutes a night of solid shooting and veteran poise as well.
This group will be better than last year's, and it will be good for Walker to have the luxury of picking his backups' brains all year. Walker has never had that proper veteran mentor to show him the ropes, and it could help him take that next step.
Their preseason performances were nothing to write home about, but expectations will be lifted, especially since Walker now has another year of experience under his belt as he heads into his fourth season. The depth has been upgraded as well, and these three have expectations of sailing this ship to at least the second round.
B/R - Charlotte Hornets
Ranking NBA's 5 Most Lethal Up-and-Coming Teams - Age/Potential: 8
The average age of this Charlotte Hornets squad checks in at 26.1, almost a full year below the NBA average. If three outliers over 30 years old—Jason Maxiell (31), Jannero Pargo (35) and Gary Neal (30)—are removed their average age goes down to 24 years.
The Hornets boast young stars in the making in Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson, as well as high-potential players in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, PJ Hairston, Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller. Those six players combine for an average age of 21.8 years.
Team offensive focal point and leading scorer Al Jefferson is only 29 years old and has a game that has grown more potent with age.
Not only has he developed his offense every year, his now near fundamentally perfect post game will age well.
Previous Success: 7
The Hornets, as the Bobcats, made the playoffs last season for only the second time since the reincarnation of an NBA franchise in Charlotte.
This was quite a feel-good story for the franchise that recorded an NBA record low winning percentage in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
Two recent playoff berths, combined with a decent 48 percent winning percentage in the last five years, make the Hornets a decently successful team.
The franchise has yet to record a playoff win since its return but has made steps in the right direction.
Team Chemistry/Fit: 6
The Hornets went out and spent to bring in two players that improve their three-point shooting in Marvin Williams and Stephenson, as well as drafting a third in Hairston.
This perceived improvement should only create more room for Jefferson to operate on the block and facilitate smoother offense in Charlotte.
That being said, the majority of the players on this roster are not natural space creators.
Players like Gerald Henderson, MKG, Stephenson and even Walker are better when they have room to slash and get in the lane, and both Walker and Stephenson are some of the best passers off the dribble in the league, as seen against the Orlando Magic in the video above.
Stephenson is always going to be a bit of a concern with his volatile personality, but the Hornets hope a strong locker room can keep him in line enough to let his talent really shine.
The Hornets will also have to navigate the sticky situation of Jeff Taylor's arrest for domestic violence in a Michigan Hotel.
Future Retention/Flexibility: 9
Charlotte has everyone on its roster potentially under contract through 2015-16 except Neal, Pargo, Maxiell and Taylor.
On the other hand, it could have zero players under control past that season if it so chooses, with only team options and qualifying offers past 2015-16.
Overall Talent: 8
The Hornets boast two potential All-Stars at point guard and shooting guard, as well as an All-NBA third team player at center. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a solid contributor who, if he can generate any kind of consistent offense, could make a big leap this year.
Bench players Neal, Henderson, and Hairston can really fill it up and will hopefully provide an improved offense.
The team does lack a true superstar, but so do a lot of good teams in the league.
Total Score: 38/50
Biggest Early-Season Hurdle for Every NBA Team to Clear - Making a list of the Charlotte Hornets' most lethal shooters is an awkward exercise. They have Marvin Williams, Brian Roberts, Gary Neal. There's...well, they have...Oh.
Three-point shooting isn't going to be the Hornets' strength, which is a problem. They have to shoot them. That's how offenses function nowadays—the good ones, anyway. Charlotte ranked 23rd in distance shooting last year, and its offense ranked 24th overall.
Although the offense improves with the additions of Lance Stephenson and Noah Vonleh, neither is a terrifying long-range threat. And while Kemba Walker (33.3 percent) and Gerald Henderson (34.8) are going to bomb away, they're not efficient gunners.
In fact, only one player on the Hornets roster was both in the NBA last year and converted more than 36 percent of his threes.
Here's to Jannero Pargo single-handedly turning the Hornets into three-point pioneers. Or, more realistically, here's to some serious three-point growth from within.
Late comeback falls short as Hornets lose to Pacers - In the final preseason game of the year, the Hornets started flat and couldn't muster enough of a comeback to take down the Pacers.
With Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and Noah Vonleh all missing this game for the Hornets, the goal for coach Steve Clifford may have been getting through the game healthy. Well if that was the goal, then count the game as a success as there were no apparent injuries. However, if the goal was to win the game, then the Hornets failed, losing to the Indiana Pacers 88-79.
In their final preseason exhibition, the Hornets started decently, but it all seemed to fall apart once the first few substitutions came into the game. Down 16-14 midway through the first quarter, the Hornets then gave up a 25-5 run. The Pacers size was giving the Hornets legitimate issues on the wing, with P.J. Hairston having to guard the likes of Chris Copeland (list at 6'9") and Janerro Pargo having to guard C.J. Miles (listed at 6'6").
Despite a bad first half, the Hornets rallied in the third to cut it down to 14 before the final frame. Then Gary Neal got ejected for complaining to the referee. He didn't appear to do much to warrant the technical or the ejection, but considering he had shot 1-11 from the field at that point, maybe it was a blessing Neal got the boot. Clifford then went with Justin Cobbs, Pargo, Hairston, Cody Zeller, and Jason Maxiell and surprisingly they went on an incredible run. Pargo made a Kemba-like crossover and Hairston hit a trailing 3-pointer to bring it to within 2 with 5:33 left to play.
Clifford then brought in Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brian Roberts, and Marvin Williams to play with Hairston to try to complete the comeback. Unfortunately, the Hornets were already over the foul limit and struggled to stay out of the referee's cross hairs for the remainder of the game and ultimately fell short.
What stood out? Kidd-Gilchrist (13 points and 7 rebounds) had a great game, playing aggressive and making smart plays. He added a nice pull-up, contested jump shot and a few drives right into Roy Hibbert. Brian Roberts (19 points on 7-14 shooting) shot the ball well, lead the team in scoring, and for the most part controlled the game while protecting the ball. Other than those two guys and the second half defense, coach Clifford likely doesn't have much positive to say about this game. Oh and Hairston was taking 3-point shots from out of bounds during halftime.
Stat of the night: Al Jefferson had six blocks. For those unfamiliar with Jefferson's game, that is a lot of blocks for him. He had a good game defensively, which is always nice to see from a guy who does the majority of his work on the offensive end.
Next up: Thankfully this is the last preseason game for the Hornets and the next one will count for real. Charlotte opens up against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wednesday October 29th. Be there or miss out on the complimentary tuxedo t-shirt.
At The Hive