The Runner Sports

The Hornets Are Starting To Look Like Themselves Again! Is It too Late?

In the past two games, the Charlotte Hornets had impressive home victories over their southeastern rivals in the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks. Granted two games is a small sample size, but the Hornets looked like last year’s squad in the past two games. Last year’s Charlotte Hornets was a team that went 48-34, and pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in the first round. This year’s Charlotte Hornets have been injured, inconsistent, and disappointing. Right now the Hornets are 31-39 and three games out of the last playoff spot in the East. They have been playing better as of late, but is it too late?

What’s Caused the Improved Play?

The number one reason for the improved play in the two wins has been health. For the first time since the beginning of the season, everyone except for Ramon Sessions has been healthy. This year has seen Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb, and Nicholas Batum have all missed extended time. The Hornets are too thin to survive one injury, so when a key piece is out, the team suffers. Charlotte needs everyone to succeed as a team. As great as Kemba Walker is, he can’t carry the team by himself.

When healthy, Charlotte is an above average playoff team. Zeller is the glue guy whose screens are crucial for the offense. The Hornets missed him the most when he was injured. Lamb, Kaminsky, and Marco Bellinelli bring offensive punch off the bench. Batum is a versatile player capable of doing it all. Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist bring defensive toughness. There are not a lot of two-way players, that’s why the Hornets need every player to bring their unique skills in every game.

Besides health, you saw the benefits of home cooking. Charlotte has been far better at home this year than on the road. The Hornets are 20-15 at home compared to 11-24 on the road. With their playoff lives on the line, you saw tremendous energy and tenacity from the Hornets. The defensive end is where this team makes their mark. They simply don’t have enough scorers to be an elite offensive unit. Steve Clifford is a defensive coach, who always gets the most out of his players. They held the Wizards to 93 points, and the Hawks to 90 points, not an easy feat.

The Hornets have got also gotten production from a surprise player. Brian Weber is a recent D-League call-up at point guard, and has been great the past two games. He has been so great the Hornets signed him to a two-year deal. Weber brings toughness and energy. Mainly he has been a huge upgrade at backup point guard over Brian Roberts. Defensively he’s already good, and once his offense comes, the Hornets will have a nice find.

Can the Hornets Actually Make the Playoffs? 

Sitting at three games back, with less than a month left in the season, it likely the Hornets won’t make the playoffs. In fact, ESPN’s playoff odds only give the Hornets a 5% chance of making the playoffs. The main reason it’s so difficult is the Hornets would have to move past the Bulls, Heat, and Pistons to get the eight seed. Charlotte has 12 games left, six at home, six on the road. They have easy games at Orlando and home to Phoenix, but the rest is pretty tough. Their tough games include trips to Toronto, OKC, Washington, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. Also a home game against Cleveland. Looking at their schedule and all the things that would have to happen for the Hornets to make it, I don’t think Charlotte will.

The Big Picture! 

With Charlotte unlikely to make the playoffs, they have to look to the draft. With this year being a very strong draft, this is probably best for the Charlotte Hornets. Even though they likely won’t make the playoffs, look for the Hornets to continue to play well. They are finally healthy and Steve Clifford won’t let this team quit. It is encouraging to see the Hornets play up to their potential, but unfortunately, it is too little too late. This recent stretch of impressive play just makes Hornets fans wonder, what could have been?