The Runner Sports

The Charlotte Hornets Season In Review

The Charlotte Hornets capped an end to a disappointing season with a blowout loss at Atlanta. Star guard Kemba Walker sat, and the Hornets played a bunch of players that should be in the D-League. Charlotte had waved the white flag, everyone was ready for the season to be over. The Charlotte Hornets finished the season at 36-46, 12 games worse than their record last year. So what caused the 12-game regression for the Hornets?

1. Injuries

According to mangameslost.com, the Charlotte Hornets were the 11th most injured team in the NBA. Based on value, the Hornets lost 5.7 wins to injuries. The most important injury was starting center Cody Zeller. Zeller proved how valuable he was this year, as the Hornets went an awful 3-17 without him. Marvin Williams missed six games, Nicholas Batum missed five games, Kemba Walker missed three games, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed one game.

Their bench suffered even worse losses with Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb, and Ramon Sessions all missing valuable time. Up front is where the Hornets suffered the most with injuries to Zeller, Kaminsky, Miles Plumlee, and Roy Hibbert. With the Hornets already having a weak bench before the season began, they could not afford one injury. Charlotte was never able to build continuity or establish solidified rotations. Each injury was followed by another, and the Hornets never gelled. Some injuries are bad luck, but the Hornets need to be more prepared by addressing their depth in the offseason. One injury to Cody Zeller shouldn’t lead to a 3-17 stretch, the Hornets need more depth, especially up front.

2. Off-Season Losses

Last year the Charlotte Hornets bench was a strength. Jeremy Lin was a big contributor at backup point guard. He gave the Hornets bench some much-needed offensive punch. Lin was also able to play alongside Kemba Walker. His loss led to the Hornets bringing in Ramon Sessions. Sessions is a serious downgrade on both ends of the floor, but especially defensively. Last year, Al Jefferson was able to come off the bench for Zeller and provide scoring in the post and rebounding. In the playoffs, he ended up starting again, and the Hornets ran lots of offense through him. The last key loss was Courtney Lee. Lee is a versatile wing who can play the two and the three, is a good defender, solid three-point shooter, and a straight up hustler. His energy for the Hornets last year was huge.

These three losses were massive, as the Hornets’ replacements were all worse players than these players. Lin is way better than Sessions. Charlotte brought in Roy Hibbert to replace Jefferson, but he injured his knee in the first game and was traded by mid-season. Marco Belinelli was brought in to replace Lee, and his three-point shooting was valuable, but he killed the Hornets on the defensive end.

3. Close Losses

The Charlotte Hornets in close games this year were absolutely awful. Charlotte had a +0.2 point differential, which would have been 5th best in the east, but their inability to finish games doomed them. The Hornets were 8-14 in games decided by 5 points or less. Too often the Hornets blew large leads in the fourth quarter and couldn’t close out. Too often teams keyed on Kemba Walker in the fourth and no one else was able to make a play. Charlotte was too inconsistent defensively to string four good quarters of defense together. Lack of depth also led to the starters playing huge minutes and burning out in the fourth. The year before, the Charlotte Hornets were almost the exact opposite, as they went 14-9 in games decided by 5 points or less.

Positives!

Not all of the season was bad, there are a few positives the Hornets can use going forward. The first one is Kemba Walker becoming an All-Star. Kemba made his first All-Star team this year and he more than deserved it. Walker averaged a career-high 23.2 points per game while shooting a career-high 39% from three-point. Kemba is a star, maybe not a superstar, but he is a player the Hornets can build around. The other main positive from the season is the development of second-year big man Frank Kaminsky. He increased his scoring average from 7.5 points to 11.7 points and proved to be a very good passer for a big man. Kaminsky still needs to work on rebounding and defense, but he at least proved to be a very good bench player for the Hornets.

Going Forward! 

To get out of the middle of the pack and move up in the east the Hornets have a lot of work to do. With limited cap space and not a lot of tradable assets, the draft will be key. Charlotte should pick around 12, and a versatile wing who can play the three or the four would be crucial. Marvin Williams is getting older, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has not developed offensively. He may be moved in the off-season. Charlotte also needs to address its bench, especially up front. Charlotte should use free agency to address this need.

This was no doubt a disappointing season for the Charlotte Hornets, but they are not as far away as people think. A solid draft, with a few minor free agency moves should have the Hornets back in playoff contention by next season.