Charlotte has made a lot of strides on and off the court within the past year and a half, improving in a variety of areas. With defensive minded head coach Steve Clifford at the helm, the then Bobcats improved from 102.7 opponent points per game (29th in the league) to 97.1 opponent points per game (4th best in the league) making them one of the best defenses on the court on any given night. New addition Al Jefferson added elite post scoring and underrated passing skills from down low, two elements on offense Charlotte had desperately lacked in the past. With a top five defense and improved offense, Charlotte improved by 22 games from the previous season.
The vast improvement could not have come at a better time for Michael Jordan and the front office as the team completes its transition from the Bobcats namesake back to the Hornets. Success on the court is always good for business, and coupled with the returning name, the team has seen a meteoric rise in season ticket sales and good publicity.
Great things are definitely happening in Charlotte, with success, excitement, and nostalgia all returning to the Queen City. As the front office tries to build off of all the recent positives, though, they must add something that the Bobcats never truly had: consistent perimeter shooting from their starting five.
Seriously, name the last Bobcats starter who shot over 40% from three? Josh McRoberts was a nice surprise with a knack to hit the occasional three pointer when left alone. He shot 36.1% from three this past season. In the ’09-’10 season, the Bobcats’ best season in their ten year era, Ray Felton hit 60 threes for a 38.5 3P%. Captain Jack loved shooting threes, but never made them at an efficient rate. Certainly Charlotte has had role players who could make perimeter shots. Names like Anthony Tolliver, Gary Neal, Matt Carroll and others come to mind. To find the last starter to average over 40% from three, though, you have to go back six years. Jason Richardson started all 82 games of the ’07-’08 season and hit the deep ball at a 40.6% rate.
The Hornets will come into the new season with an identity of having defensive toughness and owning one of the league’s best post scorers. Teams will undoubtedly continue trying to shut down Al Jefferson with double teams and defensive schemes, leaving Kemba to make something happen on offense. Having a three point threat on the perimeter with him would add another element to a seemingly one dimensional offense from last year. Defenders would not be able to cheat and help against Big Al but would be made to stay on their man, giving Al more room to operate in the paint.
Kemba would have different options than just creating his own shot. Also with a perimeter threat, MKG’s misshapen jump shot would be less of a problem and would free him up to be more of a slasher, which is his natural fit. With a consistent shooter in the starting rotation the whole offense would open up making it a lot easier to find ways to score, giving Charlotte a new identity as a full spectrum offense.
With three picks in a very talented draft and $13-17 million in cap space (depending on Josh McRoberts) Charlotte has a lot of options as to how to bring in such a player. The Hornets have the pieces to trade for a talented perimeter shooter. Arron Afflalo has been linked to Charlotte for the past few seasons and for good reason. Afflalo, a 6’5” shooting guard, shot an impressive 42.7% from deep and 45.9% from the field last season and possesses the skill set to be a solid starter on both ends. Chandler Parsons, who Houston just set up as a restricted free agent, is another solid three point shooter from the small forward position. He shot 37% from long range last year and is young enough to improve that number. Whether through a sign and trade or through free agency, Parsons would fit nicely with the current roster.
If the Hornets elect to keep their picks there are definitely solid shooting options in the draft. Doug McDermott, one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history, should be available when Charlotte is on the clock. Sporting an array of scoring abilities, McDermott excels from the perimeter. The only thing holding him back is his suspect defense and not having a natural positional fit in the NBA. Nik Stauskas, a 6’6” shooting guard out of Michigan, is an elite three point shooter, hitting on 44.2% of his three’s last year. Defense is also a knock on Stauskas, but he could develop into a nice team defender with his underrated athleticism and nice size for the two spot. Gary Harris out of Michigan State is a hard nosed combo guard who plays well on both ends of the court, but measuring in surprisingly short at under 6’3” without shoes Charlotte may hesitate to add him to an already undersized backcourt with Kemba running point at 6’ even. There are shooters available closer to the 24th pick but none that seems as though they could develop into an NBA caliber starter.
Rich Cho’s mantra has always been draft for talent and trade for need. Thanks to the past couple years the front office has set itself up to make a splash in both areas and also in free agency. By using one of these avenues to add consistent perimeter shooting The Hornets could make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference next year. The buzz is back. Hopefully Michael Jordan, Rod Higgins, and Rich Cho bring in a three point threat along with it.
Statistics from basketball-reference.com and draftexpress.com