The Charlotte Hornets open up their NBA Summer League schedule July 11 against Golden State, and the Charlotte fans’ eyes will mostly be on Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston. Cody Zeller will also suit up, as well as some roster hopefuls that Brett Thompson breaks down here.
What what can we expect from Vonleh and Hairston?
Let’s start with Vonleh, the 9th overall pick in the draft. Summer league games tend to be free-wheeling and uptempo with pretty basic game plans. Noah’s strengths are rebounding, effort, and hitting open jumpshots. With only 3 players in Las Vegas for Charlotte that are assured to make the team, we can expect a lot of shots from other players trying to make another team’s regular season roster.
Noah will probably hit a few jump shots but mostly be there to clean up the boards and learn to run with NBA players. Charlotte will see if he has a few post moves, but this summer will mostly be about Vonleh learning from Patrick Ewing and seeing the difference in speed of opposing teams compared to college. Expect some impressive offensive rebounds and putbacks.
P.J. Hairston already has some experience playing the Summer League style because he was drafted out of the Developmental League after leaving UNC. P.J. is known for his outside shooting and can be pretty clutch. He averaged over 21 points per game for the Texas Legends. He can be expected to lead the Hornets in scoring for July.
The bigger question for Hairston may be how he handles being in Vegas for an extended period of time. P. J. was recently charged with assault on a high school basketball player during a pickup game in Durham on July 6th. He will not be arrested but is scheduled to appear in court August 8th. He also loaned the Cleveland Brown’s Josh Gordon his car, which Gordon was driving when he got a DWI on July 5th.
Zeller was in Vegas last year and said 10 days was too long in that city. Can Hairston behave himself and concentrate on basketball in the City of Sin? Or will he find trouble like a kid in a candy store out in the desert?
Zeller will also be in Vegas this year as the only other player expected on the Hornets roster this fall. I’ve always heard that in summer league you don’t find out who can play, but you do find out who can’t play. Last year Cody Zeller averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds per game over four games. He was named to the All-Summer League team along with Jeff Taylor (Taylor of course tore his achilles tendon early in the regular season).
Success in July for Cody led to some positives in the regular season as he was named 2nd team All-Rookie. He did however have a slow start, struggling to pick up the speed of the game and often looked like he was thinking too much. It wasn’t until after the All-Star break that he settled down and had an important role leading up to the playoffs.
So predictions for July are that Hairston leads the team in scoring and finds a way to keep his nose clean, and Vonleh averages double digit rebounds but doesn’t do enough to make the All-Summer League team for 2014. Zeller will probably use Vegas to show off his shooting range since he will inherit some of Josh McRoberts’ minutes. Let’s just hope this year that progress in the summer leads to wins this winter.
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