Leading up to the start of the 2014 NBA season, Swarm and Sting will be pitting the Hornets head to head with every team in the Association every Tuesday and Thursday. In the debut edition, we match the Hornets up with the Milwaukee Bucks.
2013-14 Series: Charlotte swept Milwaukee, 4-0.
Projected Starting Match-Ups:
Brandon Knight has been a very good point guard throughout his NBA career, despite being infamous for being on the wrong end of a monster dunk by DeAndre Jordan. Knight is coming off of a career season with Milwaukee, averaging career highs in points per game, steals per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game. As good as Knight is, Kemba Walker is poised to have a breakout season, surrounded by the most talent he’s ever had in his NBA career. Kemba’s work off the pick-and-roll, ability to drive and finish, and his filthy stepback give him the slight edge.
ADVANTAGE: Kemba Walker
This is the most intriguing match-up between the two teams. Lance Stephenson is Charlotte’s latest free agency coup, a great two-way player with streaky long-range shooting and questionable mental fortitude. Giannis Antetokounmpo, better known as the Greek Freak, holds a large size advantage, and has potential to be the #2 star in Milwaukee behind Jabari Parker. Still, Stephenson’s experience, defense, and transitional ability give him the nod over Antetokounmpo.
ADVANTAGE: Lance Stephenson
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.8 APG) vs. Jabari Parker (Rookie)
This will be a battle between the 2012 and 2014 second overall picks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender who has shown flashes of brilliance offensively, but Jabari Parker is a rare talent who will be an immediate superstar in Milwaukee. Parker can score in a variety of ways, making it more difficult for MKG to slow him down with his defensive prowess, and Parker’s defensive flaws won’t really matter unless Kidd-Gilchrist takes great strides offensively.
ADVANTAGE: Jabari Parker
This match-up features two players whose starting roles are no guarantee. Cody Zeller still has a lot to prove at the pro level, and Ersan Ilyasova has John Henson biting at his heels for the starting job. I give the slight advantage to Ilyasova based on experience and slightly better floor spacing ability.
ADVANTAGE: Ersan Ilyasova
Larry Sanders’ 2013-2014 campaign was cut short because of an orbital bone fracture suffered early in the season. Sanders is a serviceable NBA center, not a superstar, but a solid piece with the right team. Al Jefferson is the face of the Charlotte Hornets. He is a post scoring machine who can hold his own on the boards, and there are few centers in the NBA who are quite on the level of “Big Al.”
ADVANTAGE: Al Jefferson
Key Reserves (Milwaukee): Khris Middleton, John Henson, Nate Wolters, OJ Mayo, Kendall Marshall
Key Reserves (Charlotte): Gerald Henderson, Brian Roberts, Noah Vonleh, Marvin Williams, PJ Hairston, Bismack Biyambo.
ADVANTAGE: Charlotte. The Bucks have a few potential starters on their bench, but Charlotte’s bench contains at least three players who could find themselves starting at some point this year. Charlotte’s depth will pay off in large fashion for the majority of the season, and it provides the largest amount of separation between the Hornets and the Bucks.
Rookies (Milwaukee): Jabari Parker, Damien Inglis, Johnny O’Bryant
Rookies (Charlotte): Noah Vonleh, PJ Hairston
ADVANTAGE: Milwaukee. Jabari Parker is the second best player in the deepest NBA draft since 2003. He would be a first overall pick in conceivably any of the last 5 drafts, and while Charlotte got two great talents in Vonleh and Hairston, Parker is an instant superstar, while Vonleh and Hairston will fight for their roles on the Hornets.
FINAL VERDICT: While the Milwaukee Bucks improved themselves this offseason, the Charlotte Hornets did even more to set themselves up for success in 2014. The addition of Lance Stephenson gives Charlotte another star, another piece for Kemba to work with, and another threat to open up room for Al Jefferson in the paint. Consider this with Charlotte’s deep bench, and Charlotte should have no problems disposing of the Bucks in the 2014-2015 season.
PREDICTION: Charlotte sweeps Milwaukee, 4-0.
Stats are taken from ESPN.com
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