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 this edition, we match the Hornets up with the Philadelphia 76ers.
2013-14 Series: Charlotte won the series, 3-1.
Projected Starting Match-Ups:
This match-up pits Kemba Walker up against the defending Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams was the benefactor of a lackluster rookie class, but that shouldn’t discredit the numbers he put up in 2013-2014. Michael Carter-Williams established him as the face of the Philadelphia 76ers, and he should continue to thrive in that role in the upcoming season. Despite this, Kemba Walker holds the slight edge over MCW. While Carter-Williams edged Walker in steals and assists, Walker turned the ball over less while scoring at a higher rate.
ADVANTAGE: Kemba Walker
While Stephenson and Wroten scored at nearly identical clips, Lance Stephenson is just simply a better all-around player. Stephenson doubled Wroten in the rebounding category, better distributed the ball better, and his two-way play is among the best in the league. Wroten should see his statistics increase this year with increased minutes (assuming he gets the starting role), but for right now, Lance Stephenson is clearly the better player at shooting guard.
ADVANTAGE: Lance Stephenson
2014-2015 should be an interesting season for both small forwards in this match-up. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still has plenty to prove, offensively. Hollis Thompson was thrust into a starting role for the Sixers after they traded Evan Turner away. Both players have question marks surrounding them (Can MKG fix his jumper? Can Thompson succeed in a starting role?), which makes this an unexpectedly intriguing match-up. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gets the slight nod, as he has experience in his starting role, and his excellent defense makes him a vital piece in Charlotte’s starting line-up.
ADVANTAGE: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Thaddeus Young was made a case as Philadelphia’s MVP in their 2013-2014 campaign, leading the team in scoring. Marvin Williams will be a new face in Charlotte’s starting lineup, and his role is uncertain in terms of offensive load. Thaddeus Young proved himself a much better scorer, though, and will likely play a similar role for the 76ers this season.
ADVANTAGE: Thaddeus Young
C: Al Jefferson (21.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.1 BPG) vs. Nerlens Noel (Rookie)
Al Jefferson was Charlotte’s anchor in 2013-2014, and will be this season, whereas Nerlens Noel sat out the entire season due to an injury suffered in his freshman season at Kentucky. What we do know about Nerlens Noel is he is a shot-blocking machine who combines his height and athleticism to make a fantastic centerpiece for any team. Despite this, the edge goes to the old guard in Big Al. Jefferson should be an All-Star this season, whereas it’s difficult to predict how Nerlens Noel will compete at the professional level.
ADVANTAGE: Al Jefferson
Key Reserves (Philadelphia): Jason Richardson, Casper Ware, Elliot Williams, Joel Embiid, KJ McDaniels, Jerami Grant.
Key Reserves (Charlotte): Gerald Henderson, Brian Roberts, Noah Vonleh, Cody Zeller, PJ Hairston, Bismack Biyambo.
ADVANTAGE: Charlotte. This really isn’t very close between the two teams. Jason Richardson is aging, and none of these other reserves scored over 6 PPG for Philadelphia. By comparison, Charlotte’s roster features three former prominent starters and three first round draft picks, two of whom are fighting for a starting power forward role, one of whom is the first ever D-League player to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft. Philadelphia’s ace in the hole, Joel Embiid, is currently injured, which we will get to shortly.
Rookies (Philadelphia): Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, KJ McDaniels, Jerami Grant, Jordan McRae
Rookies (Charlotte): Noah Vonleh, PJ Hairston
ADVANTAGE: Philadelphia. Philadelphia was guaranteed a superstar with the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and Joel Embiid fell into their laps after suffering an injury that could put him on the shelf for months. Embiid was at one time considered the first overall pick by many, and he very well may be the man that Cleveland and Milwaukee let slip through their fingers. He may potentially spend his first year on the bench, much like his teammate, Nerlens Noel, but one thing is clear: Philadelphia is stockpiling talent for the future. KJ McDaniels was excellent for Clemson, and an ACC Player of the Year candidate, and Jerami Grant could prove to be a worthy late pick. Charlotte’s two rookies are excellent for a win-now mindset; the 76ers are looking to set themselves up impressively for the future decade.
FINAL VERDICT: Philadelphia is a young team still in rebuild mode, whereas the Charlotte Hornets are all in on making a deep playoff run this year. Charlotte’s blend of youth and experience will simply be too much for this young Philadelphia squad. The Hornets have a better starting line-up, a better bench, and a better coach, and that should show fairly obviously during this series.
PREDICTION: Charlotte sweeps Philadelphia, 4-0.
*I moved Marvin Williams to the starting PF role after receiving multiple pieces of feedback suggesting he wind up the Opening Night starter. As the offseason progresses, we should have a better idea of what players start in which positions, and can predict the season’s match-ups accordingly.
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