Apr 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker (15) is pressured by Miami Heat guard Norris Cole (30) in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte Hornets 2014-15: Best in Charlotte History? Part 2 of 4

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This is Part 2 of 4 discussing what it would take for the 2014-15 Hornets to become the best in Charlotte’s history. We established in Part 1 that the 1997-98 team currently has the title. (The point guard situation for next season was discussed in further detail by Nathan Miller here).

The next question to answer: What kind of season does Kemba Walker need to have to make this next season the best in Charlotte’s history? Is Kemba the best point guard Charlotte has ever had?

Let’s start with Charlotte’s point guard history. The names that come to mind are obviously Muggsy Bogues and Baron Davis. Both were discussed in Part 1 as being on some of the best Charlotte teams. But of those two and Kemba, who is the best? Let’s break down the three of them. Note all statistics from basketball-reference.com.

Muggsy Bogues

Muggsy played 14 seasons in the NBA from 1987-2001 including 9 in Charlotte. He was top 5 in the league in assists five different times and top 10 in steals three times. He did not make an All-Star game and is still the shortest player in NBA history.

A closer look at the numbers shows Muggsy was usually above average but never great.  A player with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 15.0 is considered average every year so players can be compared year to year. Muggy was over 15.0 seven times with his high being 16.9 in 89-98 and 94-95. Just for comparison Lebron James and Kevin Durant have been getting closer to 30.0 PER the last few seasons.

Muggsy was top 5 in the league in assists five different times and top 10 in steals three times

Offensively Muggsy was definitely pass first. He was known to win shooting contests in practice and could hit the open shot during games, but obviously struggled more when guarded with no doubt his 5-foot-3 height being a contributing factor. His field goal percentage for his career was almost 46% but was really only a 3-point threat one season and never averaged even one 3-pointer per game.

Defense would be his downfall, though he did what he could. Defensive Win Shares (DWS) is used to determine how many wins for the season a player contributed to based on defense, and Muggsy had a high of 2.8 and was usually less than 2.0 each season. Opposing guards would post him up, and he would mostly have to steal the ball or hope for a double-team.

Overall Muggsy Bogues was solid for a long time and being 5-foot-3 he maximized his talent. You could not ask more of Bogues for an NBA career.

Baron Davis

Baron Davis has played 13 seasons from 2000-2012 and is currently trying to make a team after suffering a knee injury in the playoffs in 2012. He is a two-time All-Star in 01-02 for the Charlotte Hornets and 03-04 for the New Orleans Hornets.

Baron played three seasons in Charlotte before moving with the team to New Orleans so he could be a confusing case in discussing best point guard in Charlotte history. We’ll look at overall numbers and then discuss his three Charlotte seasons.

His PER for his career is 17.8, which means his average season was better than Muggsy’s best season based on efficiency. He broke 20.0 three times and had a high of 21.0 in 96-97 for Golden State. His high in Charlotte was 18.2 in his 01-02 All-Star season.

He didn’t have Muggsy’s shooting touch with a field goal percentage of 40% for his career. But he was far more dynamic and was one of the great dunking point guards I can remember. He also was top 5 in apg four times and led the league in steals per game twice (though neither season was in Charlotte).

Baron has an interesting case for best PG in Charlotte history. He certainly has had the best career of any point guard to play in the Queen City, but with only three seasons in Charlotte and five with the Hornets it can seem complicated. Would you rather have 3 good seasons with Davis with 1 season being All-Star caliber, or 9 seasons of solid Muggsy?

Kemba Walker

Kemba was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2011 and played three seasons with three different coaches. He was of course heavily involved his rookie season in a team going 7-59 for worst winning percentage in NBA history. He has shown significant improvement in his short time in Charlotte and was the second best player on the team last season that made the playoffs with 43 wins.

Starting with PER, Kemba actually took a step back this past season. He had a 14.9 PER his rookie year (below the average of 15.0, remember), then jumped to 18.8 before falling back to 16.8 in 13-14. This is most likely due to PER being an offensive stat, though it does include steals and blocks.  It is stat-line heavy, so your opponent could score 40 on you but if you steal the ball from him 4 times and block him twice, it looks good in your PER.

It could be that Steve Clifford’s coaching had Kemba focused more on defense as his DWS went up from 1.1 the previous season to 3.3 last year. That’s a good number for an undersized PG in this day and age when he’s facing a star at the position night in and night out. Just don’t ask Muggsy to feel bad for him being “undersized.”

Apr 14, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Charlotte Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

He has also struggled with shooting so far, topping 40% just once in 12-13. As much as people talk about how Al Jefferson gets people open shots, Kemba’s shooting percentage dropped after Al got here and actually got worse as the season went along. It should be mentioned that he had to miss a few weeks in January-February with an ankle injury and may not have been 100% the rest of the season.

To give him credit though he did starting passing the ball more effectively. Kemba’s apg have gone up every season and he really seemed to blossom as a playmaker in the second half of last year as he got used to Big Al. He even averaged 7.7 apg after the All-Star break last season, and will finally have the same coach for more than one season.

The Winner

The point of this post was to pick who was the best of the three PGs, so I’ll reluctantly say Baron Davis because his peak was higher and I’ll give him credit for the New Orleans years before he got traded to Golden State. He’s the only one that’s been an All-Star twice and made third team All-NBA in 03-04.

But can Kemba overtake him?

I think the short answer is no, but he doesn’t have to. Baron was the best player on a lot of his teams, and this coming season Kemba might be the third best behind Big Al and maybe Lance Stephenson (though that’s a big maybe). If Kemba can continue to improve as a playmaker and get his field goal percentage back in the 40s he could become a borderline All-Star before too long.

If Charlotte is going have its best season in history, they are going to need that from Kemba going forward. And if Kemba does catch Baron?  Watch out.

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