Well gang, we’ve reached that time of the year. That section of the calendar when there’s just, well…nothing to talk about. The summer leagues are over, free agency talk has died down, and players are on vacation. The only real news is coming out of Cleveland with LeBron James and Kevin Love, which ESPN has covered nearly 24/7, so we won’t touch on that. Yes folks, this time of the year sucks in terms of NBA news, but it’s inevitable.
So what does consume the sports world during this time of the year? One thing, and one thing only: NFL football. Whether it be real or fantasy, football rules the month of August. Training camps are in full swing, preseason games are being played, and countless hours of research is being done in preparation for the upcoming NFL fantasy football drafts. Every camp has guys fighting to just make the 53 man roster, which means players are being analyzed from every angle as teams look for hidden gems.
In the spirit of football season beginning, let’s take a look at what positions some of our beloved Hornets would be playing if they were in the Carolina Panther’s training camp, and who would have the best shot at making the cut. We’ll be taking a look at the five projected starters’ chances: Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson. And yes, for argument’s sake, I’m assuming Zeller will be starting at power forward. So, let’s get started.
Kemba Walker (6’1, 172 lbs) - Running Back
Walker would be a little small for the running back position, but an offseason in the weight room would solve that. His great balance and footwork would more than make up for his size, or lack there of, when running between the tackles. However, Walker would make a good running back for one main reason: grittiness. Certain athletes have that level of toughness that makes it hard to bet against them, and Kemba Walker is one of them. That’s exactly what you want in a smaller running back.
Lance Stephenson (6’5, 210lbs) - Slot Receiver
Stephenson has good height for the wide receiver position and his shiftiness would make him a threat through the middle of the field. I’m not sure he has enough breakaway speed to be a consistent home run threat, but his footwork would almost guarantee missed tackles and broken ankles. And come on, who wouldn’t want to see what he would come up with for a touchdown celebration?
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6’7, 232lbs) - Cornerback
This might be the easiest decision of them all. As one of the NBA’s top perimeter defenders, Kidd-Gilchrist would undoubtably be a shutdown corner. With a big body, great hands, and good leaping ability, any quarterback would be a fool to throw in his direction. Vertical speed would prove to be his weakness at the position, but a high IQ would alleviate some of that. With the success of players like Richard Sherman, teams are leaning toward the trend of a big-bodied cornerback, something Kidd-Gilchrist would surely provide.
Cody Zeller (7’0, 240lbs) - Tight End
If you think Kelvin Benjamin’s size is an enticing target for Cam Newton, just picture the 7 footer, Cody Zeller, catching the pigskin. Before we get too excited, the former Hoosier would desperately need to work on his footwork and vertical speed, as well as his balance during contact. Despite that, his athleticism, particularly when you consider his size, would make him a project worth spending some time on. Even Newton would have a hard time overthrowing him.
Al Jefferson (6’10, 265lbs) - Left Tackle
I’ll admit, I struggled a little bit deciding where Big Al would fit at on the gridiron. After serious consideration, I think left tackle most certainly suits his skill set. For starters, his footwork is second to none. Even if he was beaten off the line, Jefferson would have no problem recovering with his long arms and quick feet. Throw in his farmer-strong body, and I’d trust no one more to protect Cam’s blindside. With a work rate and toughness like his, you can guarantee Big Al wouldn’t be giving up any sacks with the game on the line.
Now it’s time to make cuts.
Of our starting 5, I think Lance Stephenson would have the best shot at making the roster. While I’m not as down on the Panthers’ receiving core as the majority of the media, there’s definitely room for improvement. Stephenson’s athleticism and upside would meet opportunity, should he decide to trade his sneakers for cleats. That being said, I think I speak for all of us when I say DON’T DO IT, LANCE.
Think one of our guys would be a better fit at a different position? Don’t think Lance is the most likely candidate to make the cut? Share your opinions in the comments section below!