Four Burning Questions For the Charlotte Hornets Heading into the 2016-17 Season

Nov 18, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) leads the team out onto the floor to warm up before the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 18, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) leads the team out onto the floor to warm up before the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /
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After their success last year, there are plenty of burning questions surrounding the Charlotte Hornets heading into the 2016-17 NBA season.

The Charlotte Hornets are coming off of one of their most successful season in recent history. They are also following a summer where they lost multiple free agents who signed elsewhere this offseason. There is a lot of pressure on them going into the 2016-17 season. Will they be able to live up to their success of last year or will they return to the underachieving Charlotte teams?

Buzz City took off last year as the Hornets pushed their way into the Eastern Conference playoffs with a surprising 48 win season. Their instant success with a bunch of new players was a shock to the entire league. They will need to repeat that success with a new group of guys but the rest of the NBA is ready for them this season.

After having the third best record in the East last year, the Charlotte Hornets will be a favorite to make the postseason once again this year. They will not only be expected to make the playoffs but advance for the first time since the 2001 season. It’s never an easy task but Steve Clifford has made this team a contender going forward.

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1. Can Kemba Walker Continue to Improve?

Everyone saw the jump that Kemba Walker made last season. He became one of the best scoring point guards in the Eastern Conference with his outstanding play. Walker vastly improved his decision-making, shot selection, and shooting ability. The question will now be if he can continue to grow as a player going forward?

After having a significant jump in his outside shooting last season, Walker put together his most complete year in the pros since being drafted in 2011. He averaged 20.9 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 4.4 rebounds per game. The one way that Kemba can continue to improve his game is to become a better playmaker.

Walker needs to average more assists per game and create more open shots for his teammates. He will also need to maintain his scoring and outside shooting from last season. If he can do this, Kemba may be an All-Star for the East next year.

2. Can Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Stay Healthy and Consistent for a Full Season?

MKG has never played a full season during his four years in the NBA. After only playing in seven games last year, questions about his durability are beginning to rise. He will be an important piece to the team this season but will he be able to stay healthy?

Kidd-Gilchrist has played in 78 games (2012), 62 games (2013), 55 games (2014), and seven games last year. MKG didn’t plan to suffer two major shoulder injuries that required surgery last season but that’s exactly what happened. Hopefully he stays healthy going forward because I would hate to see his career go the way of a super talented athlete whose career’s cut short due to injuries.

The injury bug hit the Charlotte Hornets hard last season but it hit MKG the hardest. After showing constant improvement in his all-around game and especially in his outside shooting, Kidd-Gilchrist will need a full season to showcase his skills. I believe that if he can stay healthy all year, he can be one of the top-10 small forwards in the NBA because of his ability on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

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3. Can the Bench be as Good as Last Season?

The Charlotte Hornets had the sixth highest scoring bench in the NBA last season. They were one of the best in the league last season, helping the team win a few games with the second unit’s stellar play. Now that they have lost Jeremy Lin, Al Jefferson, and Troy Daniels, can the bench still be as effective this year?

“Bench Force One” accounted for 37.1 points per game last season. Jeremy Lin was a big part of the Hornets’ bench that helped the team have success and win 48 games. The new acquisitions of Ramon Sessions, Marco Belinelli, and Roy Hibbert will need to replace the production of last year’s bench.

Returning players like Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky will need to step up their games and be even more consistent than they were last season. A productive bench is important to a successful team. Even with all of the key pieces that they lost, the second unit will need to have an even better season this year if the Hornets want to top the Eastern Conference.

4. Is Nicolas Batum Ready to Become a Superstar?

Nicolas Batum had a career year last season but he will need to step his game up even more if the Hornets want a successful campaign in 2016. He is coming off of a summer where he singed a five-year, $125 million deal to re-sign with Charlotte. Batum will now have to prove that he is worth that superstar level money that he is being paid.

The Charlotte Hornets have always been a team that have yearned for a superstar throughout their franchise’s history. The team paid Nic superstar like money this offseason and they will be expecting him to produce superstar like numbers. He averaged a career high in points (14.9) and assists (5.8) last season but his scoring was still below that of a superstar level player.

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Batum had an expanded role under coach Clifford last season. He responded with career numbers. Nicolas will now need to limit his turnovers while scoring more. If he wants to enter the superstar conversation, he will need to average closer to 20 points per game.

Answers to these questions will come in due time but they are all important for the team’s success this season.