Head Coach Steve Clifford is often regarded as one of the most respected coaches in the NBA. Steve Clifford can clearly coach well, but should he be considered a long-term option at the helm for the Charlotte Hornets?
What is Steve Clifford’s resume?
Let’s start by looking at Clifford’s resume. Steve Clifford has had three separate coaching stints, two in Charlotte and one with the Orlando Magic. In those stops, he has led his team to the playoffs four times. On the surface, four times in nine years is slightly underwhelming, but in context it becomes impressive. In 2013-14, Clifford took the Charlotte Bobcats to the playoffs, led by a 23-year-old Kemba Walker and a 29-year-old Al Jefferson.
Clifford again led Charlotte to the playoffs in 2015-16. The team was again led by Kemba Walker, with no player other than Walker scoring more than fifteen points per game. It should also be noted that the 2015-16 Hornets won 48 games, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference.
After his first stint in Charlotte came to an end, Clifford was given the opportunity to coach the Orlando Magic. Yet again, an undermanned team with questionable pieces made the playoffs twice, albeit with somewhat mediocre records. Under Clifford, Nikola Vučević made his only two All-Star appearances, with impressive averages of 21 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Steve Clifford also oversaw the ascension of Kemba Walker, the resurgence of Markelle Fultz, the best years of Evan Fournier, and the impressive rookie campaign of Cole Anthony. As an assistant coach, Clifford worked with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and Yao Ming.
What does this mean for the Charlotte Hornets?
As the head coach of the 2022-23 Charlotte Hornets, Clifford is doing his best in a difficult situation. Charlotte has not been good on either end of the floor, as they have a defensive rating of 112.6, which is good for 21st in the association. Their offensive rating is even worse at 106.8, which is 28th in the league.
Even in a tough situation, individual players have shown growth. Dennis Smith Jr. is having a resurgent season. Nick Richards is making a case to start, and Jalen McDaniels is having his best season to date.
Should Steve Clifford be the long-term answer for the Charlotte Hornets?
Clifford is a well-respected voice in the league and brings veteran coaching to a young team. The 2022-23 season may have gotten off to a slow start, but Clifford has been a solid coach, and the team as a whole is suffering through the injury bug. The defense is significantly better, and the offense will come around. The team is passing the ball well, engaging on defense, and buying in on offense. Clifford currently has a two-year deal, with the second year being a club option. At the very least, Steve Clifford has earned himself a solid look for the second year.