After losing several important cogs from last season’s 48-win club that included Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson, the Hornets attempted to replace that production as best they could.
Ramon Sessions has been plagued by injury the second half of the season, Marco Belinelli is shooting below his career average from the 3-point line and Jeremy Lamb remains as streaky as when he arrived in Charlotte last season.
It’s been a problem for Charlotte all season, as injuries have effected both the starting lineup and bench. Newly acquired Miles Plumlee has played a total of five games in a Hornets uniform since being acquired in a trade.
One bright spot in the constant roster uncertainty this season has been opportunity for players such as Briante Weber and Johnny O’Bryant. Out of necessity the Hornets have had to dig for players from the D-League and off waivers.
Weber came to Charlotte after his second 10-day contract expired with the Golden State Warriors. Weber didn’t make a big impact on the stat sheet in any of his appearances with Golden State, but smart people around the league knew that he would be picked up.
In six games with the Memphis Grizzlies late last season, Weber averaged 4.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game to showcase an all-around game that could quarterback the second unit of a competent NBA team.
So far with Charlotte, Weber has showed he has active hands and an exceptional motor defensively, a prerequisite for guards in coach Steve Clifford’s system. He also has a jittery handle that won’t invoke any Kemba Walker comparisons, but is quick enough to get him where he wants.
The key for Weber may be developing a consistent jumper in his time with the Hornets. Lin fit alongside Walker in certain units because of his size at the point guard position. He easily could slide over into a combo guard role and also playmake to get Kemba off the ball.
Current backup point guard Brian Roberts isn’t big enough to fill that role, as both he and Walker are listed generously at 6-foot-1. Weber is bigger, but more important much longer than either.
Weber has yet to make a 3-pointer in limited time in the NBA, but he shot 35.6 percent from deep for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in 31 games earlier this season.
Johnny O’Bryant has a bit more NBA experience, playing 66 games for the Milwaukee Bucks last season. In 13 minutes per game, O’Bryant averaged 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest, admittedly modest numbers.
But O’Bryant burst on to the scene with Charlotte during his first 10-day contract, exploding for 15 points against the Denver Nuggets.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward showed a nice touch from the outside and tendency to produce good things as the screener in the Hornets’ two-man game.
The Hornets have been in desperate need of frontcourt depth with Zeller, Plumlee and Frank Kaminsky all missing extended periods. O’Bryant has missed the last five games with a sprained ankle, but his return is likely before the end of the season.
Securing the services of Weber and O’Bryant on cheap deals are wins for Charlotte. The Developmental League is more connected with the NBA than ever, preparing players on each roster for the call-up they so desperately crave.
There’s more success stories of tweeners and misfits cast to the D-League, only to find NBA homes as legitimate contributors and in some cases, starters. The Dallas Mavericks are starting a pair of them in Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry.
When franchises can get that kind of value for pennies on the dollar in an era of multiple cap spikes and massive contracts, it’s a win. The league is smarter than it’s ever been, and so is the talent level.