Charlotte Hornets: A Theory of Ascension Part One

As the season progresses, the Charlotte Hornets continue to surprise and impress the millions of NBA fans. Through dazzling play as well as hard-fought comebacks, the Hornets have seemed to make another large step towards relevancy and ascension.

After a thrilling 100-96 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets are an impressive 8-3. Ironically, though in third place in the Eastern Conference, the only two teams ahead in the standings are the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the recently defeated Hawks. So, in all reality, the Hornets could realistically be in second place or at least tied for it. Well, either way, it still seems pretty great to be the Hornets these days.

Still, the Hornets have established a culture of relevance, improving and most importantly, WINNING. One reason why would clearly be the play of the roster as well as the continuity and in-house progression. Another is the leadership of Head Coach Steve Clifford and the acquisition of talent by General Manager Rich Cho (In Cho we trust, right?). So, to keep progressing is to keep striving and taking more steps to improve, correct?

In the previous article, I spoke of two weaknesses that if strengthened, could help to improve the team’s success. Now, I offer the solution, or a preferable next step, of improving the starting small forward position currently occupied by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

After helping to stifle the Hawks, ideally Kyle Korver, MKG managed to have a quiet night with seven points, three assists, and five rebounds. Though respectable for a player of MKG’s skillset, how much better could the team be if Kidd-Gilchrist acted in a relief role? How different would the Hornets be if they employed a far better offensive minded player in the starting small forward position?

One player that stands out as a potential target as well as an old target is the Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward. Hayward, a widely known NBA talent, and borderline All-Star is a great two-way player that excels offensively for a middling team. He is a truly efficient scorer who can light up virtually any team on any given night. Like how he torched the Hornets for 29 in a losing effort earlier this month.

However, he may come at the high but deserving max contract. True fans will remember the summer of 2014 when the Hornets were able to sign Hayward to a four-year $63 million offer sheet that the Jazz matched two days later. And true fans will also remember the dedication of GM Cho to obtain Marco Belinelli this off-season after trying to obtain him the previous offseason.

Clearly, Cho is a GM driven to obtain specifically targeted players. Obtaining a player of Hayward’s talent would be a tremendous show of dedication of to get the right player while also showing a gigantic leap in the team’s talent. Imagine this, the current average for the Hornets with MKG in the lineup are 69.7 points, 14.3 assists and 30 rebounds per game with every other player averaging double digits in points while he leads the starters in rebounds. Now, examine this:

Position Player PPG AST REB
PG Walker, Kemba 25.8 5.5 3.8
SG Batum, Nicolas 13.8 5.2 6.4
SF Hayward, Gordon 20.4 3.9 7.7
PF Williams, Marvin 10.9 1.4 6.8
C Zeller, Cody 10.6 1.3 5
Total w/ Hayward 81.5 17.3 29.7
SF Kidd-Gilchrist, Michael 8.6 0.9 8
Total w/ Gilchrist 69.7 14.3 30

Clearly, there is room for an upgrade in two of the three categories, and statistically, the upgrade would seem to benefit the team more. With Hayward, the team would see an increase in points as well as assists while seeing a small decrease of .3 in rebounds (which would be virtually nonexistent). The biggest upgrade is noticeably the +11.8 point increase, but with Hayward capable of scoring over 20 points, the Hornets could have five double-digit scorers as starters, four true three-point threats, a dangerous big three and two-way players galore.

The biggest upgrade is noticeably the +11.8 point increase, but with Hayward capable of scoring over 20 points, the Hornets could have five double-digit scorers as starters, four true three-point threats, a dangerous big three and two-way players galore.

But could this be another possible step in ascension and relevancy? Is it worth it or even attainable? With the current level of success and newfound success, it is entirely possible that more players would want to play in Charlotte with the great players and an outstanding coach. Still, is such a high profile player like Hayward within reach?

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