Charlotte Hornets: Holes In Buzz City’s Hive

Even with the Charlotte Hornets’ surprising 7-3 start to the season, they still have some holes to fill to truly become great.

The Charlotte Hornets are a top-3 team in the NBA Eastern Conference. Let that sink in. The Hornets are also currently in the standings above the Toronto Raptors AND the Boston Celtics, both teams who have beaten them early in the young season. Head Coach Steve Clifford has truly done a great job of leading the team to so much success. Clearly, the team is on the up and up, but what can we as fans expect moving forward? Will the bottom fall out or will they continue to fight?

The more games that the team plays, the more they seem to get comfortable with one another. Players finding their teammates in ideal spots while playing an elite level defense (specifically in the third quarters).  Undoubtedly, the team can truly be a joy to watch. But with great success, comes great weakness that no team can become immune from. In the case of the Hornets, there seem to be two weaknesses that dampen the success of that the team is experiencing.

Exhibit 1: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

To say that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a weakness seems disrespectful to what he brings to the team and who he is as a player. To illustrate, as well as further my point, I submit this. During the Chicago Bulls’ run during 90’s, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the two great players who excelled offensively for the team while playing above average defense. The team also employed a defensive minded expert who clearly shined doing all the dirty work for the team.

That player was Dennis Rodman. Though he didn’t average more than six points during his three years in Chicago, Rodman averaged 14.9, 16.1 and 15 rebounds per season while disrupting defenses with great efficiency. That, in essence, is the type of play that MKG brings to the Charlotte team, but is that really what this team needs right now?

Currently, MKG averages 8.6 points, 0.9 assists and 8 rebounds per game as a starter, a respectable yet underwhelming stat line compared to all other starting small forwards. In a world with LeBron James, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward and even Rudy Gay, the age of athletic two-way forward has opened up a new dynamic for the small forward position.

Having a player who can alter the offensive firepower of a star player is an asset, yet having a player who also has the firepower is a greater asset that the Hornets seem to need to become a better team than they currently are.

On a team where Kemba Walker or Nicolas Batum can score well over 15-20 points per game and where Marvin Williams, Marco Belinelli, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky and Roy Hibbert can all score double digits, the Hornets need all their starters to be able to score effectively given the opportunity. Is it conceivable that the team would look to upgrade the position and limit the role of Kidd-Gilchrist? With such players such as Hayward and Gay approaching free agency, how effective would a new starter and role change be?

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Exhibit 2: Ramon Sessions

This offseason, the Hornets searched for a suitable replacement to spell Walker at point guard. After watching Jeremy Lin sign with the Brooklyn Nets and prioritizing most of its resources into resigning Batum and Williams, the Hornets chose to sign Sessions to a two-year contract with a team option for the second year. However, unlike the only other major signing of Hibbert, Sessions hasn’t proven fruitful for the team as of yet.

As the supposed leader of the second unit, dubbed Bench Force One, Sessions has been the underachiever of the current Hornets’ team. Averaging only 4.9 points and 3.6 assists as an active player, Sessions has a field goal percentage of 28.8 to go along with a team low three-point percentage of 16.7% (not to include the emergency players Treveon Graham, Brian Roberts or Christian Wood).

Clearly, Sessions is a capable player who can facilitate a team’s second unit based on past season successes, but this doesn’t seem to be a job he can maintain. As a scoring point guard, to average lower than the team’s emergency center doesn’t add to the success or overall ambitions of the organization.

However, Sessions is part of the sum which is the Hornets, and for the team to truly be great he needs to become tremendously more efficient than what he is currently showing. For the team, having a reliable yet efficient scoring reserve is vital to the sustainability of the season. The slumping Sessions isn’t panning out for the team and other options may or should be on the way.

One option is utilizing the combination of Lamb and Belinelli, who both have been trusted enough to bring the ball up the floor for the team in situations. Both of which are capable of scoring and facilitating the offense better than the player currently employed to do so. Another option is free agency, which would require spending more money and possibly using the assets and trade conditions obtained in the trade of Troy Daniels.

A tertiary option for the team, and albeit not the worst decision, is upping the usage of Brian Roberts who also knows the system while having a more recent tenure. Yet, this is all dependent on if the native Sessions can recover from the current slump and become the player the Hornets have envisioned.

So, do the Hornets even believe there is a hole to be filled? Are there truly upgrades or repairs that can be made to improve upon the current success? All will be revealed as the Hornets season continues, and true fans can’t wait to see what’s in store.

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