Oct 20, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) talks with guard Kemba Walker (15) during the second half of the game against the Miami Heat at the Spectrum Center. Hornets win 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
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Through 10 games, the Charlotte Hornets have thoroughly impressed. It would be a mistake to underestimate them
After a mediocre offseason, there were those who doubted what the Charlotte Hornets would be capable of in the upcoming season.
With the departures of Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee, Hornets fans were bracing for another first round playoff exit, at best.
To begin the 2016-17 season, the Charlotte Hornets were believed to be battling for rights to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, after starting the season 7-3 (which included a 6-1 start), the Charlotte Hornets have come out of the gates red-hot and are currently tied for 3rd place in the East.
Nov 13, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Zeller (40) drives past Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Hornets tough losses
The Charlotte Hornets’ three losses have been to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics. Each of those teams were projected to be top three teams in the Eastern Conference going into the year.
The Cavaliers defeated the Hornets 100-93 in Cleveland, which is not a bad loss considering they are the reigning World Champions. The Raptors beat the Hornets 113-111 in Charlotte, however the Hornets were missing their starting forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (a defensive juggernaut, who would have been guarding DeMar DeRozan who scored 34 points in the Raptors win).
The Boston Celtics defeated the Hornets in Charlotte by six points, a game in which Boston made 15 three-pointers on the night (which is only 2 shy of a franchise record).
If you think about it, the Hornets have yet to have a bad loss, even when missing one of their three best players, they are still able to find a way to compete.
As a team, the Charlotte Hornets average the fewest turnovers per game in the NBA at 10.9 per game. To go along with that, they are in the top 5 in the NBA in assists per game (at 24.2 APG) and the Hornets lead the NBA in Assist to Turnover Ratio (at 2.22).
So, what does that mean?
The Charlotte Hornets are taking care of the ball and are doing so while playing as a team.
Although the Hornets haven’t had a player selected to the all-star game since Gerald Wallace in the 2009-10 season, do not underestimate them.
Kemba Walker, the face of the franchise, is currently averaging 25.8 points per game (among the top 12 in the NBA). While doing so, he is averaging 5.5 assists per game. Walker is one of the best point guards in the league and plays every game like it’s his last.
Along with Walker, the Hornets young and talented Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, “MKG”, is still seeming to find his footing in this league. Over the past two seasons, the former 2nd overall draft selection has only played in 62 of the 164 regular season games.
Rounding out the Charlotte Hornets “Big Three” is their 6-foot-8 swingman Nic Batum. Batum is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. Averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists over the last five years, Batum can simply do it all.
Nov 15, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) dribbles the ball up court in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
A bright season ahead
With these three (Kemba, MKG and Batum) as the focal point of both the offense and defense, the Charlotte Hornets are finding success. MKG and Batum are menaces on the defensive side of the ball and use their length and athleticism to their advantage.
With MKG’s improving jump shot (still very much a work in progress), he is now more than just a slasher. When you combine that with Walker and Batum, the Hornets are causing problems for many opponents.
The Charlotte Hornets have a special group of guys who know that in order to win, they have to play as a team. During Steve Clifford’s three-year reign as the head coach, the Hornets have yet to win 50 games.