MKG’s Extension and What Comes Next

hornets-summer-2015
Standard

Let’s put Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s contract extension into perspective: Perpetual third stringers Arron Baynes and Cory Joseph just received a combined $50 million in guaranteed money AND neither deal instigated a Twitter riot. Simply stated, we’re now living in a world where $13 million dollars per year for a non-All-Star wing is good value.

The Hornets will pay MKG that rate over four seasons starting next July – approximately three months before the former number two overall pick turns 23. The deal is one year shorter and $1 million less per season than the one Khris Middleton just signed with the Bucks and around two thirds more than Al Farouq Aminu received from the Blazers.

$52 MILLION – IT’S ALL RELATIVE

In 2011 2013  the NBA’s cap was set at $58 million. Thanks to the new TV deal, the 2017 cap is projected at $108 million – a 90% increase that nearly doubles the amount teams have to spend. And since the league hasn’t added any new franchises or vastly expanded roster limits, that money is going directly into the pockets of the same pool of players.

You are certain to hear a local sports talk rant (or ten) in the next week about how MKG isn’t worth close to this much cash and that’s due to many not understanding the basic dynamics of the new cap. It’s a simple conversion really: just take MKG’s $13 million salary and divide it by 90%.

This reveals a 4 year, $27.5 million deal with an average salary of $6.875 million. Keep in mind than in 2011 2013, when the cap was 90% lower, Gerald Henderson signed a 3 year, $18 million extension with Charlotte at $6 million per. So in relative terms, MKG signed for a little north of Hendo money. Bad for sports talk radio and internet trolls, good for the Hornets.

GAMBLING ON A BREAKOUT, GAMBLING ON A BREAK

MKG didn’t have to sign an extension this summer. He could’ve waited it out and tested the very tempting waters of Free Agency 2016. As former Nets exec Bobby Marks noted in his excellent piece for Hoopshype last month, 24 of the league’s 30 teams will have cap space next summer with an estimated $825 million to spend. Peruse the list of next July’s free agents and you will find a dearth of quality unrestricted players worthy of that type of cash.

In years past, teams could use the restricted status of their own free agents to ward off offer sheets from hungry franchises with big space. That will change next July. Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes are virtual locks to get max offers and if MKG has the breakout season Charlotte is hoping for, you could’ve easily added him to that list.

But Kidd-Gilchrist has missed over 50 games in his first three seasons with a variety of injuries. Like Gerald Wallace before him, MKG plays at only one speed – FULL ON – and that reckless energy has a tendency to lead straight to street clothes.

Kidd-Gilchrist will only be 26 years old at the end of extension and at the beginning of his prime. If his jumper keeps making progress and he can stay on the court, MKG will have another legit shot at a max-type deal. If not, he’s set himself up very nicely with over $70 million in guaranteed career earnings.

WHAT COMES NEXT – HORNETS FREE AGENCY 2016

Extending MKG this summer greatly reduces the burden on Charlotte’s front office next offseason. The team’s highest paid players (Nic Batum and Al Jefferson) will become unrestricted free agents. Jeremy Lin is a near guarantee to opt out of his deal and test the market. Jeremy Lamb will be a 24 year old restricted free agent who can shoot and (maybe) defend.

Depending on how the season plays out, Charlotte will aim to bring back each of these key players. Removing MKG from the list of moving parts is huge. And getting him at such a reasonable number leaves the team with around $45 million to spend on bringing all of those guys back.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hornets started negotiating with Lamb on a rookie extension today. Throw an offer of, say, 3 years, $18 million and see if he bites. Sure, the jury’s still out on Lamb as a high-end rotation player but $6 million in 2017 dollars is just a touch over $3 million per in relative terms. It’s worth a shot.

The Hornets could then throw big 3 year deals at both Batum and Jefferson and bring back Lin at a reasonable number if he thrives in the Queen City. All while maintaining flexibility for the following summer when Steph Curry becomes a free agent. See the Projected Salary Chart below:

BaselineProjectedSalariesPostMKGEXTQUICK HITS

  • MKG becomes just the fourth Bobcats-era Lottery pick to sign an extension with the team after Emeka Okafor, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker.
  • This marks the second consecutive offseason that Charlotte has reached an early rookie extension with one of their Lottery picks. A big milestone for an organization that has struggled mightily with the Draft.
  • Once the cap hits $108 million, MKG’s per year salary will account for just north of 1/10th of the team’s available space.
  • If both MKG and Kemba Walker complete their extensions in teal, they’ll become the longest tenured Bobcats-era players in Charlotte history and in line to challenge Dell Curry’s all-time record of ten seasons.

UPDATE

It was reported on Wednesday that the final year of MKG’s contract will be a player option, giving Kidd-Glichrist the ability to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent again at the ripe young age of 25.

The player option also times MKG’s free agency perfectly with Kemba Walker’s. One of the most interesting pieces of information to come out of the extension coverage is just how close the two players are off the court. While each player has their share of work to do to make the All-Star leap, both are extraordinarily high character, team-first individuals who will set the tone for the roster and organization as they mature into veterans.

By inking both players until 2019, the Hornets are essentially giving themselves a four year window to win with this roster. Expect the team to pursue similar three year extensions with Nic Batum and Al Jefferson in the offseason to complete the core.

ASCHIN
@BaselineBuzz

Jeremy Lin VS Kemba Walker: By The Numbers

jeremy_lin_1280px
Standard

I.

The point guard position has long been an issue for Charlotte’s NBA franchise. The city’s last great lead guard (Baron Davis) was hijacked along with the original franchise back in 2002. The expansion Bobcats subsequently invested three Lottery picks into the position over a period of six years (2005, 2008, 2011) yet failed to find their franchise defining quarterback each time.

Walker represents the last and best of those picks. He just turned 25 in May and is entering both his prime and the first year of a four year, $48 million contract extension. The team clearly sees Kemba as an asset and has positioned him as a major piece of the team’s future either as a starter or key reserve.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin is playing on a cheap one year contract with a player option that he’ll almost certainly turn down next July. Both sides have (wisely) framed the marriage as an opportunity to both rehabilitate Lin’s career after an ill-fitting season in Los Angeles and to provide Charlotte with a steady backup point guard behind Walker.

Again, this is how the team is framing it publicly. The brain trust has doubtlessly imagined a future in which J-Lin returns to semi-Linsanity heights and re-signs as the team’s starting point guard next July. The Hornets could begin to transition Kemba to his more natural sixth man role – where he could dominate both the ball and opponent’s second units.

After the Lin signing was made public, Coach Clifford spun tales of playing the two together for big minutes. I’ll believe it when I see it. Clifford hates going small and the team tried a similar experiment with Mo Williams late last season to mostly poor results. With a weaker defensive frontline this season, heavy dual point lineups could get even dicier.

II.

So how do we rate these not quite All-Star point guards? What individual strengths and weaknesses do they bring? For that answer, we’re going to have to go down the metric rabbit hole.

WARNING: I’m about to get geeky on you. If esoteric statistics and decimal points make your eyes cross, skip to the TRANSLATIONS at the end of each section. For those brave souls who remain, let’s start with the basics:

Jeremy and Kemba have played roughly the same number of career games (291 vs 283 in favor of Lin) while Walker’s notched around 1500 more career minutes. Kemba has 283 career starts compared to J-Lin’s 170. Walker just turned 25 in May while Lin will turn 27 in August.

Lin also notched around 9 minutes per game fewer than Walker last season so any non-weighted per game numbers will be converted by 32%. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the breakdown.

TOUCHES

SportsVU ranked Kemba 5th overall last season in Touches per game (92.4), eighth overall in time of possession (7.6 mins) with an average of 1.88 points per touch.

Lin averaged 56.3 (74.3 converted) touches, 4.9 mins in time of possession (6.46 converted) and exactly 2 points per touch.

TRANSLATION: Both guys like the ball in their hands but Kemba takes it to another level. Walker averaged more touches per game than Russell Westbrook and his time of possession suggests that he’s either an elite scorer (false) or the best scorer on a bad offense (true). The Hornets have added ball-movers and shot-creators all summer so Walker’s game will need an adjustment.

Advantage: Lin

ISOs

Despite his rep as a mini-Iverson, Walker ranked fairly low in isolation attempts per SportsVU. Only 9.9% of his plays per game were of the isolation variety and he converted at a relatively decent .84 points per possession.

Lin ranked higher at 12.1% isos per game and only managed .74 points per possession on those attempts. Score one for Walker.

More good news for Kemba: while each player manufactured the same amount of free throws out of isos (~14%) Walker did so with a fantastic 5% turnover frequency (as opposed to J-Lin’s concerning 14.8%).

TRANSLATION: No surprise Kemba is the better isolation player, a pleasant surprise that he is a relatively efficient one.

Advantage: Walker

PICK AND ROLL

Kemba used the pick on 48.1% of his possessions which ranked 9th overall – a surprising number considering Walker’s reputation as a non pick and roll player. Walker managed .83 points per possession off the pick, logged an eFG%** of 41.0%, Free Throw frequency of 11.6% and a fantastic Turnover frequency of just 10.6%.

By comparison, Lin used the pick on 40% of his possessions – again, surprising given his pick and roll heavy reputation. He notched an identical .83 points per possession, a much higher 45.8% eFG%, a higher 13.8 Free Throw frequency and a frightening 20.6% Turnover frequency.

*Effective Field Goal Percentage grants additional weight to 3PT shots*

TRANSLATION: Kemba used the pick more but scored less efficiently out of it. Lin uses the pick less but with greater shot efficiency and at a much greater risk of creating a turnover.

Advantage: None

PASSING

More SportsVU: Kemba registered .6 Free Throw assists, 1.5 “hockey assists” and 11 assist opportunities per game.

Lin averaged .4 (.53 converted) Free Throw assists per game, .8 (1.0 converted) hockey assists per game and 8.9 (11.75 converted) assist opportunities.

In terms of raw per game assists, Kemba tallied 5.1apg while J-Lin notched 4.6 (6.1 converted). Assist rates again have Jeremy out in front: Kemba 20.9 (career low average), J-Lin 26.5 (around career average).

The real story is in the turnovers: Lin has improved his ability to protect the ball in recent years but is still far, far behind Kemba’s Top 10 ranking in assist to turnover ratio.

TRANSLATION: Lin is nominally a better shot creator but comes at the high cost of turnovers. Kemba’s limited court vision is made up for somewhat by his elite ability to take care of the ball.

Advantage: Walker

SHOOTING EFFICIENCY

Basic stats: Lin shot 37% from downtown last season, raising his career average to 35%. Kemba regressed to 30%, bringing his number to 31.8% from deep. Overall FG% has J-Lin at around 44% for his career, Kemba just below 40% overall. Each draws FTs at a decent rate and converts at or around 80% from the line when they get there.

Jeremy wins the FG% battle on drives 46% to 41.6%. Kemba wins on “close shots” 66.7% to 57%. Catch & Shoot and Pull-up percentages are slightly in Lin’s favor but Lin’s three point shooting abilities has him easily out in front in effective FG% 47.3% to 42.9%.

ESPN’s True Shooting Metric takes eFG% even further, accounting for free throws as well as threes. Kemba notched a 48.6 (about average for his career), while Lin registered 53.9 (also around average for his career).

TRANSLATION: Easy (and expected) win for Jeremy Lin. Kemba has struggled mightily with his shot since entering into the NBA. If there’s one aspect of Walker’s game that has and will continue to prevent an All-Star appearance, it’s this one.

Advantage: Lin

DEFENSE

82games.com has Kemba as a slight net minus (–3.0) while ranking Lin a slight net plus (+1.0) which is in line with ESPN’s real plus minus rankings for both PGs (Lin is 19th at +1.66, Kemba 37th at –1.03).

Lin is clearly the bigger defender on the court and has at least three inches and fifteen pounds on Walker. Lin measured a 6’5” wingspan and an 8’2” standing reach at the Portsmouth pre-Draft camp back in 2010. Kemba measured a near 6’3” wingspan and just over 7’7” standing reach a year later. Both players are solid on the boards and have nearly identical rebound rates over their careers.

TRANSLATION: Real plus minus is far from perfect but when combined with the eye test and Lin’s physical advantages, it’s obvious that Jeremy is the better defensive option of the two.

Advantage: Lin

III.

Anyone who has traveled through Southeast Asia will have doubtlessly come across the expression “same same but different”. It’s a concise little phrase that the Thai people use to describe two things which, while quite similar, have a few key features that make them uniquely their own. Example: Banana bread and a banana muffin = same same but different.

In the midst of researching the Lin and Kemba combo, that lyrical phrase same same but different kept popping up in my mind over and over again. The Hornets now have two upper-middle class PG options. Neither are an elite talent but both are very good scoring guards who can benefit a team in their own way.

One guy can protect the ball and break ankles but can also shoot you out of a game. One guy can hit threes and score off the pick but is reckless with the ball. One can manufacture offense out of nothing while the other can elevate a team’s defense. Same same. But different. It will be fascinating to watch how Coach Clifford handles the dynamic and how each player responds. Who knows? Perhaps the Queen City’s next great point guard are a duo.

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

Illustration by @MikeSakoon – download an iPhone 6 wallpaper version here.

Hornets Summer Shuffle : June Edition

Standard

hornets-summer-2015

Just two weeks removed from the closing game of the 2015 NBA Finals, and significant moves have quickly been made all around the league. Sparing little time, the Hornets kicked off the Summer as one of the most active clubs reworking their roster. At this point, GM Rich Cho appears to be ambitiously taking on major renovations, while hesitant to chisel at the foundation of last year’s disappointing squad.

Over the last decade, the Bobcats/Hornets haven’t hid their desperation to add legitimate talent. The results haven’t amazed, as they corralled rosters through free agency, drafts, or trades. The free agent market delivered a mixed bag of guys like Ramon Sessions, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Brian Roberts, Jason Maxiell, and Lance Stephenson. Unfortunately, Charlotte’s habitual weakness – the NBA Draft – hasn’t counterbalanced their lack of free agent appeal (or cash). Their scouting and drafting practices have resulted in a young group of prospects that are living in the shadow of their own “potential” – Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Jeffery Taylor, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, and the newest Hornet Frank Kaminsky. It’s a good bet that none of these guys will be wearing an All-Star uniform next February, but it’s possible that they can all contribute as pros somewhere in the Association.

If there’s one way to ease the anxiety or apathy of the fanbase, it’s a tool that Charlotte’s been leaning on for years – Trading. The Bobcats existed in a constant state of upheaval (internally and on the court). While the basketball product was underwhelming, they could always draw attention as we speculated on the next far-fetched (Allen Iverson) or bone-headed (Tyson Chandler) move they could make. Apparently, Michael Jordan decided to pivot from aimlessly swapping for dumb contracts and took an interest in shaping a balanced roster when he hired Rich Cho. Moving bad contracts and getting valuable, NBA-calibre talent through trades has proven to be Cho’s biggest strength as he’s rebuilt the club. Just a week ago, he surprised us by applying these skills to address his own mistake in signing Lance Stephenson last year.

After last season’s disappointing record, it should be no surprise that Charlotte is taking action to turn things around. Here’s a quick recap of what’s happened for the Hornets in June:

Moved Lance Stephenson (Guard)
Result: Saved us from watching him ruin every offensive possession while on the court.

Acquired Spencer Hawes (Center)
Result: Added a quality backup center with shooting range that opens up the floor, and gives Jefferson ten minutes of rest

Acquired Jeremy Lamb (Guard) for Luke Ridnour for Matt Barnes
Result: Now have a taller reserve guard with reliable shooting, and experience in a successful NBA offense. Rich Cho showed a little of his savviness to add talent in exchange for nothing.

Moved Gerald Henderson (Guard)
Result: Lost a captain and loyal teammate, but finally let Henderson see how things work outside of the ever-rebuilding Charlotte club.

Moved Noah Vonleh (Forward/Center)
Result: Gave away a promising young big man. Yet, allows us to watch him develop from afar without the risk of being let down by another failed developmental talent project.

Acquired: Nicolas Batum
Result: Kemba and Al will have room to work. Batum is enough of an offensive threat to spread defenses, allowing Charlotte to run a pro-style offense this season. As a bonus, MKG will have a handful more opportunities to slash to the paint with Batum drawing attention.

Drafted: Frank Kaminsky (Center)
Result: GM Rich Cho is going to have to defend this pick for a while. Charlotte just traded for Spencer Hawes, and Kaminsky will likely bring the same set of skills to the court. Who knew that Hawes was the prototype for the next generation of big man in the league?

Released: Bismack Biyombo
Result: The Hornets gave up on a project that wasn’t showing much return on their investment. This leaves the team without a real rim protector, and allows Biyombo to find a better fit elsewhere in the league. Rich Cho somehow gets a pass on this despite the obvious gamble.

Released: Jefferey Taylor
Result: More minutes are available for a wing behind MKG and Batum. Who will step up?

As a whole, these moves signal a concerted effort to address the team’s painfully unwatchable offense. This could be the wave that elevates the Hornets to the Playoffs, as they’ve already claimed the reputation as a top defense under Steve Clifford. The organization has yet to establish a “system” like some of the league’s most respected clubs, but this off-season has shown that they’ve transitioned away from simply clearing the books and acquiring young (cheap) prospects. This Summer, the Hornets look like they’re actually building toward winning.

– Mike


POLL : Best Move This Summer?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Frank Kaminsky and the 2012 NBA Draft

Standard

I.

The Charlotte Hornets ranked dead last in three point field goal percentage last season and second to last in overall field goal percentage. They ranked in the bottom third of the league in three pointers attempted and were tied for worst in the league in points per shot. They notched the third fewest assists per game and achieved the league’s lowest adjusted field goal percentage.

In summary: the Hornets were an abhorrent offensive team last season. A full-on disaster. They couldn’t shoot and they couldn’t pass. Friendly reminder: Golden State just won a title because they could really shoot and really pass.

Since their season ended in April, the Hornets have tripled down on the triple. The league’s all-time worst shooting-shooting guard Lance Stephenson was swapped out for floor-stretching big man Spencer Hawes. Mid-range bandit Gerald Henderson was shipped west for distance shooting playmaker Nic Batum. The team used a glitch in the matrix (Matt Barnes’s semi-guaranteed contract) to take a flyer on range shooting wing Jeremy Lamb.

So on Draft night it should’ve come as no surprise to Charlotte hoops fans that the team would use it’s Lottery pick on an NCAA player of the year who shot 41% from downtown. Except that it did.

II.

Justise Winslow had a tremendous freshmen season at Duke. He did everything. Scored, rebounded, notched Bojangle Hustle Stats, you name it. And then he and the Blue Devils won the national title. It was the feel good movie of the year and it happened in our backyard.

Who would’ve thought that three months later at the 2015 NBA Draft, Winslow would’ve slipped past not one, not two, not threebut five teams in need of a young small forward? Yet that’s exactly what happened. Suddenly the Hornets were on the clock at pick number nine – and even though the entire internet knew that Charlotte was sold on Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky – it seemed like a no-brainer to select Durham’s Mr. Intangibles and get the steal of the night. Instead, Adam Silver walked to the podium, read off a Polish surname and Twitter exploded with disbelief, snark and disgust.

III.

Three years earlier, another freshmen phenom won a national title while teaming up with a dominant big man. This freshmen was also a big-time intangibles guy who eventually found himself as the number two pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. His name was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and he’s currently the heart & soul of Charlotte’s Top 10 ranked defense.

The similarities are striking. Like MKG, Winslow struggled with his shot mechanics during his young hoops career. And also like MKG, Justise is a big-time worker. Winslow revamped his form enough to manage 40% shooting from the college three point arc. While Winslow’s length and upside on defense aren’t quite that of Kidd-Gilchrist, his jumper is certainly further along at this point than MKG’s was three seasons ago. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news: Winslow’s shooting is still a major problem. Free throw percentage is generally a strong indicator of actual shooting ability and Justise only managed 64% at Duke (that’s six percentage points lower than MKG’s KU numbers). As DraftExpress’s Mike Schmitz pointed out on a recent Nate Duncan podcast, most of Winslow’s three pointers were of the spot up variety, where Justise could have more time to get set and wind through his methodical shooting motion. More concerning is the fact that a lot of these spot up attempts came while matched up against slower, shorter collegiate power forwards who lacked the elite closeout abilities of NBA small forwards.

Justise rarely shot or made mid-range twos during his time at Duke and while that shot has gone out of fashion recently, it’s still a required skill for a scorer. In short, Gerald Henderson is currently a much better shooter than Justise. And Hendo’s pairing with MKG led to the league’s worst offense. Justise would’ve only made them worse.

IV.

Steve Clifford and Patrick Ewing spent half a decade together in Orlando helping Stan Van Gundy build around a dominant defender. They surrounded an offensively limited Dwight Howard with as many shooters and playmakers as possible. It worked. They even made the 2009 Finals. It was a modern update on a traditional strategy – from Bill Russell to Alonzo Mourning – scorers on the outside and a shotblocker in the middle.

What Clifford and Ewing are attempting to do in Charlotte has never been done before. They are using the same Orlando formula except they’re building around a offensively limited, dominant wing defender. It’s a bold move. Maybe even a little crazy. But the plan is there, plain as day:

  • Kemba Walker as Jameer Nelson: scorer and primary ball handler.
  • Nic Batum as Hedo Turkoglu: secondary ball handler and halfcourt distributor.
  • Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky as big men versions of shooters JJ Redick and Rashard Lewis.
  • And finally…Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as Dwight Howard, defensive stopper.

Again, it’s kind of insane. And it just might work. Unlike decades past, nearly all of the league’s most dangerous scorers play on the perimeter. Steph, KD, Westbrook, Harden, Melo, Lebron. A lumbering, paint-shackled center is useless against defending a step-back twenty-three footer. If you need to make a stop, it has to start outside.

V.

Frank Kaminsky breaks every modern Draft stereotype. He’s a four year senior, none of his measurables blow you away and he’s goofy looking. Instant bust, right? The problem is that Frank can really play. He’s a pick and pop weapon. He’s a spot up three zone buster. He’s a high post facilitator. He takes advantage of smaller defenders on the block. Will the dribble drive game work in the pros? Maybe. If it doesn’t he’s Ryan Anderson. If it does, he’s Dirk or a short-armed Pau.

When the Hornets drafted Cody Zeller two years ago they did everything they could to turn Cody into who Frank Kaminsky is today. But Zeller rarely shot the mid-range in college and is to this day visibly uncomfortable when he’s put into position to attack. How many times have we seen Cody set a screen, get to his spot and not even look at the rim. His eighteen foot jumper has improved but it’s painfully obvious that Cody would rather pass or roll to the hoop (and only if the lane is empty).
Mark my words: Frank will have the exact opposite problem. If he has space, Kaminsky will put it up. No hesitation, no apologies.

VI.

After watching clips of Frank the Tank over the past few days, two major questions arose: 1.) Will his off the dribble game translate? and 2.) Will he become a servicable system defender?
The answer to the former is intriguing. If he can punish closeouts in the pros with creative dribble drives, he’s a stud. If not, he’s Anderson or Channing Frye. But it’s the answer to the latter that will determine Kaminsky’s career.

Vantage Sports recently pubished a nice piece on collegiate big men pick and roll defenders which surprisingly ranked Frank highest amongst his peers (including top picks Karl Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein). Kaminsky may not have the Javale McGee turbo jump button but he tends to always be in the right spots when sealing off penetration. Encouraging, sure, but this is while playing center against collegiate competition.

Frank has said numerous times that he fancies himself a Dirk-like stretch four in the pros and if so, his ability to closeout on perimeter shooters and recover on drives will be tested immediately. Guys like Pau Gasol, Dirk and David West have succeeded in spite of below-average mobility but each of them have played with rim protectors throughout most of their careers. Frank will have Al Jefferson. Speaking of which…

VII.

What on earth does this pick mean for Al Jefferson’s future in teal? If Clifford can maintain a Top 10 NBA defense with a big rotation of Al, Frank and Spencer Hawes, he deserves a Hall of Fame induction. I’m not even joking. It will be a minor miracle. Sure, the Hornets may field the East’s best defensive wing combo in MKG & Batum but eventually opponents will figure out ways to neutralize them. Kemba and Al defending a one/five pick & roll with Frank as the help will have the Russell Westbrook’s and John Wall’s of the world salivating when they see the letters “CHA” on the upcoming schedule.

This is why all of the talk about playing Al and Hawes or Al and Frank together confuses me. Clifford is neither dumb enough nor hubristic enough to try something like that as more than a gimmick, right? Right? Stauskas? Stauskas?

VIII.

The Hornets notched back to back elite defensive seasons with Cody Zeller and Josh McRoberts playing next to Jefferson, both of whom are much more laterally and vertically gifted than Kaminsky. After the Draft, Clifford made it a point to say out loud what many of us were already thinking: he would be experimenting with Kaminsky/MKG/Batum/Lamb/Kemba small-ball lineups next season.

That makes a ton of sense theoretically, though I wouldn’t expect to see Charlotte play that way in heavy doses. MKG already gets banged up and misses a ton of games playing against guys his own size; having to go head to head with the Tristan Thompson’s and Greg Monroe’s of the world seems like a bad idea. That said, expect MKG to at least log part of his 30-34 minutes per game at the four. The team plays much better with him on the floor and having a stretch big create more driving and post up opportunities may be the thing that finally opens up the twenty-one year old’s offense.

IX.

Those of you who have made it this far have likely already connected the dots. The Kaminsky pick had as much to do with the 2012 Draft as it did with 2015. The team is putting it’s former Lottery picks (MKG and, to a lesser extent, Kemba Walker) in position to win and to improve much like Washington has done with Wall and Bradley Beal.

Some have called this strategy short-sighted and a poor management of assets. I see the opposite. With these moves, the Hornets are doing everything they can to maximize their most prized assets. It’s risky, sure. But isn’t it more risky to endlessly recycle mis-developed prospects and perpetually mortgage the future on another nineteen year old could-be? Charlotte has made their decision and are moving forward in a unified direction. To that I say bravo, Hornets. Bravo.

Nic Batum: The Upside of Winning

Standard

The old man places his grandson on his knee. “Child, let me tell you about the good old days. The days filled with happiness and excitement. Our team had just drafted a nineteen year old kid – a freshmen, just out of college. Boy, you shoulda seen that kid’s upside.”

The child looks up at his grandfather, puzzled. “What’s ‘upside’?”

The old man gets a twinkle in his eye. “Why, upside is – well, it’s hope. It’s the feeling that eventually this young man will be very good and lead us to the promised land.”

The boy is sharp. His mind sorts out the logic. “Well did he? Did he turn out good and lead us to the promised land?”

“No. No that never happened. But man, you shoulda seen his upside.”


I.

It’s the day of the Draft. Fans are obsessed with potential. It’s fun. For a while. And then it’s not. We want to see results. Fans will not reminisce into their twilight years about Steph Curry’s upside. They will reminisce about his MVP season, his championship season. In fact, Curry never really had any upside as a junior coming out of Davidson. He was a physically limited combo guard who could really shoot. Crazy measurables? Hardly. Now he’s a champ.

The Hornets haven’t won 50 games since the late ‘90s. I remember those teams but I’m also closer to forty than thirty. So many younger Charlotte NBA hoops fans have never known what it’s like to cheer for a winning team. Michael Jordan has decided that it’s time to change that. Immediately.

II.

Nic Batum can pass and shoot. Two things the Hornets struggled with mightily last season. A team starting Kemba Walker at point guard needs a wing compatriot who can facilitate in the half-court and defend. A team with Al Jefferson at center needs a wing compatriot who can stretch the floor, complete entry passes and keep his man from running free into the paint. Batum checks all of these boxes. All of them. I posited a Batum trade two weeks ago for these very reasons. If Charlotte is intent on building around Kemba and Al, then adding a player like Nic is non-negotiable. The system simply won’t work without one.

III.

This trade is impossible to grade until you know two things: A.) Noah Vonleh’s realized upside and B.) Nic Batum’s next contract. Noah was a consensus Lottery pick last year for a reason. He’s a physically gifted (if non-athletic) big man who can score in a variety of ways. He can rebound and block shots. He might be a star. We don’t know. Coach Clifford rarely played him last season and immediately after the trade there was some chatter that Charlotte found his inability to grasp basics of the NBA game worrisome. He’s still only nineteen years old so it may take several more years before we know exactly what the Hornets gave up.

In the meantime Batum is on an expiring contract. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next season and can walk freely. Sure, Charlotte will have his “Bird Rights” but given the landscape of the new CBA, that really doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps Rich Cho and Nic’s people have some sort of understanding in place – sell Batum on Charlotte this season and reward him next July – again, we shall see. Hopefully Nic enjoys the Queen City more than the last French baller – Boris Diaw – who was so miserable in the South that he transformed into Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

IV.

All this said, it’s worth the risk. Batum and MKG on the wings is the East’s best defensive perimeter duo. Nic did wonders for Damian Lillard’s career as a secondary pick and roll ballhandler and he’ll do much the same for Kemba. Big Al has an underrated pick and pop shot out to around eighteen feet and Batum can run similar plays with Jefferson that he did with LaMarcus Aldridge. If the proposed Jeremy Lamb trade goes through, Clifford will almost certainly trot out MKG/Batum/Lamb/Kemba small ball lineups with either Spencer Hawes or Cody Zeller at center. The sort of ball movement and shot-making these lineups produce will leave Hornets fans confused, wondering if they’d mistakenly tuned into a Western Conference team instead.

V.

Finally, they’re not finished. The Draft is tonight and the Hornets love making trades. Expect the unexpected. Draft Frank Kaminsky? Why not. Trade him to the New York Knicks? Why not. Trade him in a package for Carmelo Anthony? At this point, why not. Michael Jordan wants his team to win games and make this city proud again. Unlimited Upside? Defiantly no. The Upside of Winning is so much sweeter.

-ASChin
@baselinebuzz

Hornets 2015 Draft Prospect: Devin Booker

Video

Devin Booker

Highlights:

Bonus video:
https://youtu.be/h8-X3t10dXw

 

Pre-Draft Internet Buzz:

Charlotte a Fit for Booker – Fox Sports

Jay Bilas Sees Booker as a Top Shooter

 

POLL : What Should Hornets Do on Draft Day?

  • Pick Devin Booker (21%, 18 Votes)
  • Pick Willie Cauley-Stein (29%, 25 Votes)
  • Pick Myles Turner (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Trade Up (19%, 16 Votes)
  • Trade Down (17%, 15 Votes)
  • Trade for a Veteran (13%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 86

Loading ... Loading ...

Hornets 2015 Draft Prospect: Stanley Johnson

Video

Stanley Johnson

Highlights:

Bonus video:
https://youtu.be/ppUQCSMGQJU

Pre-Draft Internet Buzz:

Detroit Interested in Stanley Johnson – RealGM

Johnson Snubs Charlotte – SBNation


 

POLL : What Should Hornets Do on Draft Day?

  • Pick Devin Booker (21%, 18 Votes)
  • Pick Willie Cauley-Stein (29%, 25 Votes)
  • Pick Myles Turner (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Trade Up (19%, 16 Votes)
  • Trade Down (17%, 15 Votes)
  • Trade for a Veteran (13%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 86

Loading ... Loading ...