2015-2016 Record: 48-34
Key Additions: Roy Hibbert
The franchise owned by Michael Jordan have made major organizational steps forward since a disastrous 7-59 record in 2011-2012, culminating in last year finishing tied for the third best record in the Eastern Conference.
However, Charlotte projects to take a large step back, due most in part to a financial inability to re-sign outgoing free agents.
General Manager Rich Cho made the right decision in retaining the services of prolific three-and-D wing Nicholas Batum, but after that, there simply wasn’t enough money available for the likes of Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, or Jeremy Lin, who signed contracts worth a combined $116 million.
The Hornets also brought back one of the league’s most underrated players in Marvin Williams, who last year established himself as one of the league’s premier stretch fours. For some context, Kawhi Leonard was the only other player to shoot over 40 percent from three-point range and post a Defensive Box-Plus Minus of one or greater last season.
Maintaining perimeter shooting is crucial for allowing star point guard Kemba Walker room to work, but the lack of a true shot blocker led the team to sign former Laker Roy Hibbert to a one year “prove-it” deal worth just $5 million. Hibbert isn’t nearly the offensive threat of the Hornets’ other bigs such as Frank Kaminsky or Cody Zeller, but should he rediscover his previous form, this deal will go down as a major steal, while the risk on the other end is minimal.
The return of defensive ace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who appeared in only 7 games last season due to leg injuries will boost a defense that already finished eighth in the league in terms of defensive rating. MKG has infamously struggled with his jump shot, but the spacing lent by Batum, Marco Bellinelli, and Williams will give him the room he needs to operate.
The Hornets successfully retained their most important talents this offseason, but the impact that departing role payers had on their past success can’t be overlooked. A playoff berth should still be very much in the picture for Hornets fans, and the Bucks will have to surpass many expectations in order to surpass them.
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