While the Charlotte Hornets have been above average so far this season, there are a number of concerns that need to be addressed going forward.
The Charlotte Hornets aren’t a team known for experimenting with their lineups and that is probably why they have been so consistent over the past few seasons. Steve Clifford marches out the same starting five every match, unless there is an injury, and for the most part, it works but it may be time for a change this year. Switching up the rotation could help the team as the current sequence hasn’t been as successful as many had hoped.
The biggest downfalls for the Hornets so far this year have been Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s struggles as well as Frank Kaminsky not playing up to par. While there are other obstacles for Charlotte to meet and overcome, these two may be the easiest ones to try to correct. The real question is if a change will ever come to the team as there is no new direction in sight.
Steve Clifford’s inability and stubbornness to tinker with his lineups may be his biggest downfall. While these players have struggled mightily, he has shown no indication of making a change. It is great to have confidence in your players but at a certain point, a difficult decision must be made.
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MKG Doing More Harm Than Good?
Over the course of the season, Kidd-Gilchrist has been outscored by the opposing small forwards, 476 to 223 (66-8 in the last two games). That means the players he’s been defending are scoring twice as much as he is per game. This is not the elite defending that many would expect from Michael.
If experts and fans alike want to claim that he is a great perimeter defender, then he needs to be better at individual defense. He has allowed 10 games of 24+ points this season. Even if he is the team’s best “lockdown” defender, MKG’s lack of offense is even more concerning and may be the main reason Steve Clifford may want to make a change.
With what was supposed to be an improved outside shot, Kidd-Gilchrist has yet to make the three-point shot this season. His mid-range shooting hasn’t been much better as he’s only shooting 30.2% from there which is third-worst on the team, only ahead of Frank Kaminsky (who has also struggled) and Ramon Sessions. Both of those players do not start and aren’t relied upon as often to score.
Here is a look at one of his horrendous jumpers (not the form because I don’t care how it looks) that misses the mark by a lot. Happens far too often.
Even though I highly doubt that Clifford will make the move to Marco Belinelli starting at shooting guard and moving Nicolas Batum to the three, I think that may be the best option going forward. It might not work but it is at least worth a chance. Especially with how bad MKG has shot the ball and how his defense hasn’t been that great.
Frank Kaminsky or Spencer Hawes?
There is no sugar-coating that Frank has not been good this season. While he is averaging 10.3 points per game (fifth-best on the team), Kaminsky is only shooting 37.7% from the field and 28.1% from the three-point line which is far below his percentages from last year. This may be a sophomore slump and maybe he can break out of it but his poor play has shown no signs of stopping.
And the truth is, Frank can’t defend anyone. He is arguably the worst defender on the team and his poor shooting coupled with his inconsistent play have made him almost unplayable. Why he still gets 20+ minutes per game is beyond me because Clifford should’ve made a change a long time ago. I know he doesn’t want to hurt Kaminsky’s confidence as a young player but he can’t continually be rewarded for playing poorly.
Frank is also only shooting 29% on open threes this season. Which is not ideal. This play happens about four times per game.
While Spencer Hawes is only averaging 6.7 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game this season, his play has been far more consistent than Frank. He is also shooting better from the field at a 46.9% clip. You may not get the same upside with Hawes that you might get with Kaminsky but at least you will get consistent play with toughness, inside scoring, and rebounding.
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Many fans may not want to see the team give up on Frank so quickly but with Spencer on the floor, the second unit doesn’t lose much and if anything, gains a player that will provide the same thing every night.
Here is the defensive intensity that Hawes brings. You won’t see this from Kaminsky.
Not to mention that the team gives up four more points with Frank on the floor and opponents shoot 61% at the rim with him in as well. (Brian Geisinger) Yet Clifford keeps playing the big man 20+ minutes per game while Spencer has been moved to the bench since Roy Hibbert has returned from injury. Hawes may not be as agile as Kaminsky (Who isn’t that agile or strong for a four) but he would provide more consistency off the bench.
While I don’t think these changes will ever come because the Charlotte Hornets have invested too much in both MKG and Kaminsky. At the very least, the change should be made to see if it is an improvement to the team. If not, they can easily go back to what they have now. Obviously, players’ egos aren’t as simple as that and they are difficult to manage but Steve Clifford must make the best decisions for the team to win games and I don’t think having Kidd-Gilchrist and Frank playing in their current roles is paying off.