If Steve Clifford wants to experiment with the lineup, the Charlotte Hornets have a number of players who could fill in at the small forward spot.
Looking at the Charlotte Hornets‘ roster for the 2017-18 season, they have plenty of options at small forward. The team is loaded at wing positions with six players SG/SF under contract. Steve Clifford will have his choice and while the decision will be easy to start the year, it could get more difficult later in the season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been the go to starter at the three since he was drafted in 2012 but Rich Cho has brought in multiple versatile talents who could fill in at the small forward spot if need be. Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Marvin Williams, Treveon Graham and Dwayne Bacon can all play multiple positions.
Each of them has the size, strength and athleticism to play at the small forward spot. To throw off the opposition, create mismatches or just experiment, Steve Clifford has different lineup options to tinker with this year.
More from Swarm and Sting
The first and most logical option is MKG. Barring any injuries, he will start the season as the team’s starting small forward. Steve Clifford has said multiple times that Kidd-Gilchrist is the Hornets’ starting three and he continues to have his coach’s complete trust. His recent injury history and subpar outside shooting are causes for concern. Although he only missed one game last year, he only played in seven two years ago and only 55 due to injuries in 2014-15.
Even if the Kentucky product manages to stay healthy, his lack of a consistent outside shot could be an even bigger problem this season. Dwight Howard doesn’t exactly space the floor so it could prove to be difficult to play the two at the same time. If that ends up being the case, Clifford will have to look in another direction.
Batum has primarily been a shooting guard for Charlotte since they acquired him in 2015. Before that, he played small forward for his first seven seasons in the league with Portland. At 6’8, he can easily play the small forward spot and many would argue that he’s actually better suited for that than at the two.
If MKG is sidelined, Nic is a primary candidate to slide over to the three, have the same role, and let a role player take Michael’s minutes. At this point in his career, the France international is seen as a guard but he can easily play both wing positions for the Hornets. Regardless of where he plays, he will be the team’s secondary ball handler alongside Kemba Walker.
Lamb has been the go to guy to fill in for either Batum or Kidd-Gilchrist if they are out. Even though his size pins him as more of a shooting guard, he’s shown the ability to play both the two and the three off the bench for Charlotte. His length makes him a prime option but his lack of consistency has been a problem.
He’s fallen in and out of Clifford’s rotation on a couple of occasions. If he’s called upon, he can provide scoring and outside shooting in place of MKG. Jeremy’s defense won’t reach the levels of Michael but his shooting and offensive output would be a boost.
If Charlotte wants to go big, they can slide Marvin from power forward to the other forward spot while moving Cody Zeller or Frank Kaminsky to the four. While that is unlikely, it is a possibility. Williams played small forward earlier in his career and he is a bit undersized at power forward so a switch mid-game for a few minutes to experiment could be an option for Coach Clifford.
Want your voice heard? Join the Swarm and Sting team!
Graham should get a few opportunities this season. He started one game last year and made 27 total appearances. Steve Clifford loves his game because his defensive intensity and intelligence mimic that of MKG. Plus, he can knock down outside shots at a higher rate than Kidd-Gilchrist. The undrafted wing is a bit of a gem that the Hornets found.
Although he’s only a rookie, the FSU product has already shown glimpses of potential in the summer league and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is in the Hornets’ regular rotation in a couple years. That process could be sped up if Charlotte trades Lamb of is hit with multiple injuries. The rookie already has the build and strength of an NBA small forward. All he needs now is some experience.
Even rookie Malik Monk could play small forward in an emergency. Expect MKG to be the Charlotte Hornets’ main small forward but I wouldn’t mind seeing Steve Clifford changing things up a bit and experimenting with a few different options.