Despite the Charlotte Hornets’ down season last year, don’t expect Steve Clifford or Rich Cho to change the team’s starting lineup in 2017-18.
For Charlotte Hornets‘ fans hoping that major changes would be coming to the team’s roster this summer, that isn’t a likely outcome. The Vertical’s front office expert, Bobby Marks, even noted that “Expect a quiet summer for the Hornets when free agency begins.” With their limited cap space and only one first round draft pick, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for them to get significantly better.
Looking at the Hornets’ free agency plans, the best they can hope for is signing a quality backup role player. Other than a Mid-Level Exception, they have no money to spend this offseason. The front office won’t be going after Paul Millsap, Stephen Curry (sorry) or Blake Griffin. They won’t even be able to get someone like Serge Ibaka with their limited cap space.
That means getting a player of starter quality in free agency isn’t likely unless Charlotte somehow creates a bunch of spending money. While that is possible, it is extremely unlikely.
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As for the draft, the Hornets hold the 11th overall pick in the first round which means they could grab a talented prospect considering how loaded this draft class is. Although, whoever they end up selecting, whether it be Zach Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Frank Ntilikina, Donovan Mitchell, OG Anunoby or Justin Jackson, none of them will be good enough to immediately jump into their starting lineup.
Even for the best prospects, they will likely come off of the bench to start their career as they need time to develop into productive and consistent players. Unless they trade into the top five, their first round pick will be a role player to start next season.
While a trade isn’t out of the question, only twice in the past five years has Charlotte traded for a player worth inserting into their starting lineup (Nicolas Batum and Courtney Lee in 2015). Other than that, all of their trades have been for role players. Ultimately, it is unlikely that the Hornets make a blockbuster move.
2017-18 Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Nicolas Batum
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Cody Zeller
Sticking with this starting five may not be the worst outcome for Charlotte. This lineup has experience under Steve Clifford and he trusts them. Not only that but they’ve also had recent success. Just this past season, these five players only appeared in 47 total games together. In those outings, they went 27-20.
It may not seem great but compared to the 9-26 record that they had in the other 35 games, it was outstanding. It was also the team’s most successful five-man lineup in the 2016-17 campaign. (stats.NBA.com)
While anything could happen, I wouldn’t count on the Charlotte Hornets changing up their starting lineup. A move could be made mid-season if the team’s struggling but to start the year, expect Kemba, Nic, MKG, Marvin and Cody to start games. Rich Cho, Michael Jordan, Steve Clifford and the franchise will give this group at least one more chance before making a decision to go in a different direction.