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Blogcat's Charlotte Hornets 2015-16 Season Preview, Part 2

Last week I summoned up my inner Johnny Cochran and tried to make a case for our starting 5. Don’t bother going back and reading it if you haven’t seen it already—God knows I won’t. The basic gist of it was, all in all, I think our starting 5 should be somewhere between watchable and decent. We’re actually pretty deep, too. With Linsanity and Brian Roberts managing the 1, AND now with some actual video evidence that Lin can play the 2 as well, plus Troy Daniels at the 2, PJ Hairston at the 2/3, Invisible Marv and Psycho T at the 3/4, and Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes at the 4/5…Look, I’m not saying it’s a song written by the hand of God, but there’s gotta be some 5-man combination of that group that forms into something other than a giant Bismack Biyombo Voltron, right? I’m also just assuming rookie Aaron Harrison and didn’t-even-know-he-was-still-alive Damien Wilkins don’t contribute anything, either.

For sure, a couple of things could really sweeten this pot, starting with Hairston. His shot has got to go from “looking good” to “being good.” Having not seen him play before he got to the NBA, I’m starting to think that someone actually Ferris Buehler’ed his college and D-League 3-point stats, in which it says he shot 39.6% and 35.6%, respectively. Hell, after last year’s performance, just shooting that well overall would be great, let alone from 3-point range. Hairston shot/shat just an unsightly .301 from 3-pt range as a rookie last season, which was further exacerbated by the fact that he shot 3’s almost nine times (niiiiine times) per 36 minutes, a rate that was third-highest on the team. It’s not like he was well covered, either. Per NBA.com, 58.8% of his 3-point attempts came without a defender within 4 feet of him. Dude just clanked harder than an Acme anvil, and it’s got to change.

Speaking of terrible shooting, somebody will need to take the ball out of Kemba Walker’s hands—at least once in a while. Kemba’s usage rate last year was 25.9%, according to NBA.com. I ran a search on all guards with at least a 25% usage rate, at least 60 games played, and at least 30 MPG last season. Would you like to know how many players that query produced? It produced 16. Would you like to know where Kemba’s 48.6 TS% ranked on that list? You would not, but I will tell you anyway: he was second-to-last, ahead of one Michael Carter-Williams (here it is, if you don’t believe me). Walker’s shooting was less effective than a terrorist’s on Strike Back, and probably not helped by the fact that 15% of his chucks came with 3 seconds or less on the shot-clock (for comparison purposes, that stat was 9% for Carter-Williams, and—just because I hate myself—5% for Steph Curry). This year, Kemba should have a couple more options besides frantically searching for help for 23 seconds before hoisting it himself in desperation—how nice would it be to see him get to be James Bond for once instead of Mark Watney?

So those are two things that could really make a difference. The third thing—the Jack Tripper of the group, if you will—is plain old injury luck. As a whole, the Hornets lost the 18th most man-games last season (according to mangameslost.com). However, when you weight the lost games based on the average minutes the injured players would have normally played, we were 10th. Obviously, we’re already starting this season hip-deep in a big, bubbling seepage pit, thanks to the MKG injury. But don’t forget that Walker and Al Jefferson combined to miss 37 games last season. In fact, from January 2nd to March 9th, a period of 29 games right in the heart of the playoff race, one or both of them missed 26 of those games. I’m not naïve enough to think that Big Al will be good for 82 games this year, but Kemba had been an iron man prior to catching the injury bug in 2014-15, so there’s every reason to think that this season he’ll be going the distance…he’ll be going for speed.

On the other hand, the two of them were not exactly the Wonder Twins together even when they did play. In 1,193 minutes with each other last year, the pair were a net -6.9 points/100 possessions. The previous year, they played 1,887 minutes together and were a +3.3. Most of that’s on Big Al, who was unexpectedly mediocre last year—his PER wheezed from 22.7 to 19.7 due to some real struggles to finish down low. Now he’s in a contract year, which should positively affect both his minutes played and his performance. Perhaps just as significant is that it’s Nic Batum’s contract year as well. Together, the three of them should be able to produce a hell of a positive feedback loop: space for Jefferson, fewer shots for Kemba, fewer injuries for everyone.

Okay, I’ve spent 1,900 words over the past two weeks pulling rainbows out of my anus. Unfortunately, the real me, the person who lies awake at night paranoid that I left the emergency brake off on my Pontiac that’s parked on a hill, overlooking a canyon, separated by a freeway, doesn’t think there’s a chance that the Hornets can make the playoffs. The Cavaliers, Heat, Raptors, Hawks, Bucks, Bulls, and Wizards are all locks to make it, in my opinion, and I’m pretty confident the Celtics will make it, too. Even if one of those teams drops out, we’d have to step over the Pacers, Magic, and Pistons to grab that last spot. It was going to be a challenge even with MKG. To do it now, we’d need serious injuries and/or catastrophic collapses from a couple of teams, plus epic contract year overachievement from Jefferson and Batum, plus huge leaps from Hairston and Cody Zeller (who admittedly DID take a huge leap in his rookie-to-sophomore year), plus a coming out performance from Jeremy Lamb on the level of Caitlyn Jenner, and probably at least one other random miracle, like Tyler Hansbrough accidentally severing one of Chris Bosh’s arms while fighting for a rebound. In other words, we’re going to need a Walter White-level of skill and luck, which we’ve never, ever, ever, ever had before. Either way, I’ve already forked over my money to League Pass like a mindless zombie. Oh well, at the very least we get Stephanie Ready in the commentator booth this year. I’ll probably just need to remember to adjust the volume in order to hear her over my own blood-curdling screams.

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    The East do have some good teams, IMO:


    Cavs, Heat, Bulls, Wiz, Raps, Hawks are lock to make playoffs


    The Bucks are talented but they are inexperienced.

    Pacers are good but they have a hole in the middle.

    Celtics' got Isaiah Thomas.


    I don't see the Magic and Pistons making such big leap. 


    There's a chance I think!

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