Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Charlotte Hornets
The draft everyone was waiting for has come and gone, and the Charlotte Hornets came away with a very impressive haul that almost all would agree was one of the better drafts across the league.
The Hornets nabbed power forward Noah Vonleh with the No. 9 pick, an unexpected slide for the incredibly talented freshman out of Indiana. It was surprising to see him fall out of the top five and also not become the first power forward selected.
Later in the first round, Charlotte traded back a couple of spots to select P.J. Hairston from the Development League, picking up a the 55th pick and a future second-rounder in the process. The Hornets moved from No. 24 to 26 to allow the Miami Heat to snag their man in Shabazz Napier, while the Hornets also grabbed Xavier guard Semaj Christon, who was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for unknown compensation. I know, it is confusing.
Hairston gives the team a valuable outside shooter that the franchise desperately needed. Later on, the team took Stanford big man Dwight Powell to further add to their frontcourt depth.
All three should fit in swimmingly, which we will now examine in the first post-draft depth chart for your new Charlotte Hornets, who, by the way, just killed it with the recent release of their new court design for the upcoming season. Charlotte is in for a whole lot of honey.
When making the depth chart, we will be taking into account all the guys currently under contract as well as the projected impact they should have this upcoming year. One thing that is for sure is this roster is decidedly better than it was 24 hours ago.
1. Kemba Walker
For about two minutes during the draft, we were treated to the exciting thought of Walker teaming up with UConn buddy Shabazz Napier to destroy the Eastern Conference just like they did to the Big East back in the day.
Then the trade happened. Ugh.
Charlotte did pick up P.J. Hairston, who should be ready to produce very early on and take some of the scoring load off Walker. That being said, Kemba is still the straw that stirs this drink. He took big steps forward in 2013-14 and will continue to improve his all-around game with a better team around him.
He learned how to control the pace of the game, a skill that went a long way towards logging a lot more wins for his team this past season. The Al Jefferson signing helped him out tremendously, and Walker has nothing but brightness heading into his future as the franchise point guard.
He will now have the responsibility of getting his teammates involved more since they proved that they are much more reliable.
This is a little troubling.
Charlotte claimed to be looking for a backup point guard to ease the load on Walker in this draft. They actually drafted two of them, but ultimately decided that trading Napier and Christon for other assets was more beneficial.
Napier would have been a very exciting addition who would have fortified the bench, but it is hard to complain with the Hairston selection. Luke Ridnour and Jannero Pargo are both free agents, and it is unlikely Charlotte retains either.
Surely Walker will not be the only point guard on the roster in the coming months. A nice distributing guard to help get the younger guys off the bench involved is something the front office will be looking into during free agency.
1. Gerald Henderson
Henderson has held down the starting spot for three full seasons now to mostly average results. Scoring 14 points a game is nice, but the experiment has gone about as far as it's going to go.
Hendo is a solid defender and scorer, but he is not great at any one thing. It would be comforting to see him use his athleticism to take games over and be more of a factor, but he has proved at this point that he is what he is.
Charlotte may explore trade options depending on how much they like Hairston or what can be found on the market, but Henderson is more than welcome back. He does do some nice, albeit unspectacular, things and is a big piece of this roster.
His lack of outside shooting and ability to create for others have kept him as an average shooting guard in this league. He is still the incumbent until he gets traded or has his spot taken from him.
2. P.J. Hairston
Hairston took the unconventional route to the NBA by being the first-ever D-Leaguer to be selected in the first round.
He tore it up for 21.8 points per game with the Texas Legends and likely slipped in the draft due to some off-court incidents that led to his demise at the University of North Carolina.
Hairston now makes a welcomed, yet unceremonious return to North Carolina and should be relied upon very early on to be a quality shooter off the bench. His scoring last year was not a fluke.
If Hairston can get off to a hot start, he may be able to make Henderson's seat warm should he still be on the roster during the season.
The 6'6" guard is already 21 and is ready to contribute from day one. He has a very translatable skill set and should fit right into Steve Clifford's system. Great pick here.
3. Gary Neal
Neal will still see heavy minutes despite being labeled as a third-stringer. He lit a notable spark under this roster following his acquisition last season by giving them the clutch volume shooter off the bench that the Hornets needed.
Following his acquisition from the Milwaukee Bucks, Neal was clearly rejuvenated by the heat of the playoff race and shot 41 percent from three-point range during his 22 games with Charlotte. He instantly became the team's best shooter and sixth man, roles that are unlikely to change barring something unforeseen.
Neal is an essential part of this club due to his veteran leadership and outside shot. Hairston's arrival will not take away from Neal's floor time since the two can both play more than one spot on the floor.
Don't be surprised if Neal has a career year this upcoming season heading into a contract year and a full campaign as the likely sixth man.
1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
MKG continues to step up and become a wall on the defensive end of the floor. After just two years, he has already put himself in the conversation for best perimeter defender.
He may not ever become a big offensive threat, but MKG will be a vital member of the Hornets regardless. He was sadly the recipient of two savage beatings from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this past season, both dropping 60-plus points while being guarded primarily by him.
Nobody is taking his starting spot as long as he is healthy. While he may not ever be an elite scorer, he is still going to have to improve on that end after taking a step back across the board in year two. All his numbers decreased except his field-goal percentage because he showed little confidence in challenging himself offensively.
Charlotte has other offensive options, but still needs more than seven points a night out of MKG. He is far too athletic to put up that kind of production regardless of how hideous his jumper is.
2. Jeff Taylor
Charlotte got off to a hot start in 2013-14 with Taylor showing signs of coming into his own. He did not light it up on the stat sheet, but his athleticism and hustle gave Clifford a very reliable option off the bench that he could count on.
Taylor tore his Achilles after just 26 games and should be ready to go before training camp. He has some similar strengths and weaknesses to MKG but is a little more willing to shoot and a little less prone to eliminate someone on the defensive end.
He is not going to be a star, but Taylor will continue to be a quality guy off the bench. It took Charlotte quite some time to fill his void last season and was lucky that guys like Anthony Tolliver and Josh McRoberts were able to perform so well in his absence.
3. Anthony Tolliver
He is not signed for next season, but we are going to roll the dice and predict that Charlotte brings him back.
There is no telling how awful this team would have been from beyond the three-point line without Tolliver last year. He hit 102 threes last season, more than double his previous high in any season. He also connected on 41 percent of his attempts to prove himself as a guy who isn't just in there chucking for a new contract.
Tolliver has developed a reputation for being a great glue guy in his brief career, finding a niche on each roster he has played for doing a number of different roles. He gave Charlotte what they needed this past year, and he must be rewarded for it. The Hornets are in a position that they never thought they would be a year ago—one that requires a big contribution from Tolliver.
History says he will not shoot 41 percent again, possibly because he won't get the same number of opportunities with more talent on the roster. That doesn't mean the Hornets shouldn't bring him back. There isn't a team in basketball that wouldn't welcome Anthony Tolliver with open arms.
1. Cody Zeller
Zeller is no longer the only athletic top-10 Hoosier big man on this roster. He came on stronger as his rookie season wore on last year, but he will now start to feel some heat from his fellow alum.
If McRoberts is not re-signed, it is a strong bet that Zeller is given the first crack at the starting nod. On paper, he has a great skill set to complement Jefferson. He is athletic, can stretch the floor and get out and run.
Zeller averaged just 6.0 points in his rookie season because he was often caught in between while on the court. His decision-making was poor, as he found himself in no-man's land around 15 feet from the rim too often, struggling to commit to either a short jumper or a drive to the rim.
His 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds on 51 percent shooting after the All-Star break helped him save some face and quell the "bust" brigade for the time being. Let's not forget he is still just 21 and has a lot of room to grow.
Charlotte taking Vonleh had little to do with Zeller. He was simply too good to pass up and was not supposed to slip to No. 9, and Charlotte is not a franchise in position to pass on that kind of talent.
Look for Zeller to make big improvements in year two and start to live up to his lofty draft billing.
2. Noah Vonleh
Vonleh is likely not ready for a huge role just yet, but frontcourt depth was a big issue for this team last year. There is not enough talent to keep Vonleh off the court for long.
Charlotte struck gold when he fell to them in the draft after many expected him to go in the top five. On paper, it would be hard to find a better potential complement to Jefferson. Vonleh has great length and ability to stretch the floor as well as an incredibly high ceiling at just 18 years old.
Vonleh's presence may have pushed McRoberts out the door, but he has solidified this frontcourt. He has All-Star potential and should cause problems immediately with his jumper and defensive length.
It will be interesting to see how Clifford incorporates Vonleh early on. A shooter would have been the ideal selection for Charlotte with that pick, but nobody is complaining about getting this sort of elite talent falling right in its lap. He has star written all over him and will definitely find his way into meaningful minutes at some point in his rookie season.
3. Dwight Powell
Charlotte doubled up on frontcourt depth in this draft by grabbing Powell in Round 2. Charlotte now has three power forwards all under age 22.
Powell often got overlooked at Stanford because of his teammates, but he was as vital a contributor as any of them. He is an extremely active player who will crash the boards and stretch the floor, a quality Clifford apparently has an affection for in his big men.
Powell will likely not see many minutes due to the redundancy on the roster. Zeller and Vonleh possess a lot of the same strengths, but the main thing Powell has above them is his creativity. He averaged 3.2 assists last season at Stanford and could use that unique ability to carve out a nice role for himself on this roster.
McRoberts' passing was one of the most irreplaceable elements to last year's Bobcats team. Zeller and Vonleh do not have the ability to replicate that, but since Powell does, he could easily find himself logging some solid minutes because of it.
1. Al Jefferson
The Bobcats' magical season, hopes of shocking the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the playoffs and putrid existence all collapsed like a house of cards when Jefferson went down with a plantar fascia injury in that series.
Jefferson gave the Bobcats an identity and led them back to the playoffs behind one of his best seasons. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 boards while becoming the leader and defensive anchor few thought he was capable of being.
He had always been one of the better centers in basketball, but he always seemed to be more of a power forward trapped in a center's body. Nobody bought into Clifford's philosophies more than Big Al, and now the Hornets are back with a true face of the franchise leading the way.
Keeping him healthy again is the top priority, and better all-around ball movement should help in that department. Most criticized the team signing him last offseason and pegged it as a pointless use of money that would make them no better than mediocre. Those critics are eating their words today as he is heading a legitimately talented roster that will make noise in the Eastern Conference.
2. Bismack Biyombo
Biyombo has not shown the development that many hoped to see out of him in his three seasons. With a defensive coach in Clifford, it was more troubling to see him fail to earn more playing time and lock down more minutes alongside Jefferson as a defensive stopper.
Biyombo did shoot 61 percent from the field and still averaged 1.1 blocks in just 14 minutes a night of playing time, but his offensive repertoire has been reduced to dunking and little else. His defensive instincts are not sharp unless he can simply rise up and swat somebody at the rim.
His slow development likely contributed to the front office selecting Zeller and Vonleh. There is still room for Biyombo to have a strong value to this team due to his unique skill set and athleticism. He is a good defensive backup for Jefferson and will see a good amount of minutes due to Jefferson's injury history, as long as he can improve and not continue to regress.
3. Brendan Haywood
Remember him? Yes, he is still on an NBA roster.
I wouldn't look too much into this. Haywood missed all of last season and is a forgotten man on the NBA landscape.
It is hard to project what will happen with him. Charlotte could easily find a way to get rid of him, and it could also find a perfectly reasonable way to incorporate him off the bench given Biyombo's struggles. Stay tuned!