Why in world would Hornets want Belinelli?

Christopher Kreider

I’m honestly befuddled. The Charlotte Hornets traded their lone first-round pick (number 22 overall) to the Sacramento Kings for 30-year-old Italian sharpshooter, Marco Belinelli. The journeyman shooting guard is currently under contract through 2017-18, making over $6 million a year. I’ve always thought highly of Belinelli, but I still don’t think this trade makes sense for the up-and-coming Hornets. Below are some initial thoughts surrounding the trade, as well as an overall grade for General Manager Rich Cho’s decision.

Marco Belinelli is a 6’5”, 210 pound role player that has specialized in the 3-point shot over the course of his eight year career. To put the “3-point specialist” label into context a bit, consider this: Belinelli has taken almost 4,600 shots in his NBA career and 43% of those have come from long distance. Furthermore, during his previous two years with the NBA’s version of an intramural basketball team, the Sacramento Kings, Marco hoisted just under half of his shots from three.

Belinelli launches a 3-pointer about every six minutes of playing time. Compare those digits to the starting shooting guard of the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers, JR Smith, who has taken a 3-point shot approximately every five minutes of playing time. That’s where the comparisons to Smith end, however, as JR has shown the innate ability to instantaneously catch fire, making shots you’d typically only attempt in your driveway (JR also wears shirts far less often than Belinelli). Overall, Belinelli’s career numbers paint the picture of a pretty one-dimensional player.

To his credit, however, Belinelli has improved his defensive abilities throughout his career. His effort on the defensive side of the ball has visibly increased over the past few years under defense-first coaches Tom Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford will definitely demand more of the same intensity when he takes the court in Charlotte.

The question remains, however, why the Hornets front office made a seemingly short-term move for a team that clearly is several pieces away from competing at a championship level. Belinelli is a nice scorer, but he isn’t going to put more fans in the seats. He isn’t going to take over games with his hot streaks nor is he going to turn the Hornets into favorites in the East. He’s never averaged above 12 points per game and, with all this talk of his 3-point prowess, shot a mere 30% from distance last season with the Kings.

Realistically, he will likely provide as a replacement to the potentially-departed Courtney Lee, and temporarily add to the floor spacing that is so imperative with the Hornets rim-attacking offensive approach. In my opinion, however, the opportunity cost of foregoing additional young, inexpensive talent was just too high at this time for Charlotte. The Hornets are a young team that needs to continue to build through the draft, not tack on ancillary role players that are only going to push the payroll closer to the salary cap. Plus, the gargantuan elephant in the room is the Hornets inability to score near the basket, ranking 29th last season in points in the paint per game. Wouldn’t North Carolina product Brice Johnson have made more sense?

Overall grade: C-

Christopher Kreider | @krydr1

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