The stage is almost set for an NBA Finals Trilogy – Golden State versus Cleveland III – but in Charlotte, N.C, the focus remains on the ever important offseason that is manifesting before our eyes.
The Hornets, stuck in second gear in the slowly-but-surely improving Eastern Conference, require material enhancements if they hope to capitalize on star point guard Kemba Walker’s prime years. As I noted previously here, GM Rich Cho’s fate could align with the successes or failures of the next few months.
Here’s the latest Charlotte Hornets buzz, including (but not limited to) the momentous offseason decisions that lie ahead.
1. Let’s start with the positive. Per NBC Charlotte, the city has been awarded the 2019 NBA All-Star game. As you probably recall, and outlined in my post here, the Charlotte metropolitan area missed out on a huge economic victory when the 2017 All-Star game was relocated to New Orleans. This league decision obviously had much to do with the controversial House Bill 2, which was recently repealed by new governor Roy Cooper, thus reopening the door for host-city considerations. But this site isn’t called Amico Politics, and I’m definitely not Chuck Todd, so let’s get back to basketball shall we?
2. Kemba Walker underwent minor arthroscopic knee surgery last week, his second operation in as many years. Per CBS Sports, this doesn’t necessarily raise a red flag for the team, but it’s still a little unsettling. “With two injuries in the same knee in as many years it has to be concerning how often he's been playing hurt. Perhaps this is nothing more than just bad luck, but it's something to keep an eye on in the future.”
3. Remember Epke Udoh? Didn’t think so. Per Amico Hoops, the Hornets are among the teams rumored to be interested in adding the former first-round pick out of Baylor, who has since been hooping in the Euroleague. Udoh did just earn the Euroleague MVP, however I can’t imagine the Hornets frontcourt depth being solved by a 30-year-old who’s most recently been playing ball in Istanbul.
4. Speaking of frontcourt depth, perhaps majority owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho should refocus their attention to other areas this summer. The Hornets have drafted three power forwards from the Big Ten conference since 2013, none of which appear to be future All Stars. In a league where a five-foot point guard led the Boston Celtics to the top seed in the East, and the historically-dominant Golden State Warriors start 6’7” Draymond Green at center, perhaps a lumbering 7-footer from the Rust Belt isn’t the answer?
5. More draft buzz: Per Matt Medley of Amico Hoops, a composite look at the Hornets prospects at pick 11 from across the web predict the Hornets will stick to their traditional script and select another PF/C on June 22. The only non-big guy listed as a candidate for Charlotte? Eighteen-year-old Frank Ntilikina from France. The 6’5” point guard draws comparisons to Dante Exum, due to his length and athleticism, but lacks a consistent outside shot.
6. The Hornets desperately need more scoring to shed some of the offensive burden from Kemba Walker’s shoulders. I’d prefer Charlotte traded up a few spots to secure a score-first guy like Malik Monk of Kentucky or Dennis Smith of NC State, both flamethrowers that can generate points in a hurry.
7. Per CBS Sports, Hornets exec Chad Buchanan is receiving strong interest for the GM role with the Indiana Pacers. If hired, Buchanan would work with newly named President of Basketball Ops Kevin Pritchard, who recently replaced Larry Bird – got all that?
8. Per the Indy Star, Center Cody Zeller recently earned his degree from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “He entered the draft after two years of playing for the Hoosiers but spent the last four years taking online classes,” balancing the demands of the NBA with his schoolwork. And I thought I was busy in college…
Christopher Kreider | @krydr1