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2014-15 NBA Preview: Charlotte Hornets

Lance Stephenson gets a chance to redeem himself playing for an organization owned by his idol, Michael Jordan. Hopefully he'll be a breath of fresh air for Charlotte, and not blow this opportunity.

Grant Halverson

As the season approaches, Pounding the Rock is running season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature is this look at the Brooklyn Nets.

Charlotte Hornets: Prediction: 6th in the Eastern Conference

2014 Record: 43-39

Coach: Steve Clifford

Significant Additions: G Lance Stephenson (free agent), F Noah Vonleh (draft), Marvin Williams (free agent), G Brian Roberts (free agent), G P.J. Hairston (draft), F Jason Maxiell (free agent)

Significant Subtractions: F Josh McRoberts (free agent), G Luke Ridnour (free agent), F Anthony Tolliver (free agent), C Brendan Haywood (trade), G Chris Douglas-Roberts (free agent)

Projected Starters: C Al Jefferson, F Marvin Williams, F Gerald Henderson, G Lance Stephenson, G Kemba Walker (6.5/10):
Jefferson's defensive weaknesses are well documented, but he was a revelation last season for a Charlotte team that was so offensively challenged. He gave the offense a reliable fulcrum and allowed them to be at least functional, despite their weaknesses on the perimeter. Stephenson may be a knucklehead, as his antics during last year's Eastern Conference Finals showed, but he gives the Hornets some badly needed playmaking from the two, he's a decent shooter, and he's one of the best two-way wings in the league. Williams may not provide as many highlights as "Josh McBob" did, but statistically they're a wash. Also, and this may surprise you because he's been in the league seemingly forever, but Williams is only 28, just a year older than McRoberts. Henderson isn't anything special but he cracked the lineup last year because they needed somebody who could hit a jumper. It's entirely possible that he could lose his starting job to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist if Clifford goes ultra defensive (and if assistant coach Mark Price indeed performs a miracle and fixes that ghastly jumper) or they could slide Williams over to the three if Vonleh, the ninth overall pick, develops way faster than expected. The 19-year-old had sports hernia surgery though and has missed most of camp, so he'll be way behind. Kemba Walker is a tough little dude, but his shooting is so poor that you can't objectively include him among even the league's top 20 point guards. Maybe Stephenson will take some of that pressure off of him.

Projected Reserves (6/10):
The bench is littered with lottery picks too young to give up on. Bismack Biyombo is the alpha to Jefferson's omega, an imposing shot blocker who can't do anything whatsoever on the other end. Cody Zeller really struggled his first few months in the league but picked it up considerably in March and April. Overall though, he was certainly a disappointment and it's hard to ever think of him as a future starter, now that the team drafted Vonleh to basically do the same things. The stretch-four role will be Vonleh's to lose, so Zeller needs to find a way to beat him out or showcase himself enough to be traded to a better situation elsewhere. Kidd-Gilchrist is a prime defender, but again, his playing time will depend on his shot. Gary Neal had a couple of good months with them last year after a disastrous stint in Milwaukee and he's the designated scorer off the bench. Brian Roberts is a serviceable backup point who got his chance last season when Jrue Holiday went down and showed that he belongs. P.J. Hairston is an intriguing fellow with prototypical size and athleticism at the two, but he was kicked out of North Carolina for various infractions. He'll probably spend the year in the D-League.

Coach/Front Office (6/10):
Clifford probably deserved to win the Coach of the Year award last season for guiding the Hornets into the playoffs and masking their significant flaws in perimeter shooting and interior defense. Now that he has a few more pieces to play with, it's really going to be exciting to watch him work. To be sure, there has to be a good developmental coach on that staff with all the young guys they've brought in, because the difference between a fifth or sixth seed and missing the playoffs entirely will likely ride on what their bench gives them. I'm betting Clifford will get enough out of his kids to make the sixth seed a tangible goal. Rich Cho, who worked his way up the ladder starting with Seattle in 1995, got hired as the team's GM in 2011 and he's quietly been working in the shadows (while Michael Jordan suffered the slings and arrows) to build a roster that was mediocre and veteran-laden after the Larry Brown years, and he's had to tear the whole thing down and start over, piece by piece. His draft record has been fairly atrocious, but for all their ineptitude, the Hornets have never been fortunate enough to have that top pick, and that's hurt them. Cho's free agent signings have been much better.

Team Rating: 62.5 (2.5x Starters Rating + 1.5x Reserves Rating + Coach Rating) x 2 = 62.5

Did You Know:
Charles Barkley revealed in an interview with Yahoo! Sports that he's no longer friends with Michael Jordan because Jordan was offended that Barkley, in his role as an analyst on TNT, criticized Jordan's performance as an executive. Since Jordan became involved with the Bobcats/Hornets the team has gone 249-391, a win percentage (a misnomer in this case) of .389. In the lockout season of 2011-12, they went 7-59, setting an NBA record for worst winning percentage of all-time at .106. What I'm trying to get at here is that Barkley has made worse basketball observations than "Charlotte is turrrrible."

Here are some other things you can say about Michael Jordan that will cause him to no longer be your friend:

- You are not the world's best golfer.

- LeBron James would totally beat you in a game of one-on-one right now.

- Sometimes when people laugh at your jokes, they don't really find them all that amusing.

- You should probably let that thing about being cut from your high school team go by now.

- You came off as a sociopath in your Hall-of-Fame speech.

- You sucked at baseball.

- You should probably tip more than zero percent at blackjack tables.

- I agree with what you said about not wanting to be your kids. It must be brutal, everywhere they go, having to hear over and over how awful your dad is at running a basketball team.