After hiring Steve Clifford to replace head coach Mike Dunlap and signing big man Al Jefferson, the Charlotte Hornets (then-Bobcats) returned to the postseason in 2014. They entered the offseason hoping to make a big splash and show great improvement again.
The Hornets signed Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward to a giant offer sheet but the Jazz matched and the Hornets were forced to move on. They then signed point guard Brian Roberts and forward Marvin Williams. After that, they pulled off a coup, signing Indiana Pacers’ guard Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27.4 million deal.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders believes the Hornets will be much improved but does’t view them as a true contender.
I’m excited to see what the Hornets can do this season. Steve Clifford is a great coach and the fact that they have one year of experience in his system under their belt should help the team. Al Jefferson was obviously great last year and I expect similar productivity this season. Lance Stephenson is a great addition to that team and he’ll help them on both ends of the court, especially if he plays like he did in the first half of last year when he was being talked about as a potential All-Star. Marvin Williams was a great signing too, because he was very good last year in Utah. Kemba Walker played very well last year and that should continue, especially since he has some more weapons around him. I’m curious to see if guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller can take the next step in their development. If so, this team could be really good. I think they can make some noise in the East, but I don’t think they are a Finals team just yet. I still have them a notch or two below Cleveland and Chicago. I just think those teams are much more talented on paper.
Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season while shooting 49.1% from the field, 35.2% from beyond the arc and 71.1% from the charity stripe in the regular season. In the postseason, he put up 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He shot 45.5% from the field, 35.8% from downtown and 71.4% from the free throw line. In his four-year career, he has averaged 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 46.7% from the field, 32.5% from three and 71.1% from the free throw line.
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