New name, new expectations.
That’s a killer, albeit youthful, starting lineup. Let’s not forget, Al Jeff is a top 10 player in the league right now, a rare 20-10 guy who Boogie just labelled the toughest big man to cover in the league. Noah Vonleh had scouts drooling pre-draft, and his range will complement Al’s inside game perfectly, while his length and defensive instincts have the potential to cover Al’s deficiencies on the other end of the floor.
MKG, who’s still only 20, can guard the opposing teams best perimeter guy, and won’t complain about a lack of shots. In fact, he is perhaps the anti-Dion Waiters, and I say that as a compliment. And the backcourt? Lordy. Both Lance and Kemba can do all sorts of damage in pick-and-rolls with Big Al, providing near limitless eye candy for League Pass subscribers. This just feels like a nicely rounded team.
Throw in Gerald Henderson and Marvin Williams, who may begin the year starting at PF while Vonleh develops, as your key bench guys, with Gary Neal and rookie P.J. Hairston capable of heating up and single-handedly winning the odd-game off the bench also, and you’ve got a sneaky top 4 chance in the East.
Or, am I being a little too premature here?
The East isn’t going to be quite as weak as it has been in years past. The Cavs and Bucks are obvious candidates for improvement, while natural development suggests the 76ers, Celtics and Magic will also pick up more wins. Still, I’m expecting big things out of Charlotte. MJ has timed their run perfectly, with the use of the old Hornets nickname bringing a fresh wave of optimism to the city.
Top 4 or no this time around, they are certainly going to be making some noise in the playoffs over the next few years: Vonleh, Stephenson, MKG and Kemba collectively boast an average age of 21, while Al Jeff is still surprisingly only 29.
Folks, the Charlotte Hornets are relevant again, and it’s a beautiful thing for the NBA.