Before you go getting greedy, let's first acknowledge that Christmas came a little early for Hornets' fans. While you might not be as fortunate as the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, or other top teams, lately things have been rather rosy. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has returned from injury, the team has won four games straight, and Kemba Walker is on a tear.
However, this is America and that means there's always room for more. Be it more calories, more debt, more horsepower, or, in this case, more good vibes from your favorite NBA team. It's our right to desire these things if we so choose! So what's on my Charlotte Hornets Christmas Wish List?
More Christmas green on the team's shot chart
Continued health of Michael-Kidd Gilchrist
Since MKG returned nine games ago, the team is 5-4 with two could have been wins at Memphis in double overtime and a let down against Phoenix at home. For the season, the Hornets are 7-7 with Kidd-Gilchrist fully available (that excludes the Knicks game he left due to injury) and just 3-12 without him. It's obviously not that simple, but he's been great this season.
Before his 12 game absence due to a stress reaction in his foot, MKG looked like a brand new player. The hard work he put in over the summer, apparently foregoing Team USA responsibilities to work on his jump shot, had paid off. Since his return, he's been good, but he hasn't looked as confident and it's showing up in the numbers.
Despite the regression post injury we wouldn't be wishing for his continued health if his return wasn't a good thing. Just like it's impossible to know how Santa visits billions of households in a single night, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's impact can't be fully understood by looking at the stats. The team is really starting to play well together and his teammates and coaches have attributed his intensity for a large part of that success. In the last nine games, the Hornets have the seventh best Net Rating in the league (+4.3) and the seventh best Defensive Rating (100.4). Warning: small sample size theater, also inflated by blowouts against three bottom ten teams.
The "new" starting lineup to stay the same
Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson have started all four games since Lance Stephenson exited the lineup due to a groin injury. During that time they've played 61 total minutes and outscored opponents by a total of 18 points. If this seems familiar, it's because this lineup played in 28 games last year for a total of 139 minutes (the team's 5th most used lineup). Although lacking a third guy to be part of a dream "Big 3" and lacking the outside shooting that is all the rave in the NBA right now, this unit knows how to execute. It's all made possible by three role players who nicely supplement the weaknesses of Walker and Jefferson as the primary scoring options.
However, this new starting lineup likely would have never happened without Lance Stephenson's injury and it might go away when he returns.
Lance Stephenson out at least through Christmas.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) December 20, 2014
According to Hornets' beat reporter, Rick Bonnell, this could all be a thing of the past if Stephenson returns against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In order for this Christmas wish to come true, despite Stephenson being healthy, coach Clifford will have to convince him to embrace a sixth-man role. Do you believe in Christmas miracles?
More time for Bismack Biyombo
Before you say it, yes his hands are suspect, yes his free throw percentage is disappointing, yes he lacks even one go to move on offense, and yes he still is pretty mistake prone. However, Bismack Biyombo has grown to the point where he has become so good at defending the paint, setting screens, offensive rebounding, and catching lobs that it's now painfully obvious he's a net positive when on the floor.
Need proof of how well he's playing? Biyombo has the highest Net Rating of any rotation player at +9.9 (and he's one of two that have a positive number at all, with P.J. Hairston being the other). That means when he's on the floor, the team is outscoring opponents by 9.9 points per 100 possessions. He's blocking 1.3 shots in just 14 minutes per game and has a block percentage (an estimate of shots blocked out of possible 2-point blocking opportunities) of 7.3 percent, which would be second in the NBA if he was qualified. On the boards, in his limited playing time he's averaging 2.2 offensive rebounds per game. Again looking at the percentage of available rebounds, he has an offensive rebounding percentage of 17.4, which would be best in the league. That doesn't even account for all of the loose ball fouls he's drawing while going for offensive rebounds, which is part of the reason he's almost averaging a free throw for every field goal attempt (if only he could knock them down, 45.8 percent this year from the line).
More Biyobmo also means more rest for Al Jefferson, who recently suffered a groin injury of his own that caused him to leave the game during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz. Coach Clifford has been on record multiple times that he wants to keep Jefferson at around 33 minutes per game. Biyombo's recent strong play should help Clifford meet that goal.
More Lance memes
And finally, wishing for the winning streak to make it to five
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
All stats from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.