Lance Stephenson's signing has helped further the Hornets' prominent upswing, and has writers and analysts very positive about their chances this season.
This could really be a coup for Charlotte. The team could have north of $12 million in cap space again next summer should it renounce Henderson's rights (assuming he opts out), and it's nabbed one of the best free agents on the market - in terms of basketball talent, anyway - at a discount. The Hornets are a legitimately dangerous playoff team now. The East is going to be wild.
He's also a willing passer with good vision for an off guard. No doubt, however, the biggest perk to adding a talent like Stephenson is his contribution on the defensive end, where his strength and wingspan allow him to effectively defend a variety of positions. We laugh at his ear-blowing antics during the playoffs, but the truth is he did a great job of making LeBron James and Dwyane Wade work hard.
And though Summer League initially wasn't kind to the Hornets, they've turned things around with their semifinals game against Houston today at 6 p.m. EST.
Their key young players' performances also improved and people outside of the Hornets' fan sphere have noticed.
Zeller has looked a lot more assertive on the floor this year and more sure of himself, and that confidence has definitely manifested itself in the box score, where he has shot an impressive 63 percent from the field. His combination of size and speed makes him an extremely tough cover, and he's finding ways to get open looks around the rim by being active and taking full advantage of his physical gifts.
It comes as a surprise that, although Zeller has been magnificent around the rim, he has not shot well from outside, one of his purported strengths coming out of Indiana. Not only has he shot poorly but he also has taken limited attempts. It's nice to know he knows his way around the basket, but, as the Hornets seek to fill the void left by Josh McRoberts, it's imperative that the power forward be able to space the defense somewhat for Al Jefferson, and Zeller hasn't proved to be the type of threat who can garner the respect of opposing defenses.
Summer league is hard for a big man. Teammates consistently looked off Vonleh's rim rolls, settling for breaking down the defense or taking contested shots. When the first-round pick did get the ball, the passes were poor or dumped off in awkward spaces on the floor. Vonleh crashed the boards, though, and collected 10 rebounds (five offensive) in the first three quarters. He also shot 3-for-4 in the fourth quarter to help secure the Hornets' advancement, with 15 total points.
Hairston was suckered into a chucker's duel with his Knicks counterpart, Hardaway. It was like a neutron star had imploded as Hairston and Hardaway both swallowed possessions in their head-to-head duel. The rookie burned too intensely, though, as the matchup instigated a taunting technical after a Hardaway offensive foul.