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Hornets end Summer League with close loss in semifinals to Houston

P.J. Hairston shined with 27 points to cap the Hornets' final game of their Summer League play.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Hornets finished their Summer League play with a loss in the tournament semifinals to the Houston Rockets, 83-79.

P.J. Hairston led all scorers with 27 points and also had seven rebounds. Despite underwhelming Kobe-esque shooting figures (9-for-24 on field goal attempts), Hairston impressed and showed a variety of scoring abilities. His jump shot had plenty of range and he had good balance, even though he made three of 10 three-pointers. Hairston also displayed his ability to put small defenders on his back and to score with his back to the basket in the post, and also had a nice bucket cutting baseline and one on a putback dunk. The 24 shots (23, if you subtract the last-second try after the game was decided) aren't a pretty number, but Hairston showcased bigtime confidence and looked like he's going to bring experience (for a rookie) to the backcourt as a gunner. Transitioning from the D-League, where gunning with no conscience is common, could be difficult, but hopefully Clifford can help cut that down a bit.

Their other first round pick, Noah Vonleh, did well too, but didn't score nearly as well, hitting 2 of his 12 shots. There's little chance Vonleh comes into games this season with a positive offensive impact. I love his footwork in the post and when facing the basket. I love his ability to create his own shot. But his touch around the basket on layups often defies the laws of physics. I'll watch him make a wonderful pivot and dropstep and then he jumps for a lefty layup, and it just comes off his hand so flat that it seems impossible. It's great that he can find his spot against defenders, and that's a terrific base for his offense, but he'll have to become a lot better finishing around the rim. His rebounding was again exceptional -- 16 total, 9 offensive tonight -- and hopefully that will be an instant plug-in for the Hornets when the regular season begins.

Josh Davis again had a strong and fun performance, dropping 18 points and 14 rebounds (6 offensive) on 11 shots. He was active and became increasingly aggressive in getting to the rim, drawing plenty of fouls with his physicality or head fakes. I tend to think he gets a camp invite, but I wonder how he would ever get any minutes on the Hornets the way they are currently. His skill set is defense and rebounding, which duplicates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's talents, and we haven't even seen Davis take on the beast that is the NBA 82-game season against better talent top to bottom. And then you have the surplus of shooting guard talent, some of whom can help at small forward. With that in mind, do the Hornets need an MKG-lite at that same spot? Would Davis even see the light of day? If they had a trade, perhaps, but that's just pure speculation at this point. Davis is a really intriguing player that hearkens back to a younger Kawhi Leonard, and not just for his hair. He's a solid defender and rebounder and does some sound things on offense, though he hasn't proven to be a great threat there. Still, what we've seen from Davis is such a small sample size against talent much weaker than what he'd see at the real level.

Anyway, moving on the game. The Hornets started off well with Davis and Vonleh all over the glass, helped by Hairston's shooting. Houston countered with the versatile talent of Donatas Motiejunas. and Houston led by one point at halftime.

After the half, Charlotte and Houston had a pretty even battle. The Hornets' starters outplayed the Rockets', but the latter's bench depth had a significant advantage in being able to create good scoring looks. Charlotte's offense was scrambled without Hairston, Davis or McConnell to create shots from the perimeter or inside the arc. Meanwhile Houston got an outstanding game from Isaiah Canaan, who had something like 20 or 22 points in the second half. He has a quick trigger and a great jump shot and exploited the Hornets' missteps in interior defense when he was able.

Charlotte had a chance to tie the game with 16 seconds left, but decided to go for a three down two points, and P.J. Hairston didn't even get a touch on the possession. Jerome Dyson missed the shot, the Rockets rebounded, Charlotte fouled and that was it.

Other thoughts:

I heard some folks say they like Bachynski for the third center spot. I just don't see it, not that the spot is even that big a deal (Brendan Haywood was the third center last year). Bachynski had two block shots, but that shouldn't tell you he's good at defense, because he wasn't. It's completely fair to think he's fatigued after this kind of schedule, but the big fella was constantly getting beat. His defensive footwork and agility were poor, permitting players to get past him with ease. He's got great size, OK touch on his shots on offense around the rim, but his defense lacks energy and mobility despite incredible length.

Happy offseason, everyone. This should cap any significant news for a good while, I think, unless a trade happens. Though pretty much anything in the reasonable realm of possibility will pale in comparison to signing Lance Stephenson.