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Will the Hornets be better this year?

We expect the new additions will make them better in the present, but the most important part might be how it might make them better in the future.


The titular question here of course is not one that can be answered beyond speculation at this point, though we can make an educated guess that they will. The Charlotte Hornets have made significant roster additions, but with so many moving pieces, it's not easy to ascertain a perfect answer.

The biggest loss is of course Josh McRoberts, who had one of the best years of his career. McRoberts' talents were instrumental in making the then-Bobcats' offense flow, giving them one of the best frontcourt passers to help the ball move inside and out, keeping it from sticking in go-nowhere passing along the perimeter. With McRoberts on the floor, the team had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.06, and with him on the bench it was 1.40, the biggest disparity of any Bobcat. His three-point shooting wasn't outstanding, but it was solid and good enough to be an important part of spacing their offense.

The team didn't really have to make any other free agency decisions in regards to holdovers from their previous roster. Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver and Chris Douglas-Roberts weren't primary targets. Douglas-Roberts could still come back, though there hasn't been any indication of that yet. Tolliver signed elsewhere and Ridnour was replaced by Brian Roberts.

Charlotte made a risky and momentous signing, coming to terms with Lance Stephenson, the controversial and young shooting guard formerly of the Pacers. They also signed Marvin Williams to fill the gap for a veteran presence at power forward, and Roberts at backup point guard.

With two first-round picks they added Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston, addressing a need for shooting from the wing and getting a young player with the athletic tools to develop into a great two-way frontcourt power forward.

The depth chart currently looks like so:

PG: Kemba Walker / Brian Roberts / Jannero Pargo

SG: Lance Stephenson / Gerald Henderson / Jannero Pargo / P.J. Hairston

SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist / Jeff Taylor

PF: Marvin Williams / Cody Zeller / Noah Vonleh

C: Al Jefferson / Bismack Biyombo

I think the most immediate improvement the Hornets have made is in three-point shooting. Roberts is a career 37 percent shooter from behind the arc, a good gain over Ridnour's recent years. Stephenson, while no sharpshooter, is decent and at least a willing shooter, which is more than Henderson did from there. Further, if Summer League is any indication, Hairston's shooting is capable of catching fire but has been inconsistent, but with better discipline he might be able to be a dependable perimeter threat. And Marvin Williams could be a more consistent three-point shooter than McRoberts.

This change should help a weak point of Charlotte's offense from last year: poor shooting. It improved as the season progressed, but they still finished the year with the eighth-worst three-point shooting on the fourth-fewest three-point attempts. Such a weakness confines the Hornets offense in a variety of ways. Their best offensive option, Al Jefferson, gets no help when defenses can cheat inside due to weak perimeter shooting. Additionally, a smaller field of play inhibits passing by limiting lanes and space in which to move about and force defenses into tough decisions that stretch them from end to end.

Of course the key there is that the Hornets have the passing talent capable to see the floor. Losing McRoberts, who assisted on an estimated 22 percent of field goals while on the floor, could be a significant loss. He had pretty good ability to keep his dribble as a big man, which let the backcourt play off the ball and find space which led to good scoring looks. Stephenson's own 22 assist percentage makes up for that, but will come in a different way from McRoberts' high-post passing since Stephenson will spend possessions with the ball driving and then making decisions from there.

And though Marvin Williams offers a different skill set from McRoberts, Williams' defense should be a nice addition, as will his shooting as we already noted. His scoring is better than his Charlotte power forward predecessor with 19 points per 100 possessions last year (about 20 per 100 possessions for his career) to McRoberts 14.5 (14.8 career). However, Williams' passing comes in at a fraction of McRoberts (about one-third as good).

So it certainly looks like the Hornets should get a bit better. Charlotte has better depth, more experience for their young players and another year of stability with a good coach to continue to mold them. Their perimeter defense between Stephenson and Kidd-Gilchrist will be tantalizingly relentless. Considering the East pretty much up for grabs across the board, the Hornets could make a big jump with a mostly young roster and they have the chance to get even better in years to come, with hope that Stephenson develops as he has in recent years, and that Zeller and Vonleh make significant strides to be the players the Hornets drafted them to be, though there's no guarantee that will happen.

Ultimately the most important part of this offseason might be that Rich Cho and the Hornets front office made improvements in the present, and might have made even great improvements in the future years to come.