The Hornets' offseason of roster adjustments has pretty much concluded. With 14 players they have room to add one more with a small contract, but for the most part they're set. Still there are plenty of questions remaining for Charlotte before they head into training camp, some of which might be answered when that part of the offseason finishes.
Starting shooting guard: Gerald Henderson or Lance Stephenson?
Stephenson looks to be a favorite in this positional battle. He's poised for a breakout season after years of developing to edge of an All-Star appearance, and has better outside shooting than Henderson, his most notorious weakness. And Stephenson's experience in the Pacers' defensive unit should mean he can come in and play the similar defensive style under Clifford for Charlotte. However, it isn't a given that the Bobcats co-captain will assume the reserve role. Henderson also has a fairly versatile offense and has experience under Clifford already. Henderson also was a fine defender, with a good stride in closing out and lateral agility. Stephenson also can do that, but it's not like it's a huge difference.
Lance saw starter's minutes in Indiana despite coming off the bench, so maybe we shouldn't assume he will start -- Sorry, my boo-boo there - Ben. However, Stephenson's outside shooting and passing will be a big advantage over Henderson, and possibly necessary ones.
Starting power forward: Marvin Williams or Cody Zeller?
The Hornets must fill the Josh McRoberts void after losing him to Miami, and it might not be as big a hole as some may think. McRoberts was certainly an X-factor for them last year and his absence as a passer out of the high post will be seen, but considering Williams' three-point shooting and Stephenson's passing, maybe the Hornets won't be so desperately missing McRoberts. Clifford does face a decision in who to make his starter, however. Zeller's quickness and athleticism could help their interior defense rotate and defend the rim, but he didn't look like a starter last year at all, save for some rare occasions that we saw a bit more toward the end of the season. It looked like he has a ways to go. Williams, however, is a more finished player. He's no go-to scorer but can be a complementary scorer with range on his jump shot and some moves to get to the rim. Hopefully health won't be an issue for him as he plays considerable minutes at power forward. If Zeller has become a better jump shooter, he could grab the starting spot, but he'd also have to become a stronger finisher at the rim, I think,
What becomes of Gerald Henderson or Gary Neal?
One of these players (maybe both!) might grow disgruntled with a smaller role this season. Neal looks to be the odd man out as one of the older players on the roster who could be pushed out of significant minutes as Henderson and Stephenson lead the depth chart at shooting guard. Utilizing Henderson as a small forward could alleviate this, but there hasn't been any indication as of yet that this would happen. With four shooting guards on the roster, the Hornets have some trading avenues they could take to alleviate their excessive wealth of depth. Neal's contract is more attractive (it's expiring; Henderson's has a player option for another year), but $3 million might not be enough to swing bidders into a deal the Hornets would like. Maybe sweetening the pot with a draft pick would help, as Charlotte could afford that at this point, I think (that feels weird to write).
Will Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's offense make a jump?
I don't think it's any exaggeration to say Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's defense was paramount to the Bobcats' success even though he only played 24 minutes a game. His energy in helping contain ball penetration as a help defender while being able to close out on perimeter defense or in rotating as the ball moved would be hard to replicate or replace. Unfortunately, his offensive shortcomings and foul troubles would keep him off the court for big chunks of games. As Mark Price continues to work on correcting Kidd-Gilchrist's jump shot, the young small forward (just a year older than Jabari Parker somehow) needs to start making progress on his weaker side of the floor. An improved jump shot would go a long way to improving that, and so would an ability to take more players off the dribble, as we saw in off-ball scenarios during his best game of the playoffs. I'd be hard-pressed to predict his offense making a huge step forward, but I think something more moderate might be in his future.
Will Kemba Walker's scoring recover with more talent around him?
Though Walker's sophomore season was much better than his first, jumping to 42 percent shooting from a horrid 36.6 percent, he suffered a slight fall back this past season. Thankfully that drop was alleviated by better three-point and free-throw shooting. And after the All-Star Break, he was even worse with a 35.7 field goal percentage and 31.5 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Thankfully the improved Bobcats spacing and shooting helped Walker's passing find more success for nearly 8 assists per game in that time. With Stephenson as an added capable ballhandler and playmaker, he'll take some pressure off Walker in the role as one of the primary shot creators. McRoberts could help that from off the ball, but could not reasonably handle the ball extensively like Stephenson can. Hopefully Walker can balance out his offense for better shots while distributing the ball well with the added help of Stephenson and three-point shooting of Williams. There's no guarantee this will happen, but perhaps the likely outcome is a slight climb. Maybe it won't be to the level of his second year's field goal percentage but perhaps his overall scoring efficiency will rise with better three-point shooting. If he can accomplish that while maintaining better passing numbers, he could be prove to be a more solid foundation to the Hornets' future.