First off, a merry Christmas/happy holidays/whatever you may celebrate to one and all!
With it being the holiday season, I am in quite the giving mood, so Santa has entrusted me to tell him who from the Charlotte Hornets deserves what gifts. It is quite the strenuous position, but I believe I have put together a very solid list.
Walker has come a long way from his rookie days with Charlotte. Well, for the most part. He will still have the occasional flashback to 'Hero Ball Kemba,' which can lead to many ugly shots and possessions, but overall, he is having a career year so far. Walker is currently on pace for career highs in points per game (18.0), field goal percentage (43.7 percent), 3-point percentage (35.7 percent), rebounds (4.2) and blocks (he already has 18 in 27 games. His current career high is 32 blocks. Again, this is for a point guard who is generously listed at 6'1"). He deserves some recognition for his improved play.
Present from Santa: An All-Star appearance and Lil Kemba dolls for everyone in Toronto
Speaking of career years, Batum is flourishing in his first season as a Charlotte Hornet, and hopefully it will not be his last. Batum has stepped into his own in Steve Clifford's offense, becoming the secondary ballhandler and playmaker Charlotte has been missing since Josh McRoberts left. Batum's all-around game has made him a vital part of the Hornets' game plan this season, and should make him part of the team's plans going forward. Charlotte would be fools to let him go.
Present from Santa: A nice, new contract with the Hornets
Al Jefferson deserves a lot of credit for helping turn around this franchise. He came to Charlotte when few marquee free agents would, and he has been nothing but wonderful for both the organization and the city of Charlotte. His numbers this season are down compared to previous seasons, but anyone who has watched the Hornets play recently can see how much he is missed on the court. Unfortunately, injuries and the tendency to enjoy...special substances off the court means that Jefferson will once not play a full 82 games in a season, as the center has had to battle injuries throughout his career. Jefferson deserves better than that.
Present from Santa: An injury-free rest of the season (I will donate any body parts of mine as needed to help make this happen)
Forget that he has not played a meaningful minute of basketball this season. Even with his injury, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is still finding ways to help himself, his teammates and the city. Despite his injury, he is still watching every game as the league's "highest-paid quality control scout." Despite his injury, he has recently been found taking shots during shootaround, trying to improve his jumper and get back in game-shape, even though he only has a small chance of returning at all this season. Despite his injury, he is still going around Charlotte and helping in the community. Of course he has been a good boy this year!
Present from Santa: A quick recovery (and a magically fixed jump shot)
Lin has been a very pleasant surprise this season, as he has continue to evolve as a player post-Linsanity. His skill and versatility has been crucial for Charlotte's success this season, particularly his role with the bench unit (who I vote we officially name the 'Swarm Troopers'). His play should have him in consideration for Sixth Man of the Year, his antics off the court have helped build a strong chemistry among his teammates, and he makes some pretty good YouTube videos on top of all that. My only request? Please never abandon the Super Saiyan mohawk again.
Present from Santa: A lifetime supply of hair gel and playing time
There have been fewer surprises this season than the play of Lamb. In his first season getting consistent minutes, he is rewarding the Hornets greatly, as he is (unsurprisingly) on pace to set career highs in nearly every statistical category. Coming into Monday's game against the Houston Rockets, Lamb led the NBA in points per game by a players without a start. He and Lin have become the leaders of the 'Swarm Troopers,' and while Lamb is not shooting at the absurd levels he was at the start of the season, he is still playing well enough to make Rich Cho look like a genius for signing him to a contract extension so early in the season.
Present from Santa: Immunity from shooting regression
Add Cody Zeller's name to the list of Charlotte Hornets players who have stepped up their play this season. Zeller is on pace to set numerous career highs, including points per game (8.2), field goal percentage (49.3 percent) and effective field goal percentage (49.3 percent). Zeller in particular has reached another level during Jefferson's absence and has proven that he can hold down the fort at center if the Hornets ever need him to again (which, considering Jefferson's injury history, seems quite likely).
Present from Santa: An invisible layer of body armor to wear during games to help absorb all the contact he takes
Williams has already topped his play from all of last year. He looks much more like the player the team expected when he was signed last offseason. I mean, he already has six double-doubles and eight double-digit rebounding efforts this season. He has regressed some lately, which is slightly worrying. But overall, Williams has been a solid player for this Hornets team, providing exactly what they have needed.
Present from Santa: 3-goggles to share with all of Charlotte
I want to like Hairston. I want him to work out. I really, really do. But overall, he is just not doing enough right now — especially since I still have an awful taste in my mouth from his performance in the Rockets game. Not much will change in regards to his role with the team unless a trade is made, so Charlotte is stuck with him for now. Hopefully, his play will improve, but until then...
Present from Santa: Since Santa ran out of coal...
The season of Spencer Hawes, aka ManBun, has been more or less the opposite of Williams. While Williams started hot and has cooled off since, Hawes started the season off poorly and has improved since. His play has shown glimpses of Jefferson's post moves and McRoberts' passing ability. But glimpses can only go so far in an NBA season. So here's hoping Hawes can continue to show improvement and put it all together.
Present from Santa: Magical hair ties that help improve one's play
Kaminsky has surpassed most expectations that were placed upon him in the preseason and has become a key contributor for the Hornets very early in his NBA career, something that we have not seen before in Clifford's short tenure as a head coach. He has reminded Hornets fans what "NBA ready" looks like — just look at his December stats — and has proven not only that white men can dance, but that he will make an excellent bass player when his NBA career is over.
Present from Santa: Spot on a special 'So You Think You Can Dance' episode against Monmouth's bench
Daniels has only played 62 minutes all season so far, so it's difficult to grade him, especially when you consider that the majority of his minutes have come in garbage time, when games have long since been decided. Here are some fun Troy Daniels stats though — he is currently shooting 12.5 percent on 2-point shots and 52.9 percent on 3-pointers.
Present from Santa: NBA 2K16 on his iPhone to help keep him entertained if he gets bored during games
No Hornet has seen a bigger drop in playing time and his role than Roberts, who went from the top backup point guard a year ago to third point guard and warm body on the bench this season. After averaging at least 17 minutes a game in his first three seasons, he is averaging just 7.6 minutes a game this year. But, he has taken it all in stride, and deserves plenty of credit for how he has handled it all.
Present from Santa: NBA 2K16 on his iPhone so he can challenge Daniels
Remember how all the hoopla when Charlotte signed Hansbrough? It is funny to look back at now, knowing Hansbrough's limited role. Granted, he has played the role of energy guy with an endless motor who pounds into everyone (remind anyone of MKG?) perfectly, because it is all he has ever really known. And hopefully, that will not change anytime soon. You keep doing you, Hansbrough.
Present from Santa: Multiple Energizer bunnies to endlessly chase until he tires
I'm still waiting for Harrison and his twin brother to somehow switch mid-game and see if anyone notices. Harrison has played in just 23 minutes this season and is averaging 1.4 points per game. He seems like a great project that I would love to see develop with the Hornets, but that will obviously take time to ever come to fruition.
Present from Santa: Body-switching machine to allow Aaron and his twin brother Andrew to switch positions at any given moment