The NBA season is a very long drawn out process that borders on psychotically too long. For goodness sake the playoffs start in April and they're still not over until June. When a season goes that long it's good to have quality depth, and after last night the Charlotte Hornets depth is in question. The Los Angeles Clippers went up against a very injured Hornets squad that was missing a starter, and two rotation players while another starter played hurt. Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, and Spencer Hawes all missed time last night due to injury, and that was very apparent based on the heavy minutes the end of Charlotte's bench played. This was a great chance for the Hornets to test their depth, and lets just say that it didn't go well.
The Hornets offense functioned fine for the most part, but their defense was an absolute mess. Charlotte already prefers to avoid giving up 100 points let alone 122, and this was not a case of pace being the deciding factor of the game. Charlotte was playing catch up the entire game, and anytime they manged to pull it close the Clippers would just push that lead right back out to double digits. The Hornets couldn't get stops, especially when the second unit was in, and their depth was not up to standards.
Now in their defense, this was the first time many of these lineups had played major minutes together. It's expected that they would struggle defensively without being familiar with each other. On top of this, Brian Roberts and Tyler Handsbrough aren't exactly the embodiment of shut down defense. Still, it's unlikely the Hornets will be fully healthy for awhile and this is something the Hornets should be paying very close attention to.
Depth isn't supposed to carry the team, but it should be able to hold the line when injuries are present. If the Hornets go in a slump, or the bigs can't make up for the loss of Al Jefferson in some way, then that might cause the front office to explore trade opportunities. Of course, they could also pick the weather the storm, because it's not often that this much of the regular rotation is injured.
Notes and Observations
A huge part of what will decide the Hornets future this season is how Frank Kaminsky plays. Al Jefferson is out for six weeks, and Spencer Hawes hasn't been fully healthy for awhile now. This has thrusted the rookie into a big role, and he's managed to produce. He's showing NBA instincts on offense, and isn't afraid to take shots. When he goes down low there's a savviness to his post game that's very impressive for a rookie. On the other hand, his efficiency has taken a dip the last few games from the pure amount of shots he's chucked up. It's good to see him shoot with confidence, but he needs to be taking smart shots.
We didn't see Aaron Harrison get minutes last night which was a little surprising with Charlotte being down to only two point guards, and Steve Clifford's tendency to run dual point guard lineups. Perhaps this was a case of the Hornets being able to run Batum at point guard if Charlotte wanted to rest both guards. It could also mean that Harrison is still not NBA ready in Clifford's eyes, and he didn't want to risk playing him in a close game.
P.J. Hairston is still shooting poorly, but he's been showing more and more improvement on the defensive end which is promising for his future as an NBA player. However, for a player that has a calling card as a shooter he's really struggled to emulate the guy he was guarding last night, J.J. Redick.
Jeremy Lamb played well against the Clippers after a stretch of not so great play. It was expected to see him come back down to earth a little, and now we get to see him find his equilibrium.
Lance Stephenson came back to Charlotte last night and went completely unnoticed. It's hard to believe he was a prize get in free agency not long ago.