The Charlotte Hornets 2015-2016 season is officially here! Sort of. Today is media day for the Hornets, and while for most fans the season doesn't start until the ball tips off in Miami on October 28th, those of us craving any semblance of basketball like to treat today as the official start to the new season.
With this new start comes new stuff to talk about such as this year's Hornets starting lineup. Lucky for everybody there won't be too much guessing this time around, because Steve Clifford announced most of the expected lineup at media day.
So most of the names on that list should come as no surprise. These are far and away the best players the team can put out on the floor at the beginning of the season, but what's curious is Cllifford's decision to leave the power forward spot up for grabs. Most fans, and a lot of media, was expecting that spot to go to Cody Zeller.
Wait, Zeller hasn't already earned the starting PF spot? https://t.co/Bg0hfp1T4S— Russell Varner (@rvarner) September 25, 2015
It's definitely a surprise to not see Zeller at least mentioned as the favorite for the starting power forward spot. Ever since his rookie season he's played well as a hustle big man. He grabs rebounds, sets screens, moves off ball, and is generally a positive on the court.
That said, as good as Zeller is, he's never been good enough to guarantee a spot in the starting lineup. His defense is solid, but not game changing, and his lack of a 3-pointer limits what the team can do on offense when Al Jefferson is on the court with him. If Zeller was someone that completely changed the game with his skill level, like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, then starting him would be a no brainer. However, he's still just a role player at the moment, and needs to earn his spot as a starter.
Fans of Zeller should be happy to know however that he most likely has the edge in the race for that spot at the moment. Spencer Hawes isn't fast enough or good enough to be a starting power forward despite his ability to stretch the floor, and Frank Kaminsky still has to learn how to play in the NBA. That means Zeller's biggest competition will be Marvin Williams, and fans will remember that Zeller won out that position early into last season.
However, when considering fit, it might be better to play Zeller with the second unit this season. A quick look at the projected starters in Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, MKG, TBD, and Big Al shows a lot of potential for a killer perimeter defense. Williams is faster than Zeller on the perimeter, and has the ability to stretch the floor making him a better option.
Zeller on the other hand would get to play with guys like Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes, and Jeremy Lamb who all compliment his skill set as an off ball big man. Lin in particular could do some nice work with Zeller in the pick and roll.
Now obviously it's still way too early to make any big proclamations as to who the for sure starting power forward will be. Clifford has an entire training camp, and preseason, to go through where he can look at his stable of big men and make a final decision. Perhaps Zeller shows a new range to his jumphot, and once again puts himself as a starter on opening night.
Either way, this should be a fun story to pay attention as we enter training camp.