Key Stats: 81 GP, 21.1 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 1.2 APG, 4.1 RPG, 41.0 FG%, 33.7 FG3%
Everyone has an opinion on Frank Kaminsky. The Charlotte Hornets’ 7-foot tall center/power forward comes with plenty of talent and personality, as he showed dancing through the NCAA Tournament in his senior season.
But the question for Hornets fans after general manager Rich Cho and head coach Clifford passed on both Justise Winslow AND “every Boston Celtics draft pick for the next three hundred years” was simple: how would he fit into the team’s plans with another big, B1G white guy already on the roster? Cody Zeller was the center/power forward of our future; why did we draft the dancing College Player of the Year?
Well, as it turns out, he didn’t win the Naismith award because of his personality. Frank can play basketball too, and while he had some difficulties at time adjusting to the NBA in his rookie season, he’s poised to build on an important performance against the Miami Heat and will look to provide versatile depth while fighting his way towards a starting spot.
As we detailed here multiple times last season, Frank’s 2015-16 season was a mixed bag. He started off slowly, working with the second unit out of the preseason as every rookie should, but as Jeremy Lin led the bench warriors to glory throughout the first half of the year, Frank began to find his rhythm. His minutes rose from under 20 minutes per game to over 27 on average, as injuries to Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, and Spencer Hawes forced Steve Clifford’s hand, but he played well enough to earn that increase regardless.
He played solidly on defense, at times appearing to be the Hornets’ best player in that regard in the absence of MKG. And his catch-and-shoot skills and ability to make plays out of nothing didn’t hurt either. He’s young and raw, but for 22/23 years old, Frank showed plenty of promise.
And then the playoffs came. When everything was under the microscope, Kaminsky turned in a pretty terrible performance in the two blowouts in Miami, as most of the team did. But this article, from the SBN mothership, details how he responded. Clifford clogged the paint to stop Hassan Whiteside and force the Miami role players to beat us, and Kaminsky rose to the occasion, playing big down low on the series’ return to the Cable Box. He also rattled off nine points during an 18-0 third quarter run that no one in the building that night will ever forget.
Frank came into his own in that series. He played up to the stage and added important big man help when we needed it against a Heat team that dominated through Whiteside and rebounding in games 1 and 2. The Hornets obviously ended up losing that series, but we saw glimpses of how special Kaminsky could be on the court; playing stellar and tireless defense, shooting from range and awkwardly driving to the basket, and being large enough inside to make opponents change their gameplan entirely.
Then that happened. A relatively minor procedure cost Kaminsky his time in Summer League, but his recovery went well enough that he has been back for preseason, and he played against the Celtics in Greensboro on Thursday night.
So what should we expect for the 2016-17 season? I think a lot of that will depend on how well our second unit runs the floor. Under Jeremy Lin’s passion and drive last year, the second unit was a strength: teams couldn’t handle the depth the Hornets brought to the court. Kaminsky and Lin played well together, and watching the bench increase leads (or fight back to take them) made for some of the best moments at the Hive last season. Without Lin... we’ll see.
This year, as Roy Hibbert receives what used to be Al Jefferson’s minutes, Frank will likely start in a similar role to last year: behind Zeller and (now) Hibbert at the 5, and behind Marvin Williams at the 4. He’ll look to develop a bit more as a power forward rather than an NBA center, and he’ll likely play alongside both of those gentlemen regularly. But currently he’s depth... and having young, talented depth is a really great problem to have, especially with Zeller now suffering from a none-too-clear injury.
Finally, no Frank Kaminsky preview would be complete without mentioning Skittles. This week, this happened.
Even if he insulted barbecue and said he never wanted to play in Charlotte, Frank Kaminsky has been one of the most likable athletes in the entire country since bursting onto the scene, and I’m thrilled he’s in purple and teal. He danced on the trip to China last summer, he loves Skittles, he’s engaging on social media, and, oh yeah, everything else I wrote above about his on-court game too. He’s a promising young player; let’s hope his 2016-17 season builds on that promise. Ladies and gentlemen, Frank Kaminsky: