clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Charlotte Hornets need Frank Kaminsky to step up or step out of the way

Charlotte Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky so far has played 37 minutes in the series against the Miami Heat. During that time period he has only registered one field goal attempt. Does Kaminsky even have a place in this match-up against the Heat?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It's been known long before this postseason series that Frank Kaminsky might not have a place on the court if the opposition goes small with four outside players against Charlotte. We saw it in Game 1 of the series where he was immediately rendered unplayable and guess what? Another 17-19 minutes of Kaminsky didn't change any of that.

His presence on the offensive end of the court does nothing but provide additional obstacles for Charlotte's offense. The Heat can switch anything that involves Kaminsky which thus stalls possessions.

Miami feels comfortable doing so even with their back-up point guard Josh Richardson whose minutes naturally tend to align with Kaminsky's:

Kaminsky is neither an offensive rebound or a post-up threat and so there isn't any real harm he can do to a 6-6 point guard (the Wisconsin Badger has capitalized on a Richardson switch just once this series by forcing two free throws with a drive).

His mediocre 33.7 percent 3-point shooting percentage is also looked down upon. Despite Miami having the plan of attentively staying home on shooters, it doesn't apply as strictly to Frank Kaminsky.

They can start off a possession by switching on Charlotte's bread and butter - the "Floppy" set. Here Luol Deng and Justise Winslow neutralize the danger of Nicolas Batum coming off those three screens:

Winslow can then show heavy weak-side help in the pick-and-roll off Kaminsky to further bother the Hornets in the dying seconds of the shot clock:

Jefferson made the mid-range jumper but ultimately it's a shot the Heat will live with given the expected points per possession on such an attempt.

The most random fluke is the fact that Kaminsky's +/- has somehow survived all of this. His net rating of +8.6 is the only positive one in the series on the Hornets roster.

However, when considering his impact on the game it still is a fluke, moreso created by aspects like his minute's coinciding with Al Jefferson going off on Hassan Whiteside in the post.

All in all, he has been taken out of the series (like Marvin Williams) by Miami's defenders staying home on him. Luol Deng is not even concerned about Kemba Walker in this pick-and-roll with Kaminsky as the screener:

As long as the rest of the Hornets (and their 3-pointers) aren't able to contribute, the Heat can live with Kemba Walker literally playing 2-on-2 in pick-and-rolls (and then often turning them into 1-on-1 cat-and-mouse games with Whiteside) or Al Jefferson thriving in the post.

What does that make of Kaminsky? His size doesn't help him on offense. He can't hurt you there if no one is creating for him either. Moreover, his size isn't a weapon on defense also. You won't get rim protection from him. He did a better job of closing out on Luol Deng in Game 2 but remains a liability against smaller wings.

That furthermore can be stressed when looking at the history of such streaks in NBA playoffs. Only Jason Collins (twice) and Michael Ruffin have had a streak of playing more than 17 minutes in three postseason games straight without attempting more than one field goal attempt.

By completing two such games in a row Kaminsky (and defensive ace Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in the ongoing Clippers - Blazers series ) has placed himself among the all-defense, no-offense likes of the Joel's Anthony and Przybilla, per Basketball Reference (the link directs to such streaks in between 2009 and 2014).

But, as we concluded, he's not a commodity on defense either.

The problem with potentially benching him is that the Charlotte Hornets are "very concerned" about Nicolas Batum's ankle injury. There just doesn't seem to be a viable plan going forward.

Previously one could suggest going with Batum at the four and the so far DNP'd Jeremy Lamb at the three whenever Marvin Williams sits. Batum also is susceptible to Miami's size as a power forward, however, at 6-8 he does have some decent lank to combat any of that.

With the Frenchman (and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as well) out of the picture, there isn't a single wing on the Hornets roster who could reasonably mask as a four and survive on defense. That suggests that the usually conservative coach Steve Clifford is somewhat likely to stick to lineups with two bigs out there.

Having seen Miami throw out a five wing lineup (Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Justise Winslow) at the end of Game 2 to seal the deal, it would be at least worth a try to combat that unit with Charlotte's own version of small ball.

You're down 0-2 in part because of not getting 3-point looks anyway. Might as well try Jeremy Lamb at the four and have him on Luol Deng on defense.

In that case, however, someone like Joe Johnson can go to his bulldozing in the post. Marvin Williams can't play 48 minutes (and sadly enough has been bad). Any big who isn't Cody Zeller (like Big Frank) probably doesn't have a place on the floor against such a unit. Courtney Lee has always been a couple of inches too short to guard the taller outside players.

That's how it becomes a catch-22. You almost have to play Kaminsky since you just don't have anyone else to put at the four spot against Miami's big wings.

It's indicative of how this series has been going. That's how the seemingly deep Charlotte Hornets suddenly have become shallow against a difficult match-up in the Miami Heat.

The bigger question, however, as far as Kaminsky is concerned, is that these last two games might be a warning for certain dangers ahead. You can't play him at center since he can't defend the paint, yet he can be unplayable at the four on offense.

It seems like Big Frank needs to seriously improve his offensive game in the future in order to become a valuable player for Charlotte.