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Zeller is back, but Kaminsky is good — what should the Hornets do with their frontcourt?

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Who’d have thought the Hornets would face a dilemma with their frontcourt? We put our heads together to figure out what they should do.

Atlanta Hawks v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With Cody Zeller finally back from injury, the Charlotte Hornets are faced with a bit of a problem. Frank Kaminsky, the team’s controversial young big, has played extremely well in Cody’s absence since becoming the team’s de facto starting center.

Zeller’s currently on a minutes restriction and came off the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers a couple of days ago. Once his minutes restriction is lifted, though, it’s not clear what the Hornets should do considering that Kaminsky’s proven himself to be a fairly reliable scoring option alongside Kemba Walker.

We decided to put our heads together and get to the bottom of the Hornets’ frontcourt dilemma. Here’s what we came up with.

Joshua Priemski: Should Frank Kaminsky continue starting at center with Cody Zeller back?

Nick Denning: I'm going to defer to Steve on this, who wrote a great article about Frank's improvements. I know Frank the center has been great, but I'd try him at power forward with Cody at center. It could work much like Marvin Williams and Cody do.

The downside will be Frank defending athletic fours, but he's getting punished on that end in either position.

Steve Forrest: Yeah, it’s in that piece but I think he should definitely be starting at the four alongside Cody. He provides the same spacing as Marv and is a more creative/dynamic scorer. Plus I don’t think Williams would have much drop off coming off the bench.

Russell Varner: I was thinking about this during the Lakers game and was worried about how Cody and Frank would play together. Until I read Steve's article, that is. He mentioned that Cody and Frank were the best two-man pair the team has.

The team has nothing to lose by trying to switch things up now. We have been searching for a consistent second scorer after Kemba all season, and Frank is it right now. Plus, we all know Cody's worth to this team, given that stretch the Hornets went through with him out. I loved Marvin Williams last season, but he's a shell of that this year, sadly.

Honestly, I'm not sure what the team has to lose with trying it.

ND: So then who is the backup center with Miles Plumlee out?

JP: That's what I'm not sure about. Christian Wood? Or, dare I say, Marv?

ND: Wood has played fairly well, so I'm not opposed to him playing more.

JP: Who’d have thought I’d miss Spencer Hawes.

SF: The thing about Frank and Cody being the best two-man lineup that I glossed over is that I had to dig a little to come by that. It’s one of the smaller sample sizes as far as lineup configurations go — they’ve only played 308 min together all season, which doesn’t crack the top 20 two-man configurations for minutes played.

But in a way it kind of supports the argument of starting them together because really, all we know is that it works and that they haven’t tried it enough.

RV: I mean, it seems like it's either Christian Wood backing up Cody or bring back Mike Tobey, right?

SF: Why are fans so thirsty to see Wood get some run anyway? I had legit never heard of that guy until I started seeing people calling for him to get minutes in our comments and replies on Twitter. Is it just that we're that bad they figure he can’t be worse?

JP: From what I've seen he's a decent player. Probably not ready for a large role in the rotation but he can give you 5-10 good minutes.

SF: I haven’t bothered to look this up so it’s more of a personal opinion I've had for a while, but Cliff seems to have a philosophy with guys in their first two years which is basically "don’t give them too much too soon."

That’s definitely what happened with Noah Vonleh (for good reason) and Cody didn’t play much his rookie year and only a little more the second year.

JP: Yeah, and I'm torn on it. Guys appreciate him rewarding hard work and tenure but at the same time he shoots himself in the foot by not experimenting a bit more.

SF: Injuries forced them to start Frank 15 times this year but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were intentionally holding him back a bit, even though they kind of knew he was a better starter.

ND: Going back on Wood, I think fans, generally speaking, like seeing young players get a chance. It's why a rebuilding project doesn't hurt as much if the young guys are playing and working through things.

There is also the misconception that if a young player isn't getting playing time, he isn't developing. I think in Wood’s case, his opportunity has come at the right time.

JP: That’s true. Like, I still think MKG is more Thaddeus Young than Ronnie Brewer but Cliff hates playing him at the four.

SF: It's a little frustrating for fans. If you're bad enough to be in the lottery, people wanna see the shiny new player they got. But it’s hard to argue with the results. It does seem to lower the expectations for them. I never imagined Cody would be this good or have this big of a role

And I'd like to see more MKG at the four. I think he's the best rebounder on the team.

Nik Valdiserri: As you guys know, I've been a big proponent to Kaminsky playing the five. It didn't make as much sense last year because Big Al was around, but this year he definitely should.

However, I do think he should come off the bench. I really like Zeller in the starting lineup because the team likes to get out on the break a lot in first quarters. Plus, you can then bring Kaminsky off the bench as a scorer that is much more dynamic than Zeller.

I originally wanted the Hornets to go after a guy like Taj Gibson for that extra power forward spot because it's probably the most depleted position the team has. Like, could you imagine a Gibson and Kaminsky pairing?

Oh well. Anyway, keep Kaminsky at the five, and I'm with Josh here: I've wanted to see MKG at power forward for three years now. That could create a deadly lineup towards the end of the third, where you can play Kemba Walker, Marco Belinelli, Nicolas Batum, and MKG.

SF: Another thing I got looking at with those lineup combos is that most of the Hornets "best" lineups involve Frank being paired with a stout help defender (MKG or Zeller) and as the second scoring option (Kemba or Belinelli). He benefits a lot from someone else creating the action, then exploiting a scrambled defense.

NV: To add to that, Steve, I am more than willing to try a MKG with Kaminsky frontcourt pairing. Think you explain why pretty well there.

JP: Great points. Let’s start wrapping this up. What’s your starting frontcourt when Zeller’s minutes restriction is lifted?

ND: They should give Frank and Cody a shot.

RV: Frank and Cody. There's nothing left to lose.

NV: I think Williams and Zeller should be restored because the Hornets are 23-17 when Zeller plays.

JP: I’m here for Frank and Cody even though it might be a disaster.

SF: They drafted Frank to pair with Cody, Lets see it!