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A Glimpse at Greensboro: Chinanu Onuaku is shining, even though the team isn’t

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There are very few bright spots in the Swarm’s last couple of games.

Georgia Tech v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Record through five: 0-5, tenth in Eastern Conference

Last time we chimed in on the Charlotte Hornets G League affiliate, everything seemed to be going according to plan. They started their season off with a 4-1 record and showed reasons for optimism as many players were able to break out and perform in big ways. Everything seemed to be going right for the team.

Unfortunately, things have spiraled out of control. The team has lost its mojo on both ends of the floor and has lost five games in a row. They are giving up too many points points to their opponents, greatly limiting their own chances of pulling out the game. Three-point shooting has also been a cause for concern as they have now dropped to 16th in team shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

Impact players:

The Swarm’s first draft pick this year, center Chinanu Onuaku, has proven yet again to be an impact player. He has found a way to use his big frame to match up in the post and go to work. A style that has died out in today’s basketball, Onuaku’s back-to-the-basket style has been huge in his way of generating points. Rebounding is still a positive trait for the 6-10 big man as he’s become a true force on the glass. He’s averaging close to ten rebounds per game over the past five games.

Shot-blocking has also been an area of improvement for Onuaku. Averaging 2.2 rejections per game over this stretch, it looks as if Onuaku is a true two-way big man for this Swarm team.

The other player worth mentioning is Joe Chealey. Chealey, one of two Hornets two-way contract players, has made positive strides since we last took a look at him. Earning more assists than ever, he has for the first time been able to adjust to the pace of the semi-NBA ball. Understanding more coverages and defensive sets, he has done a nice job of distributing the basketball. This stint of performances places him first on the team in assists per game for those who have played four games or more this year. He has become a true catalyst for this Swarm team.

Disappointing players:

J.P. Macura has taken a step back from his projected play so far this season. Being a very talented hybrid wing would have, in many Hornets fans eyes, lead to significant play both in terms of shooting and passing. However, that just hasn’t been the case through this point.

He has become trigger happy from three, which is understandable after becoming Xavier’s all-time leading three-point specialist. But, the transition up three feet from college to pro ball hasn’t happened yet. Taking nearly six threes a game, Macura is only hitting on 28 percent of them. If this were to continue, then there should be a serious talk from the Hornets staff on what to do with him moving forward. Coming to the team to space the floor was a clear priority for Macura, and as for now, he hasn’t lived up to those expectations.

Passing has also been a sign of question with Macura’s game on the Swarm. Sure, there are facilitators from the point guard spots and sure, that isn’t his true calling card, but he needs to improve in this area in order to become more desirable for the Hornets to use down the road. He’s averaging just 1.6 assists per twenty-five minutes on the court, which is at a lower rate than his turnover per game mark at 1.9. There needs to be a mirror talk to Macura in order to shape this season around for the better.

What can be learned:

It may seem like I’m going out of a limb here, but hear me out.

Over the past few games, I have noticed one area in particular that the Charlotte Hornets are lacking. No, it’s not the need for a second scorer, Jeremy Lamb has that covered. And no, they don’t need a facilitator off the bench, Tony Parker has done an excellent job with that.

What the team needs more than anything is interior defense. Too many times this season the Hornets were beaten by drives in the paint, particularly in the late stages of games. If you don’t believe me, check out the Hornets game against the Hawks, they were able to drive inside at will during crunch time. With Cody Zeller reportedly out with a rib contusion, there is a gaping hole for a shot-blocker.

That’s where I can see Chinanu Onuaku being called up for a role on this Hornets team. He has the size and wherewithal to go toe for toe in the battle for NBA rebounds and could become a key offensive rebounder for them late game. Also, his developing abilities on defense make him an intriguing target to help top opponents in the paint when they decide to go inside. The only question remains is if Okanua can have the energy to play in a high-powered situation. He is slow-footed and not the fastest big man in basketball, so that may be a deterrent for him not to grace this opportunity.

I still believe the pros outweigh the cons here. What Onuaku has shown us in the last ten games is that he’s ready for an NBA comeback. I can see him grace the Hornets name across his chest soon.