In the opening installment of the Charlotte Hornets lineup series, Nick Denning predicted that the opening night starting lineup would be Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller. While the starting lineup is going to make up a majority of the teams contributions, the Hornets have to find help from the bench. There is a lot of young potential and a very good amount of experience on the Hornets bench this season. In the next part of the lineup series, we’ll determine who the most important bench contributors will be in 2018-19.
The good news is that Michael Kidd-GIlchrist has been able to stay healthy over the last few seasons. However, the bad news is that going into this season, he’s the odd man out of the starting lineup (at least according to our lineup series). MKG is entering his seventh season with the Charlotte Hornets and has yet to be an effective jump shooter. He’s actually just bad from three feet and beyond in general, as he shot a shade under 38 percent from three feet or longer. That’s not good.
However, MKG does bring a lot of good things to the table and a great bench usually has at least one energy type of player. The former Kentucky standout is capable of being just that if he embraces the role. I think the offensive glass is where MKG could make his money if he came off the bench. In the end, this season is going to be an interesting one for the former number two overall pick.
The Hornets have gone through a revolving door of backup point guards over the last few seasons. From Ramon Sessions to Michael Carter-Williams, the position hasn’t been solid since Jeremy Lin left Charlotte for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2016 offseason. This season, they turn to Tony Parker, a future Hall-of-Fame point guard who had spent his entire 17 year career as a stalwart for the San Antonio Spurs.
Amidst rare controversy in the Spurs organization, Parker decided to walk away from the Spurs and sign a two-year deal with the Hornets. He isn’t a great 3-point shooter, but his bread and butter is getting to the basket in many ways. In 13 of his 17 seasons, Parker averaged at least five assists per game. Ultimately, he will be vital to the Hornets success because he has to play well whenever Kemba Walker is given a rest.
With Jeremy Lamb projected to be a starter, the role that he played as a bench player last season will fall into the hands of Malik Monk. After an injury scare during the opening game of summer league, his right thumb was determined to not be broken. However, as a precaution the Hornets kept Monk out for the rest of the tournament. With a new coach and a full offseason, the former Kentucky star is expected to make a big leap this season.
His rookie year was a struggle because Steve Clifford didn’t use him in his rotations consistently causing him to be out of rhythm for most of the season. When he got consistent minutes at the end of the season, however, he showed flashes of potential. In his last 12 games, he averaged 14.2 points per game and shot nearly 42 percent from 3-point range. If he can continue to produce like that in important rotation minutes, Monk will begin to show signs of great things.
The Frontcourt players
Frank Kaminsky, Willy Hernangomez, and Bismack Biyombo will make up the frontcourt players off the bench. This season is a make or break season for Kaminsky as he looks to prove that he is worthy of a contract extension. Hernangomez and Biyombo will be competing for backup center minutes. However, with Cody Zeller having previous injury problems, both of these players are capable of starting and producing well.
Hernangomez was traded to Charlotte from the New York Knicks in search of an opportunity to get minutes. This means that he has to have a good training camp and preseason to be in the good wishes of coach Borrego. Biz is familiar with the confines of the Spectrum Center and remains a solid rim protector. Overall, the battle between Hernangomez and Biyombo for backup center minutes will likely be the most hotly contested competition when training camp begins.
Miles Bridges is the main attraction out of all the Hornets rookies, but Devonte Graham and JP Macura showed promise in the summer league. Bridges will likely be competing for minutes with Dwayne Bacon on the wing. Meanwhile, Macura and Graham will start with significant playing time playing for the Greensboro Swarm, the Charlotte Hornets G-League affiliate. Bridges will be tasked with bringing a lot of energy and athleticism to the Hornets bench. Outside of Kemba, the Hornets have lacked excitement for years now. The former Michigan State star has the potential to bring a new wave of energy to the Queen City.
In the end, the bench has to make a strong impact on the team or the team will not be successful. Charlotte had the third worst field goal percentage from bench players last season, so the second unit has to be more efficient in their time on the floor and it starts with the guards. The last time the Hornets had at least a solid bench, the team made the postseason, so with great contributions from the second unit, the Hornets can improve significantly.