The Charlotte Hornets have played a smidge more than half of their season slate, so what better time is there to hand out arbitrary grades for the team’s performance so far? Why not after 41 games you ask? Well it was the weekend and then there was a game on Monday and now we have a couple extra days to fight about it.
So here we go.
Charlotte Hornets: C
The Hornets are close to a .500 record, which is basically the sports equivalent of a C. They currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race and are a couple games better than they were at this point last season. Wins against the Nuggets, Bucks, and Spurs (on the road) offset some terrible losses. There have been some painful moments and some euphoric moments. On the whole, this season has been very on brand for the Hornets.
James Borrego: C+
It makes sense that the coach would have a similar grade to the team he’s leading. The Hornets are more stylistically appealing than they were under Steve Clifford, but it hasn’t translated to significantly different results on the court yet. That said, there are reasons to be excited about the style change, mainly that it seems more conducive to winning in the modern NBA as the players get comfortable and/or the roster improves. But until the wins start coming, the grade stays mediocre.
Kemba Walker: A+
Yeah he slumped for a while in December. So what? He’s making a strong case to make an All NBA team for the first time in his career and has a good shot at starting in the All Star game. He’s averaging a career high 25.2 points per game, 12th best in the league. He once again recently reaffirmed his love for Charlotte and desire to take the Hornets places they’ve never been before. He’s the superstar this team needs.
Jeremy Lamb: B+
The number one question surrounding the Hornets for the last several seasons has been about a secondary scorer. Jeremy Lamb has filled that role in his first season as a starter and is averaging a career high 15.2 points per game. He’s been streaky from the arc and too often goes outside the flow of the offense to get his buckets, but he’s been vitally important to the Hornets offense. And he’s been less bad on defense.
Nicolas Batum: D+
He started the season has a high impact player despite putting up his usual mundane box score statistics. He was omnipresent on the defensive end and was a huge boost to the team’s overall output when he was on the floor. Then he disappeared. The offensive volume still isn’t there and the aggressiveness we saw on defense to start the season only comes in spurts now. The one saving grace for the 11th year pro is his offensive efficiency. He’s shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three, both substantially higher than his previous bests in a Charlotte uniform.
Marvin Williams: A-
After a rough start to the season, the former Tar Heel has found his groove. He’s hit 43% of his 3-pointers since Thanksgiving and is third on the team in scoring in that time. He’s the only Hornet that’s been a positive on both offense and defense this season according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus. He’s just a role player, but he’s a darn good one. The Hornets are lucky to have him.
Cody Zeller: B+
Zeller has had more offensive moments this season than I think we’ve ever seen from him before. He’s a tremendous screen setter and unlocks Kemba Walker’s pick and roll game when he’s on the floor. He’s the only Hornets center that is a capable player on both ends of the court. Unfortunately, he’s hurt again, and you know what they say- the best ability is availability. He’s also been bullied on the glass at times this season. But on the whole, it’s been a good season for Cody.
Tony Parker: C+
If we’re comparing Tony Parker to the last couple backup point guards to come through, he’d get a triple A++. He’s a sieve defensively, is completely absent for games at a time, and tends to over-dribble. But he’s Tony Parker. He’s a Hall of Famer and he’s single handedly won games for the Hornets in the fourth quarter. He’s been a revelation compared to what Hornets fans are used to at the backup point guard spot.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: B
MKG has been recast as a backup power forward under James Borrego, and he’s taken to his new role nicely. He brings the same energy and intensity he always has, and he’s even hitting 3-pointers now! But his numbers have declined each month of the season and there are too many games where you don’t notice he’s there.
Malik Monk: C-
Monk hasn’t taken a leap thus far, but he has shown signs of the game coming easier to him. He’s still erratic from the field and has been a very poor defender. But he at least looks like he’s trying now. The jury is still out on the player he’ll become.
Miles Bridges: C+
He’s hit a rookie wall, but that’s okay. He more often than not finds ways to make a positive impact on the game. He’s become painfully passive on offense as he’s lost confidence in his outside shot (he’s 0/16 from three in his last nine games), but he works hard and has shown flashes of his potential. Once he gets comfortable with his place in the NBA game, he’ll be a very good player.
Willy Hernangomez: C-
Hernangomez looked like a gem down the stretch last season. Many thought he would challenge Cody Zeller for the starting center spot this season. Instead, his defense has been so woefully bad that coach Borrego hesitates to play him for more than 15 minutes a game. He’s the best offensive center on the roster and he’s a great rebounder, but he’s still a bench player so long as his defense doesn’t improve.
Bismack Biyombo: C
The anti-Willy. Biyombo usually has little offensive game to speak of, but he’s been surprisingly passable on that end of the court since taking over the starting center spot in Cody Zeller’s absence. He’s been a monster on the glass and is usually good defensively, but like the anti-Willy that he is, he can’t always overcome his shortcomings on offense. When Cody Zeller comes back, he may once again find himself out of the rotation when his defense isn’t as necessary.
Devonte’ Graham: B+
It’s hard to grade Devonte’s season so far. He was inactive for most every game at the beginning of the season and spent a lot of time with the Greensboro Swarm. He found rotation minutes while Jeremy Lamb was out with injury and played well enough that JB is now trying to get the rookie minutes wherever he can. He’s probably the best passer on the team. For a rookie second round pick, he’s been incredible.
Frank Kaminsky/Dwayne Bacon: Incomplete
Neither Frank nor Dwayne have gotten enough playing time to get a grade for their performance. If you want to nitpick, you can say their play has been so poor as to remove them from the rotation, but we’re not going to pick those nits. Not in this section.
So there you have it. Your 100% official and not arbitrary grades for the Hornets 2018-19 season so far. Who was I too hard on? Who deserved an F but didn’t get one (I know who you’re going to say)? Sound off in the comments.