Unfortunately, the Hornets haven’t been good on the defensive end of the floor so far in the pre-season, landing them in the bottom half of nearly every defensive metric that exists on NBA.com/stats. The pre-season doesn’t predict anything, necessarily, but it can foreshadow.
With such a young roster, it’s sort of a given that the team will struggle at times defensively. Young players tend to have the mental lapses that result in easy buckets that veterans typically do not. Last season, the team toted the 23rd overall defense. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine whether or not they think that number will improve with a lineup that may look something like this:
Guard: Terry Rozier
Guard: Dwayne Bacon
Forward: Miles Bridges
Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Center: Bismack Biyombo
Terry Rozier: Terry Rozier’s defense is pretty interesting to unravel. On-ball, he’s a solid player. He’s quick and always working hard on that end of the floor, though he tends to struggle when left on an island in pick and roll. Brad Stevens used to attach him to the opposing point guard’s hip and have him play full-court defense when they were trying to speed the other team up, and I anticipate Borrego using him in a similar fashion, considering Charlotte wants to play fast. Off-ball, though, it can get messy. He ball-watches, and isn’t great in help defense. And like I mentioned, he doesn’t do well in pick and roll after the switch has been made, but he’s still the best option at point guard on defense. Devonte’ Graham just hasn’t shown enough yet.
Dwayne Bacon: Nic Batum or Malik Monk are certainly not getting the nod at the two guard when the team needs defense, nor is Cody Martin. The only player left out of the guard/wing group that fits here; Dwayne Bacon. He has a lot more defensive potential than proven ability at the moment, but the 6’11” wingspan on a 6’7” guard gives him a huge advantage. The two-guard spot might be the weakest defensive position on the floor on an already-weak defensive team, but Bacon is at least going to put in some effort and has the physical tools to succeed, which is more than you can say about someone like Batum.
Miles Bridges: James Borrego suggested that he wants Miles Bridges to play the four a bit more often this year, but he’ll still see some of his minutes at the three. In this scenario, his athleticism is crucial to keeping up with faster players on the perimeter and being able to quickly rotate in help. His size is also more of an advantage when he’s playing on the wing, and he does a fair job at staying in front of his man.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: This might be one of the only lineups that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finds himself in this season. It’s unfortunate, because MKG is a good enough player to get minutes in the NBA. He just doesn’t fit with Charlotte’s franchise timeline. Regardless, he’s still one of the best defenders on the team. He’s also a very good rebounder for his size, and will get some easy help-side blocks in rotation, too.
Bismack Biyombo: Much like MKG, this might be one of the only scenarios in which Biyombo finds himself getting consistent minutes. However, he’s easily the best big man defender on the team, and the only one with a legitimate shot-blocking presence. Coincidentally, the only time he’s averaged less than one block per year was last year (0.8), but he only played in 54 games. He also averaged the second-fewest minutes per game of his career. There’s still reason to believe that, if need be, Biyombo would be the defensive anchor that the Hornets need. We know it isn’t Willy Hernangomez, and Biyombo is still more athletic than Cody Zeller at this point in their respective careers.
I know this lineup is strictly focused on defense, but boy, would it be a treat to watch this lineup try and score. The floor spacing would be absolutely horrendous. But, hey, it might be worth it to trot this lineup out there to try and stop the bleeding if the opposing team goes on a run.