Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Charlotte Hornets Newcomer This Season
They rode the momentum of a top-notch draft haul right into free agency and added to what has become an increasingly louder buzz in the organization. Hope is sky-high after the team's second playoff appearance.
Most of all, the newcomers all seem to fit perfectly into a roster that finally gained some traction last year. It took until their final campaign, but the Bobcats finally established a winning culture behind a new, intense defensive regime led by head coach Steve Clifford as well as newcomer Al Jefferson.
Coming off 43 wins, there is a spot to be filled at the Eastern Conference's round table. It will no longer be the Miami Heat and everyone else. The Indiana Pacers will most likely not be a factor, with Paul George now out for the year due to his gruesome leg injury.
As for the newcomers, they shouldn't have any problem slotting right into their respective roles. Charlotte had needs in multiple areas but filled them all.
Here is how each of Charlotte's additions should impact this upcoming season.
Much of what Hairston does in his rookie season will relate to how much mayhem he causes off the court.
In his brief basketball career, he has caused just as much of a ruckus off the court as he has on it, from getting suspended at the University of North Carolina for impermissible benefits, to his recent altercation in a pickup game. Hairston is a tremendous talent who tore up the D-League last season and looked very polished in summer league, but he is going to have to grow up.
With the loss of Anthony Tolliver, there is a role to be filled on this team for an outside shooting specialist. If Hairston can show some maturity early on, he should be able to at least do that for this team.
If not, it is difficult to see him making much of an impact in his rookie season. He will be competing with Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson and occasionally the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Gary Neal for minutes on the perimeter.
That is a lot of bodies to leapfrog. At least for this season, it is hard to see Hairston being more than a shooting specialist off the bench for maybe 15 minutes a game. However, that is still a role that needs to be filled since Tolliver's emergence was so crucial.
Charlotte lost two of its three best three-point shooters from last season in Tolliver and Josh McRoberts. A spark from Hairston would be warranted in their absence.
Brian Roberts is a lesser-known talent on the NBA landscape, but he fits perfectly with what Charlotte is trying to do.
Fans had to suffer all through last season as guys like Ramon Sessions, Jannero Pargo and Luke Ridnour all struggled trying to adequately back up young point guard Kemba Walker.
Roberts was an under-the-radar signing that should pay huge dividends. His unselfish mentality and ball-protection ability play in stark contrast to Walker's scoring prowess.
He will also lead a second unit full of young talent that could truly thrive alongside his mature style of basketball. Roberts is one of the older guys on the roster at 28 and averages just two turnovers per 36 minutes in his career.
Roberts is also an adept outside shooter who will give the team more of a boost in that department. He could also slide in alongside Walker when Charlotte goes with smaller lineups to allow the young guard to attack the rim without the ball and focus mostly on scoring. It wouldn't work for long stretches defensively, but he could complement Walker well on the other end.
Roberts will not see as big a role as he had in New Orleans, where he was a starter most of last season due to Jrue Holiday's injury, but he is going to be a vital veteran presence from day one.
Marvin Williams certainly will not be able to fill the void left by Josh McRoberts, but he can replace at least a chunk of that production.
Williams may begin the season as the starting power forward, but even if he does, he will most certainly be conceding heavy minutes to fellow young bigs Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh.
Williams also fits into this scheme due to his length and outside shooting ability. He thrived defensively with a solid squad around him during his tenure with the Atlanta Hawks and could perform similarly with this roster.
His role will be mostly keeping the seat warm until either Zeller or Vonleh develops enough to thrive alongside Jefferson. When it comes to Williams, it is "what you see is what you get" at this point in his career. He will provide a long, capable body on the perimeter and is a nice fit in Charlotte, but he shouldn't see more than 20 minutes a night.
Expect minimal impact, but he should fill his role rather well.
It was a mini miracle that Vonleh fell to ninth overall in this past draft. Power forward was not the biggest need due to the selection of Zeller the year before, but Vonleh was too talented to pass up.
That being said, Vonleh's role on this team is very muddled. His offensive repertoire is very unsettled at just 19 years of age because he has yet to figure out how to use his size and strength. Defensively, he can be a factor from day one, but working with assistant coach Patrick Ewing tirelessly behind closed doors would be the best thing for him at the moment.
A late-season renaissance similar to the one Zeller had last season could be in the cards for Vonleh, but it is difficult to see him making a huge impact early on. He will still be behind a number of bodies on the depth chart like Zeller, Williams and maybe even Bismack Biyombo.
Vonleh's role will likely be that of an understudy in the early going. Charlotte got itself two great value picks in the first round of the draft, but both were selections for the future. Neither is polished enough to light the world on fire out of the gate.
Here is where things clear up a bit.
Lance Stephenson exploded onto the scene last year with the Indiana Pacers, having what many believed was a campaign worthy of an All-Star nod. He led the league with five triple-doubles last season and brings this team exactly what it needs in more ways than one. He is coming off his best campaign, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists, all career highs by far.
Stephenson fits into the pesky defensive mindset that Clifford has implemented. He plays tenacious perimeter defense without selling out to try to force turnovers, instead locking his man down just like the rest of this roster does.
His aggressive mentality will play well here. Offensively, he gives Charlotte its much-needed second ball-handler. He will replace a lot of the innovation and distributing that left town with McRoberts.
What we must not forget is that Stephenson is just 23, even though it feels like he has been around forever. He is younger than Walker but has a few more basketball miles on his body. After getting slighted in free agency, he still has plenty of room to improve and is a prime candidate to have a chip on his shoulder.
Stephenson could very well blossom into an All-Star in Charlotte, and the front office couldn't have done a better job locking up a perimeter player who would fit in quite like this. His impact will be immediate, forming a menacing backcourt with Walker and helping to take more pressure off Jefferson. He also makes life easier for MKG in terms of guarding opposing wing players.
This was a fantastic move by the Hornets, and Stephenson's presence will only add to the appeal of this team. He will fill a somewhat similar role to the one he had in Indiana because it suits him well.