The Charlotte Hornets have plenty of positive momentum and luck in their favor right now, both of which would have been rather odd under their former Bobcats moniker, a franchise with decidedly negative momentum and bad luck.
And yet here they are, coming off their second playoff series of the Bobcats era and they not only have an immense talent in Al Jefferson, but they have a good young guard in Kemba Walker and a great coach in Steve Clifford. The team's culture and perception has done almost a 180 since its historic low in 2011-12, and now the Hornets have a talented base with cap space, and they lucked into snagging the Detroit Pistons' lottery pick.
Charlotte still has plenty of weak spots, and the draft should offer the team a chance to fill a few of those with a couple first-round picks.
Picks: No. 9 (from Detroit), No. 24 (from Portland), No. 45
Free agents: Josh McRoberts (player option exercised), Luke Ridnour, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver.
Cap space: $20.3 million
PG: Kemba Walker — Luke Ridnour (UFA)
The most glaring need the Hornets have is shooting. Gary Neal did well for them after the trade-deadline deal, but they still could use a lot of help, whether at shooting guard or small forward or even power forward. Charlotte was markedly better offensively once it got better from behind the arc, and that was with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Anthony Tolliver powering the team's three-point shooting from the wing. Without strong jump shooters to space the floor, Charlotte lacks the offense to prevent defenses from clogging the paint.
Charlotte also needs a backup point guard. Luke Ridnour was not mobile enough on defense and didn't really offer enough to offset it on offense. Some scoring ability in the backup frontcourt would be nice, too, but it's not the biggest need out there, and Cody Zeller should be able to contribute a bit more as he progresses.
Doug McDermott, the sharpshooting deadeye from Creighton, is the hot name for the Hornets, as rumors float that the team is high on his talents. McDermott is the top shooter in this draft and has a good basketball IQ. However, there are plenty of concerns about how his defensive weaknesses will play into the Hornets' defensive-minded strategy. For all the flak that Kidd-Gilchrist's lackluster offense takes, his play tied the defense together. Clifford managed to hidenotorious defensive problems, but can he do the same with McDermott?
If the Hornets decide to take aim at the shooting guard position, it seems Gary Harris could be in the mix at No. 9. Harris is a slashing guard who should be able to extend his shooting range to behind the NBA arc, and he can handle the ball a bit if needed.
Michigan's Nik Stauskas is another option at No. 9 for Charlotte. The 6'6 shooting guard has plenty of size for his position and has plenty of range on his jump shot, which has to be the most attractive part of his game for the Hornets. He also has the ability to handle the ball but his lack of quickness hinders his ability to beat defenders off the dribble. His defensive issues are also a concern, though one wonders if his additions on offense might outweigh that for Charlotte from the shooting guard position.
The Hornets also might be very active in free agency with all that cap room. Owner Michael Jordan suggested they would try to duplicate their success last summer, when they inked Al Jefferson to a three-year contract. Indiana's Lance Stephenson or Detroit's Greg Monroe could be options if the Hornets look to make a big splash.