As 2016 draws to a close, the Charlotte Hornets should feel good about what they’ve accomplished over the past year. There were some rough spots, of course, but there was plenty of good to go around as well. Still, there’s some room for improvement as an organization in 2017. As many people make goals to work towards and promises to themselves to bring in the new year, so too should NBA teams – there’s always something that can be changed or fixed as a franchise moves forward.
In the spirit of the new year, here are five things the Hornets can improve on in 2017:
1.) Cut down on injuries
Obviously, this isn’t entirely in control of the players and coaches. In fact, a healthy portion of it is luck. Still, injuries have affected Charlotte negatively. Last year, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed almost the entire season, and Al Jefferson was forced to sit for an extended period of time. This year hasn’t been any better: MKG, Roy Hibbert, Cody Zeller, Jeremy Lamb, and Marvin Williams have all dealt with various injuries that have kept them out of the lineup. It seems like this team can be great when it’s at full strength, but it’s hard to tell for sure when so many players get hurt. If they can stay healthy, they can make some noise in the postseason.
2.) Find consistency
This loops back to the first resolution above — it’s hard to be consistent when the lineup is forced to suddenly adapt due to injuries to some of the major players. Even so, it would be nice to see more consistent play out of this team. Steve Clifford has done an excellent job coaching the players to a whole that are greater than the sum of its parts, but the team is still susceptible to game-long stretches of rough and uninspiring play — look no further than this year’s two separate four-game losing streaks. To take that next step, Charlotte needs to cut down on those stretches. If they don’t, they’ll be stuck in NBA purgatory: a team just good enough to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
3.) Do well in the draft
This is a resolution that can’t be completed in one year, and it’s much easier said than done. It’s not that the Hornets have been terrible in the draft. They’ve had some draft success stories — Kemba Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller were all good picks compared to the players available at the spots taken. Unfortunately for fans, they’ve also had a few misses. Bismack Biyombo and Noah Vonleh never found their places with the Hornets (to be fair, Vonleh only had one year in Charlotte), and Jeffery Taylor is currently playing in Spain. It would be unfair to call Frank Kaminsky a bust, but there were several better players available with that ninth pick, and no other team was as high on him as Charlotte. Picking near the end of the round is always difficult, and that’s what the Hornets should be doing most years now, but success in that aspect would be huge for a small-market team that could have trouble attracting major free agents.
4.) Get another great jump shooting coach
Like most things in the NBA, this is much easier said than done. San Antonio Assistant Coach Chip Engelland is the best example of a shooting coach in the NBA, but Charlotte had a great one themselves in Mark Price. He was responsible for fixing the absolute disaster that was Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. Since the coach left the organization to take over the UNC-Charlotte 49ers, it seems that MKG’s shot has regressed a bit. It’s easy to say that the former Kentucky Wildcat will never be a good three-point shooter, but he’s still just 23 and has shown the ability to at least occasionally step out and drain mid-range shots. If Steve Clifford could find another shot doctor in the same mold as Engelland or Price, they might be able to turn MKG into one of the league’s most dangerous players and everyone on the roster could benefit from the coach’s knowledge.
5.) Improve road play
Finally, one area of improvement that would be vital is playing away from home. Since retaking the Hornets name, Steve Clifford’s squad has put together a record of 59-39 (.602) at home on one of the league’s unique home floors and 39-57 (.406) on the road. An expectation to consider is a better record at home, and a .406 winning percentage in road games certainly isn’t terrible, but it’s the last step in most teams' growth. A young team should win at home first, and then as the players and coaching staff grow more comfortable with each other, they will begin to win on the road. It’s time for Charlotte to take that step and put together a record closer to .500. If they can do that, they’ll have a great shot at a higher seed and home-court advantage in the postseason.
This list of resolutions quickly became more of a wish list for the solutions to all of Charlotte’s problems. That’s not unusual for New Year’s resolutions, however — plenty of people set out to make themselves a different person as the year changes. Of course, that usually doesn’t work out, just as most of the items on this list likely won’t. Still, if the Hornets can accomplish any of these things, it’ll be a win.