It’s been a busy week for owner Michael Jordan and his Charlotte Hornets. On Tuesday, the Hornets agreed to terms with the Atlanta Hawks on a deal to send center Dwight Howard to the Queen City in return for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. The Hawks tacked on the 31st overall selection to complete the transaction.
Two days later the Hornets added some much-needed firepower by drafting Kentucky product Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick in the draft. The reigning SEC Player of the Year, Monk was born to get buckets. The freshman Wildcat averaged 20 points per contest and shot a sizzling 40% from three-point range.
The additions of Howard and Monk, while very disparate in nature, are both uniquely important to the evolution and growth of this Hornets team. Both acquisitions are deliberate attempts to shore up longstanding roster deficiencies.
Help is on the way: With a minimum of 60 games played, point guard Kemba Walker ranked 14th in player usage rate last season for the Hornets, providing 18% of the team’s total points per game. Nerdy numbers aside, Walker shoulders a heavy burden on the offensive side of the ball, especially in late-game situations.
Monk should immediately provide some relief in that regard, as the 19-year-old is both a deadly shooter and unafraid of the big moment. Don’t believe me? Then clearly you didn’t witness Monk’s 47-point detonation versus North Carolina last December, including this cold-blooded dagger.
More on Howard: The Hornets ranked 29th in the league (that’s not a typo – 2nd to last) each of the past three years in points scored in the paint. While no one is pretending the 31-year-old Howard will return to his 25-year-old self – when he averaged 23 points and 14 boards a game in Orlando – he is still a force at the rim, more than capable of generating second-chance opportunities. Howard ranked second in the NBA last season in offensive rebounds per game (4.0) behind only Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons. Despite recent criticism for his decrease in production and intermittent energy on both ends of the floor, there’s little doubt he’ll have an immediate impact on the Hornets interior.
Charlotte GM Rich Cho described what attracted the Hornets to Howard in a recent statement to ESPN. “He has been a very talented player, an elite rebounder and rim protector as well as a physical presence since the moment he entered the league.” Head coach Steve Clifford, an assistant under Stan Van Gundy during Dwight Howard’s tenure with the Magic, echoed Cho’s sentiment of the former All-Star center. “I’m excited about working with Dwight again,” Clifford said. “He brings a defensive mindset, shot-blocking ability and a level of physicality that will be a huge asset for us. We look forward to him continuing his career here in Charlotte.”
Last but not least: The Hornets topped off their draft by selecting point guard Frank Jackson (Duke) with the 31st pick, whom they immediately flipped to New Orleans for the 40th selection and cash. The Hornets then grabbed 6’6” scoring wing Dwayne Bacon out of Florida State with the subsequent pick. FSU writer Ryan S. Clark, who covered Bacon in Tallahassee for Warchant, applauded the selection on Twitter. Adding Bacon to anything is always a good decision, in my opinion.
Christopher Kreider | @krydr1