The Charlotte Hornets finished a stellar 2013-2014 campaign by making the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. However, the Miami Heat exposed some of the Hornets’ more glaring weaknesses in a 1st round, four-game sweep. The sub-par Eastern Conference masked the fact that the Hornets were devoid of quality role players to direct a second team during stretches of a game.
With flush cap room this summer, the Hornets front office vowed to make improvements and field a better team for the upcoming season. Here we take a look at some of the Hornets’ free agency moves and explain how they have solidified their backcourt.
The Hornets signed the 28-year-old point guard to a two-year contract worth $5.5 million. Roberts went undrafted out of Dayton, played a few years in a German league, and has now found his NBA niche as a backup point guard. He averaged 9.4 PPG and 3.3 APG last season for the New Orleans Pelicans. When Jrue Holiday went down with an injury, Roberts stepped in and started 42 games. During this stint in the starting lineup, Roberts saw his numbers increase to 11.9 PPG and 4.0 APG.
Shooting seems to be one of Roberts’ strengths. He shot 36% from 3-point range and a fantastic 94% from the free throw line last season. He will be a much-needed backup for starting PG Kemba Walker. Walker tallied a lot of minutes last season and the offense seemed out of sync without Walker directing the flow. Roberts’ understanding of how to run a 2nd team offense (combined with starting experience) provides the Hornets with a solid bench contributor and serviceable backup point guard.
I covered Stephenson’s signing in depth last week, but I will expand a bit more on what he brings to the Hornets. Stephenson will step right in and provide an offensive spark that the Hornets did not have last season. Stephenson is known for his flashy ball handling skills that will surely excite the fans that swarm the Time Warner Cable Arena this fall.
However, he is also a premier defender and offensive rebounder. At 6-5, Stephenson has the ability to guard the opposing team’s PG, SG, and even SF. Stephenson led all NBA shooting guards last season with 1.2 offensive rebounds per game. This may have to change because Hornets coach Steve Clifford’s defensive scheme involves players getting back on defense, but it proves that Stephenson is willing to hustle.
To solidify their backcourt rotation, the Hornets re-signed reserve point guard Jannero Pargo. The deal is for one year and is worth a fully guaranteed $1.45 million. He will be the third PG on the roster and will more than likely be relegated to mop-up duty at the end of games. His 4.7 PPG and 1.8 APG from last season are not striking fear into opponents, but that is not why Pargo is with the team. The 34-year-old veteran will hopefully be a steady voice in the locker room and improve team chemistry.
The Hornets starting guards from last season, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, are both back, as well. Last season’s 6th man Gary Neal will be back and will continue to provide the Hornets with his specialty of shooting 3-pointers. Roberts and Pargo will improve the talent level on the Hornets bench, and Stephenson will be an upgrade as the starting shooting guard. These signings will definitely help improve the Hornets weaknesses and hopefully propel them into the upper realm of the Eastern Conference.