Don’t look now but the Charlotte Hornets have turned into a respectable NBA team. The Hornets have changed the way they have been viewed by going from one of the worst teams in NBA history to a playoff contender in a few short seasons. The development of Kemba Walker and the hiring of Steve Clifford have played major roles in the revival of the Charlotte organization. Those were not the only factors that transformed the Hornets. The additions of Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum are proving to be vital to the team by rounding out a solid starting line up. The Charlotte Hornets are off to a 12-8 start to the 2015-16 NBA season and they are currently tied with the Indiana Pacers for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Things are looking good for the Hornets and now people need to look out for this team.

The Steve Clifford Effect

Ken Blaze-USA Today Sports
Ken Blaze-USA Today Sports

Steve Clifford was named the Charlotte Hornets before the 2013-14 NBA season after the Hornets went 21-61 the previous year. Once Steve Clifford took over as the leader of Charlotte the Hornets finished the 2013-14 season 43-39 and made the playoffs for the first time in quite some time.

How did he do it?

Steve Clifford has a reputation as a defensive-minded coach that will push players to the limit and help pull out a player’s maximum effort on a NBA court. The Charlotte Hornets ranked dead last in the NBA in defense by giving up 111.5 points per 100 possessions in the year before Clifford. In Clifford’s first season as head coach, the Hornets turned into a top five defense by only allowing 103.8 points per possessions and 97.1 points per game. Steve Clifford also minimized the turnovers for the Hornets, as the team only averaged 12.1 turnovers per game. That statistic ranked the Hornets first in least turnovers per game.

The Charlotte Hornets listen and respect the leadership of Steve Clifford and it clearly shows with the roster’s performance on the court. The Hornets fell off a little last season by finishing with a record of 33-49 and missing the playoffs. However, this season the Hornets rank in the top ten in terms of offensive and defensive rating. Clifford has a talented roster that the front office did an excellent job constructing in the NBA offseason.

Charlotte’s Key Additions

Chuck Burton-AP
Chuck Burton-AP

The Charlotte Hornets needed to shake things up after failing to follow their impressive 2013-2014 season with a better 2014-15 season. In the off season, the Hornets traded for former Trail Blazers‘ small forward, Nicolas Batum. They also traded for Jeremy Lamb, who had failed to find a role in the NBA that fit his playing style. Turns out that Charlotte is the place to go to find a role in this league, except for Lance Stephenson. Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb have been baling out for the Hornets in their first 20 games in a Charlotte uniform.

Nicolas Batum is averaging 17.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lamb is placing his name in the hat for a Sixth Man of the Year nomination with his play. Lamb is averaging 12.3 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 49% from the field in 22.9 minutes of action per game. These two players thriving circles back to Steve Clifford knowing his style and how to get his players to play with effort each night. Batum and Lamb are looking to earn respect in the NBA and Steve Clifford is helping them achieve that.

Can Charlotte Continue to Win?

The Hornets started the 2015-16 season off slow with three straight losses but have now righted the ship. The Charlotte Hornets seem to be in a groove that few teams in the NBA are in right now. There will obviously be doubts about this team heading forward throughout the season. Kemba Walker is running the offense effectively for the Hornets and Al Jefferson is battling injuries, but he is capable of contributing to the success of the Hornets. Charlotte needs to continue to ride this wave they are on and put their trust in Steve Clifford. Clifford’s coaching performance throughout the season will be the key to Charlotte Hornets’ success in hopes of returning to the postseason. The Charlotte Hornets are creating some buzz right now and they are becoming one of the teams to watch out for.

Louis Prejean

Spark Sports NBA Analyst