CHARLOTTE (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets’ roster has a vastly different look than it did two weeks ago. And third-year coach Steve Clifford said that’s a good thing.
“I think we have improved ourselves greatly,” Clifford said Friday.
The Hornets have made three trades, luring Nicolas Batum, Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lamb to Charlotte and selected 7-foot-1 forward/center Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin with the ninth pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
Clifford said more moves are expected next month when free agency begins. The Hornets still have three open roster spots, although they’ve yet to decide on whether to re-sign soon-to-be free agents Mo Williams and Bismack Biyombo.
Clifford said the Hornets have “more size, skill and versatility” on the roster than they did last season when they finished 33-49 and failed to make the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Hornets introduced Kaminsky, Batum and Lamb at a news conference on Friday, perhaps ushering in a new era in Charlotte basketball.
Batum said he has studied the Hornets extensively on film and this team has talent to win a lot of games right away and return to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
“The future is bright for this team,” Batum said.
Said Lamb: “I see a lot of guys on this roster that work hard and when you have a lot of guys that work hard and like each other the sky is the limit.”
While the Hornets still lack that superstar player, general manager Rich Cho said the team has a better mix of young players and veterans. He thinks they’ve improved their backcourt, 3-point shooting and overall flexibility. Charlotte was among the worst teams in the league on offense last season and finished last in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (31.8).
This year all four newcomers have the ability to step out and hit a long 3, including Kaminsky.
He shot 41.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Wisconsin en route to capturing The Associated Press Player of the Year award. The Hornets considered taking Justise Winslow or Devin Booker at No. 9 overall, but instead settled on Kaminsky.
Cho said owner and NBA great Michael Jordan “really liked” Kaminsky’s game, but the decision to draft the Badgers star was a collaborative one among ownership, the front office and coaches.
Kaminsky is probably best suited as a stretch four, but may be versatile enough to play center. Clifford said that could allow the Hornets to play a similar small ball style comparative to Golden State, pairing the rookie with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at power forward and Batum at small forward at times.
Either way, the Hornets expect Batum will be a key figure on offense.
Clifford seems particularly high on the longtime Portland Trail Blazers starter.
“He can shoot 3s, he can really pass and has different ways you can play through him,” Clifford said. “He has the pick-and-roll game, a catch-and-shoot aspect to him and I think he can post more here because he will get more chances. … I think the game comes easy to him.”
Batum is relishing the idea of being called upon to carry more of the scoring load on offense, just as he did playing for the French national team.
“I fit this team,” Batum said. “That is my feeling right now.”
Clifford said Batum can play three positions, Kaminsky and Hawes are interchangeable at power forward and center, and Lamb can play both wing spots. He said that will allow the Hornets to do different things on offense and defense.
“We are more talented (than last year) and have addressed our needs — and we still have a few roster spots left,” Clifford said.