Nothing about the Hornets appears to be in a great place. Whether it’s the management or the talent on the roster, the Hornets just can’t seem to get it done. But the center position is a specific place that needs to be looked at. We have four guys at the position who all have their own unique traits but they don’t necessarily have a huge impact on winning. If you were to take them all and form them into one player you may very well have the best big man in the league. Let’s take a look at who we have and how we can improve going forward.
Zeller is by far the best option we have at the position and it isn’t very close. He’s a solid low end starter that does a lot of things well. He’s shooting a career high from 0-3 feet at 69%. He’s a career 74% free throw shooter so he isn’t a liability there and he’s a stellar screen setter, always finding ways to get Kemba Walker a great look. On defense, he’s a high IQ guy that knows where to be and can switch a little bit. He’s just a solid player all-around.
Zeller would be a great role player for a team that has a lot of talent already and just needs someone to fill in the gaps. The problem is that he’s on the Hornets and we barely have any talent at all. At the center position, we need someone who makes more of an impact and he just doesn’t do that. In my opinion, for a center you need a guy that can impact the game defensively. Because of Zeller’s lack of shot-blocking and rebounding ability, he just can’t do that. The Hornets give up 112.7 points per 100 possessions on defense when he’s on the floor. You can chalk that up to the lack of defensive talent around him but that’s the point. He’s not good enough to be the anchor and compensate for that.
I was never the biggest fan of Hernangomez but when he started shooting threes in last years Summer League I thought we might have something. However, it’s been all for naught. Hernangomez is like Enes Kanter but just far less skilled on the offensive end. Actually, maybe that comparison isn’t all that great. He’s not good at posting up: he’s in the 23rd percentile of all players. He is a decent roll man though: in the 59th percentile of all players. He also averages over five offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. So overall, he’s not really that bad of an offensive player. He can finish on pick and rolls and he’ll crash the boards for you. Super small sample size but he’s shooting 43.3% from three as well. He can be useful on offense.
But on defense, he’s awful. The Hornets give up 117.1 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court and are actually 5.6 points per 100 possessions better when he’s off. Within 6 feet, opposing players are actually shooting 70% against him. He gets roasted on switches and he can’t protect the rim. It’s just a nightmare on defense for him which is why he’s seen his minutes heavily reduced since the start of the season.
Frank gets a lot of flack but he’s really not that bad. He’s effective from three and on the year, he’s shooting 40% from behind the arc on a little over two attempts a game in limited minutes. He’s a good stretch five that is really useful on the offensive end. However, he’s not a good defender so using him at the five hurts. But if you put him at the four, he loses the value he gets at the five on offense. He’s better than Willy but opposing players are still shooting 66% against him within six feet.
He’s the type of player that would look better with more talent around him and the Hornets just don’t have that right now. I think the Hornets did mess up but not playing him early on. We could’ve showcased his shooting ability to see if we could get some value for him. The writing is on the wall though and we likely won’t see him in Charlotte for next season.
It’s fun to see Biyombo get minutes at times and he can make some plays because of his athleticism. He’s the only legitimate shot blocker on the team. However, he’s a complete negative on offense and he’s not so amazing on defense to make up for it. He gets paid $17 million next year which sucks but he’s also on an expiring dea so we’ll be able to free up some money soon.
The Hornets need talent at literally every position especially if Kemba walks this offseason. The Center position would be a good place to start because it can help the Hornets establish an identity on the defensive end. The defensive end has been a huge problem for the Hornets all year as we currently rank 22nd in the league in defensive rating. A guy like Jaxson Hayes would be a good target for the Hornets in the draft. He just won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. He’s the prototypical rim-running (shot 73% from the field this year), shot-blocking (3.8 BPG per 40 minutes) big man that the Hornets would love to have. He’s still raw but he has a lot of upside that the Hornets could use.
*all stats from NBA.com & Basketball Reference*