With the All-Star weekend behind us and a few days of rest left for NBA players, the focus now is on the trade deadline. The Charlotte Hornets don’t seem to be involved in anything substantial at the moment, be it about Jeremy Lin or anyone else.
It’s always difficult playing the What If game and maybe if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wouldn’t have gone down with a torn labrum in his right shoulder for the second time in five months, we would be hearing about a trade possibility or two involving a backcourt or wing player. But right now, with the Hornets trying to remember what worked and what didn’t for them before he came back from his initial injury, trades seem to be off the table.
Good or bad for Jeremy Lin? Depends, again, on how he’ll be used. As we’ve seen in the last three years for Lin, moving away from one bad or complicated situation doesn’t promise landing on greener pastures, especially via trade, when there’s no control over the destination. Lin will get more minutes again after the formation of the Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum trio ate into a lot of his minutes. But in what lineups? In what position? In what role?
The aspect the Hornets are damaged in the most by losing Kidd-Gilchrist again is defense. Lin is the most consistent of the Hornets guards on defense, as Batum tends to go wherever the pains in his toe take him. But P.J. Hairston will be the one getting the Kidd-Gilchrist role in the lineup, which means a player who is only better than MKG in one thing: Outside shooting, and not by much.
In theory, the Hornets might be able to package something together and try to get a better option at small forward, but that would eat up their depth, and while they’ve been misusing Lin for most of this season, there’s no second unit without Lin, and it’s doubtful they can get a capable small forward or shooting guard and some pace setting point guard to come off the bench without decimating the team’s bench, turning it into a four or five man team.
While Al Jefferson might or might not be coming back at some point this season (and maybe it doesn’t even matter considering where the Hornets basketball is at the moment), the Hornets have to settle for what they have and try to make the playoffs with it. Clifford has the options of doing some creative, small-ball kind of stuff, but looking back at every game by the Hornets this season suggests it’s not likely to happen. In short, it’ll be the shooting form of Walker and Batum, plus the occasional leaning on Lin when they’re forced to, that determines whether the Hornets make the playoffs or not.