Charlotte’s Last-Minute Run

Charlotte Hornets’ point guard, Kemba Walker, has quickly become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NBA. Walker has broken out this year, averaging a career-high in points (21.4), rebounds (4.5), field goal percentage (43.4%), three-point percentage (38.1%), free throw percentage, PER (21.6), and true shooting percentage (55.6%).

His most memorable game came in January, where he set a Hornets franchise record with a masterful 52-point performance against Utah.

Winning Through Diversity

Charlotte Hornets, Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller has also stepped up for the Hornets, who have won 16 of their last 18.

The Hornets have been without Kidd-Gilchrist, their best defender, for most of the season. Their center, Al Jefferson has been in and out of the starting lineup due to injury, then suspension, and now because of Cody Zeller, who has proven to be a more athletic player and better defensive fit for the revamped Hornets.  Despite all of that, the Hornets currently sit fifth in the East, and Walker’s breakthrough season is the biggest reason.

Walker missed out on an All-Star berth this year and, due to a numbers game, he’ll probably miss out on an All-NBA selection as well. Walker has stepped his game up in clutch situations, ranking 4th in the NBA with 135 points in clutch time, defined by as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or over time, with the game within five points.

Many around the Association are now taking notice of what the Hornets have been doing since the All-Star break, and the team is getting more recognition because of it.  Since February 1st, the Hornets are 3rd in points per possession and 4th in points allowed per possession. Kemba Walker was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. A week in which the Hornets were 4-0. Kemba is now the sixth Charlotte Hornets’ player in franchise history to ever win Conference Player of the Week multiple times in the same season.

Kemba Stepping Up

Before the All-Star break, Kemba Walker was averaging 20.5 points, 5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game with a true shooting percentage of 54%. Since the All-Star break, Walker is averaging 25.2 points, 6.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game with a true shooting percentage of 62.8%. He is one of two players in the NBA averaging at least 25 points and six assists per game while shooting at least 49 percent from the field since then. The other is All-Star, Kyle Lowry.

Walker had turned pro as an undersized junior following the 2011 lockout. His first NBA training camp was abbreviated. He would play under different systems for coaches Paul Silas and Mike Dunlap while the Hornets were going 28-120 in his first two seasons. But the relationship with Clifford and his staff was going to give way to a long-term investment in his best qualities. Stephen Silas could see the differences taking shape.

The Hornets now own tiebreakers over both the Pacers and the Chicago Bulls. Tightly packed as the Eastern Conference standings are this season, who the Hornets beat is nearly as important as their victory total. Their current winning streak is at seven games. They’ve also won 13 of their last 16, and 18 of their 23. Their record is now 37-28, good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference. At nine games better than .500, Charlotte has its best winning percentage in the post Bobcats era.With the playoffs only a month away, Charlotte should expect a legitimate run in April.