Hornets Hoping Steve Clifford 2.0 Era In Charlotte Will Bring Better Results

Can improved defense take Hornets back to the playoffs?

It took a while, but the Charlotte Hornets finally found their new head coach. After firing James Borrego, they went from almost hiring Warriors' assistant Kenny Atkinson, until he changed his mind and backed out of the deal. Then they talked to the "forever a head coaching candidate" Mike D’Antoni, before conservations with former coach Steve Clifford heated up, leading to the agreement.

Now here we are, with an up-and-coming Hornets team and a coach that was already there from 2013-2018, looking to improve one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA (22nd in defensive rating).

This makes a lot of sense given Clifford's reputation as one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA, but will it all click?

It makes sense in one area, but at this point, it's clear he was more of a desperate comfort hire than one based on true fit.

Second Time's A Charm?

Given that the futures market in the NBA is a bit scarce with free agency still expected to bring plenty of changes and shocking surprises, we can only look at Charlotte from a couple of different places at the moment. The Hornets have the 10th-best odds to win the Eastern Conference (+4933 consensus), and at this point, it's not really even worth looking at NBA title odds (+11800), so we won't (besides me putting it there for you anyway).

That being said, there's a chance this Hornets team drastically improves on the defensive side of things, and some of its most important young players, LaMelo Ball (+10000 to win MVP) specifically, take that next step.

The issue here, though, is we have a classic mismatch of a head coach that likes to play veterans, with a young team that the front office wants to see grow. The whole search was for a new voice beyond Borrego, but Clifford is an old voice that was just there a few years ago, even with a drastically different team.

With Charlotte already one of the highest-scoring teams in the NBA at 115.3 points per game, which ranked fourth during the regular season, even finding themselves sitting at the middle of the pack defensively would be a massive improvement overall, with likely more wins and a better shot at the playoffs.

You have to worry about Clifford's stubbornness, though, when it comes to who gets on the court, especially since we've seen this story time and time again in the NBA. When a team is looking to grow young talent, the coach that keeps his doghouse full for an extended period of time tends to stunt the growth of those types of rosters.

We can be comfortable with the fact that Clifford will make this group respectable defensively next season, and if the offense stays as aggressive as it did last year, we'll see more wins in Charlotte.

How much farther that takes this team is still up for debate. We'll get some answers as the offseason gets into full swing, and that's when we can start looking at some of the other Hornets' futures, and decide just how much better this team will be in the Steve Clifford 2.0 era.