The Charlotte Hornets brought back Steve Clifford for a second stint with the franchise and it did not sit well with the fanbase on social media. Some fans said “I've lost faith in the organization”, while others said a couple of explicit things that should not be quoted in an article. The concern from the fans comes with good reason though. Clifford went 196-214 in five seasons with the Hornets. The team wasn't exactly thriving, but they did have a playoff appearance in his stint.
Still, the Hornets are taking a huge risk by bringing him back.
Clifford isn't exactly a success story
If you think about some of the other names on the market, they would've been better fits for the Hornets' young roster. Instantly we think of Mike D’Antoni because his name was attached to this job for months on end. If not for Kevin Durant's Warriors run, D'Antoni might've been an NBA champion. Either way, his teams have had a lot of regular-season success in his years as a head coach. Plus, he coached top point guards to MVP awards in Steve Nash and James Harden. Now fans can only imagine what he might've been able to do with LaMelo Ball and the rest of the Hornets roster.
Outside of D'Antoni, guys like Terry Stotts, Quin Snyder, and Frank Vogel were on the market. Stotts and Snyder have had a few 50-win seasons on their resume, while Vogel has an NBA title to boot. There were more accomplished options on the board. It raises a lot of question marks to bring back a guy that did not see a ton of success with the organization in the past or in his coaching career.
He is a good defensive coach
Despite the doubt that is festering within the fanbase, Clifford is a solid defensive mind. His teams have ranked top-10 in points allowed and defensive rating. This is a good sign for the Hornets, who struggled to stop guys on that end of the floor in 2021-2022. They ranked 23rd in defensive rating in 2022. So it was a good idea to hire a guy who can help out where they struggled last season. Defense is an effort stat mostly, but if he can draw up the right schemes on that end of the floor they can become effective. Some guys who are minus defenders could find a way to impact the game if they are put in the right spots.
How this impacts LaMelo Ball
Ball is the person that the fanbase is worried about the most and rightfully so. In an era of player empowerment, star players have shown they will leave to go play for more competitive teams. Hiring Clifford doesn't exactly scream playoff contender, but Hornets fans should be a little more optimistic. Clifford might not be a brilliant offensive mind, but he may lean on his assistants and the creativeness of his new point guard. Ball has said for a while now that all he needs is the keys to take his team to the next level. If Clifford and Ball get on the right terms, it could be a fruitful relationship.
Not to mention that one of the glaring weaknesses in Ball's game is his defense. Being a 6'7 guard, you should be able to guard one through three. Maybe Clifford will be able to get Ball to buy into things on that end of the floor. You guys know how the saying goes, good defense turns into good offense, right? Clifford might not have been the number one option for the franchise, but they have to make the most out of the situation now at this point.
What to expect in 2022-23
The Hornets have amassed 10 more wins each of their last 3 seasons under former head coach James Borrego. They were trending in the right direction for sure, so Clifford is expected to keep that going. After winning 43 games in 2022, the Hornets should be able to amass 45 wins or more. They are potentially bringing back their core guys, if Miles Bridges and management could find the right deal, with the edition of rookie center Mark Williams. Williams will likely be an impact defender from day one in Clifford's system. Bridges and Washington are also solid defensive pieces as well.
This team should be able to climb up the ranks defensively once they figure out how to string consecutive stops together and figure out an offensive scheme that works well for them. A playoff berth is a must for the Hornets this season. The majority of people might be down on the return of Clifford, but everyone has to see how it pans out. Let’s all just sit back and enjoy the show.