The Charlotte Hornets have exceeded even owner Michael Jordan’s expectations this year, coming out of the gate strong and then doubling down after the All-Star break with the third best record in the NBA during that stretch. Point guard and chief scoring threat Kemba Walker is the main driver, but the Hornets are surprisingly deep at most positions. Former starting center Al Jefferson is likely to come off the bench now, even as he grabs double-doubles. That’s how deep Charlotte looks. On multiple occasions this year head coach Steve Clifford has used 13 players in a game, a real NBA rarity.
The biggest enigma — and enigma might be his middle name — is Jeremy Lin. Lin has played some of the best ball of his career in Charlotte this year, living up to what Michael Jordan called his “most significant” acquisition this off-season. Lin plays two positions well, and an argument can be made that he has contributed to Kemba Walker’s breakout success while playing both — effectively spelling Walker at point and working in tandem with Walker when he plays shooting guard. But as the playoffs draw near, NBA rotations tend to grow shorter. Lin missed one game with a sore back and played just 24 minutes in his return. Despite two breakout scoring games in recent weeks and his tendency to play well against better teams, Lin’s injury hits at a rough time and he enters the playoffs on the edge of the consistent rotation. In his 24 minutes he played 12 at point and 12 at shooting guard. The versatility is good, but if the need for Lin’s reserve contribution disappears at either position — e.g., Walker dominates minutes at the point — Lin’s minutes could swiftly halve.