Charlotte Hornets

Hornets coach Steve Clifford: Only one change from last season for projected starters

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should stay in the starting lineup, Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Friday.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should stay in the starting lineup, Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Friday. AP

The new Charlotte Hornets starting lineup will look an awful lot like the one that completed last season.

Coach Steve Clifford said Friday that his projected starters, going into training camp Sept. 26 at Spectrum Center, are Kemba Walker at point guard, Nic Batum at shooting guard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward, Marvin Williams at power forward and Dwight Howard at center.

The only change from last season that would represent is the addition of Howard, who the Hornets traded for in June. He will replace Cody Zeller, who will still play extensively at center and could play some power forward in certain matchups.

That lineup means power forward Frank Kaminsky would continue to come off the bench and rookie guard Malik Monk, the 11th overall pick in June’s draft, would also be in the second unit.

Clifford made a strong argument Friday, during a luncheon with Charlotte media who regularly cover the Hornets, that Kidd-Gilchrist belongs with the starters despite any offensive limitations. Kidd-Gilchrist lacks the shooting range to stretch defenses, but Clifford said his defense, competitiveness and talent more than compensate when deciding who should start.

Clifford likes Williams with the starters for his defensive savvy and the fact Williams doesn’t need the ball much to be effective. Kaminsky is a good fit with the reserves because of his scoring, a concern for the second unit. That also applies to Monk.

Zeller, particularly in the pick-and-roll, could thrive against opposing teams’ backup centers after starting last season.

Clifford said Howard, who he coached twice as an NBA assistant, isn’t as athletic as he was when the Orlando Magic drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004. But his defensive impact can still be big on a team that had little or no rim protection last season.

“Dwight is still an elite defender,” Clifford said. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. He’s Marvin Williams” as a traffic cop on defense.