Tom Sorensen

With MKG back, Charlotte Hornets could easily exceed expectations

The Charlotte Hornets won 48 games last season. The over-under for victories this season usually is 45.5 (depending which Las Vegas betting line you favor). That’s 17th best in the NBA. Cleveland’s over-under is No. 1, at 59.5 victories. And Philadelphia, which leases the bottom of the standings, is last at 15.5.

If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stays healthy, 45.5 is low for Charlotte. MKG twice injured the same shoulder last season. I like him for several reasons, one of which is that, like point guard Kemba Walker, MKG invests so much work between seasons to enhance his game. I liked him better than Harrison Barnes, the former North Carolina forward, when he came out of college, and I still do.

A small forward, Kidd-Gilchrist plays defense as if he’s wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. But he’s not simply a tough guy who imposes himself on defense. He goes to the basket. And before the 2015 season, it was MKG who stayed after practice to work with Charlotte shooting coach Bruce Kreutzer. MKG would take a three-pointer and turn angry when he missed.

There was a time when none of us expected an MKG jumper from any distance to go in. His shot came in three parts when he left Kentucky. But by the 2015 preseason the shot had become almost smooth. If his shot, and his health, are true, the Hornets add a star.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen