By Ben Standing and Brian Jackson
Today’s Southeast Division team-by-team examination focuses on the Charlotte Hornets.
Best offseason move: Charlotte made the playoffs last season thanks to Al Jefferson's power, Kemba Walker's playmaking, Steve Clifford's coaching --and despite not much punch on the wings. Enter free agent Lance Stephenson, who played at an All-Star at times last season for the Indiana Pacers. At other times, the enigmatic guard did not. The good provided by the lengthy 6-foot-5 guard (13. 8ppg, 7.2 rbg, 4.6 apg) outweighed the inexplicable and now the Hornets have a legitimate two-way threat on the perimeter.
Key player: Thanks to his scoring, rebounding, passing and defensive skills, Stephenson is a true stat-stuffer. Thanks to his penchant for poor decisions, baffling outbursts and general bonehead behavior, "Born Ready" is an ulcer-inducing player. Stephenson only turns 24 this month. That means there is hope that both his game and professional approach will mature.
Storyline to watch entering training camp: If you cannot tell by now, it's how smoothly Stephenson blends in with the Hornets and vice versa. Charlotte developed a nice rhythm last season. The bad Stephenson could undo plenty. The good Stephenson could carry the Hornets up the standings in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference.
Best offseason move: For the second straight summer Michael Jordan pulled off an unexpected free agent signing, luring Lance Stephenson to Charlotte. Paired with Kemba Walker the Hornets now have one of the top backcourts in the league. 'Born Ready' led the NBA in triple-doubles last season and he also gives the Hornets a lock-down wing defender.
Key player: Head coach Steve Clifford knows what he's getting out of Al Jefferson, Walker and Stephenson. The true wild card is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Now entering his third season the small forward must develop a respectable jump shot. Last season Kidd-Gilchrist shot 47 percent from the field but that number dropped to 11 percent from three-point range. All hope isn't lost; John Wall shot just seven percent from three in his sophomore season but has since raised that number to 35 percent.
Storyline to watch: Does Charlotte have enough shooting? Only five teams made fewer three-pointers than the Hornets last season. Neither Walker nor Stephenson are knock down shooters. During summer league play P.J. Hairston, who was drafted No. 26 overall this past June, showed he's not shy about getting shots up. Problem is the rookie converted on just 34 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
RELATED: [Atlanta Hawks offseason review]