Last week I spent time in these pages discussing the needs of the Carolina Panthers. I spoke of how the Panthers would likely address newfound needs in the defensive secondary. I thought Carolina would also look for some help at wide receiver and runningback.
Here are the players general manager Dave Gettleman chose in the draft to add to a Super Bowl participant roster.
1st Round (30th pick) Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
2nd Round (62nd pick) James Bradberry, S, Samford
3rd Round (77th pick) Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia
5th round (141st pick) Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
7th round (252nd pick) Beau Sandland, TE, Montana State
If you remember, I closed last week’s column by saying that Gettleman has long had a philosophy that an outstanding defensive line can make your defensive secondary look better. I predicted he might take a defensive lineman early and he did.
Vernon Butler can play any position on the defensive front. Scouting reports I read state he is strong against the run and that his pass rush improved dramatically in 2015. He will likely see the field early as you would expect from a first round pick.
The Panthers added size to their defensive backfield with their two Day 2 picks, as they look to replace Josh Norman, who signed with the Redskins after being allowed to become an unrestricted free agent. Bradberry is the safety I spoke of the team needing. He is a physical defender who will match up well against opposing tight ends. Worley, out of West Virginia, has a reputation as a good cover corner. Sanchez showed some potential last year for the Sooners in the pass-happy Big 12.
Sandland, the lone offensive player added to the roster from the draft, will get a look to back up Greg Olsen.
Hornets Eliminated In Game Seven
The Charlotte Hornets had their chances to move to second round action in the NBA Playoffs after taking three straight from Miami to take a 3-2 series lead. But a heartbreaking close loss at home followed by a blow-out loss to the Heat in game seven ended the Hormets’ season.
Charlotte continues to take small steps up the NBA hierarchy. Still, I would say that the 2015-16 season was a success for the franchise.
Despite missing the team’s best defender and rebounder in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for all but a handful of games, the Hornets finished 48-34 as a part of a four-way tie for the third-best record in the East. It was the fifth-best record a Charlotte basketball franchise has ever had in a season, as they improved their win total by 15 games from last season.
Hornets’ Marvin Williams
Kemba Walker took major steps in his game, too, as his 3-point shooting began to match his killer crossover dribble magic. Nicolas Batum showed what he could do when he was entrusted with a larger portion of an offense, and is now the Hornets’ highest priority this offseason. Marvin Williams had a career rebirth as he rediscovered his shooting touch and took over Kidd-Gilchrist’s role as the defensive quarterback. Jeremy Lin had a rebirth of his own, introducing the world to Linsanity 2.0. Courtney Lee, acquired at the trade deadline, did his best impression of Kidd-Gilchrist as a defender and gave Hornets fans one of the most memorable shots in recent history with his game-winning 3-pointer in Game 5.
The Hornets improved offensively while keeping their defensive identity in check. They finished the season as one of five teams in the top 10 of offensive and defensive efficiency. It all led to the team winning their first playoff game in almost 15 years, and then two more on top of that, all while pushing a 3-seed to Game 7.
Still, the future is cloudy and uncertain, at best. Only half of the team’s roster is under contract for next season, and it’ll be even more than that when Lin opts out of his deal. He would join Batum, Lee, Al Jefferson and Williams as key contributors to the Hornets’ success this season that may be gone next season. The team will have more cap space than they know what to do with, but so will every other team in the league, for once.
One has to wonder what owner Michael Jordan will do. Will he try to keep the core together?
If the team does decide to blow it up, who will they bring in instead? They were likely out of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes before they even started. A player like Dwight Howard seems to fit exactly what the team needs, but would he be worth the money? Where would this rank next to resigning players like Batum and Lin on the team’s priority list?
We will know shortly. I believe Jordan knows who his core is and will take steps to add to it like he did last offseason. Things should keep on getting brighter for this team’s future.