No team is well-equipped to handle the loss of their third-best player, but we might be seeing a worst-case scenario in Charlotte before the season even starts in the wake of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's shoulder injury. With the revelation that Kidd-Gilchrist could miss up to six months due to surgery coming to light Monday, the Hornets enter the season with a massive hole on their depth chart, one they will struggle to fill.
It isn't a stretch to say Fantasy owners weren't exactly planning to lean on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this season. Gilchrist was drafted in a 12-team Rotisserie league we just did, but he was a 14th-rounder, so it's not like Ryan Bass was expecting him to be a starter when he took him. Still, Gilchrist's injury could have ramifications for Fantasy depending on how the Hornets opt to replace him.
Kidd-Gilchrist had the small forward position locked down in Charlotte, and his improving two-way game likely meant he was going to see more than the 28.9 minutes per game he played last season. They weren't just expecting that, however; they pretty much went all-in on it, with only Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum as natural small forwards on the roster. This was one spot the Hornets realistically couldn't replace.
The injury to Kidd-Gilchrist likely means Batum will slide up in the starting lineup to start at the three. This should give the Hornets an offensive starting five with a bit more punch, because Kidd-Gilchrist's shooting remains an issue. However, the options there aren't super promising for Fantasy.
Maybe P.J. Hairston can slide into the starting lineup and provide some instant offense for the Hornets. Unfortunately, he played 687 minutes as a rookie and was pretty much an abject disaster, shooting 32.3 percent from the field and making just 49 of his 163 3-pointers. Hairston has the potential to emerge as a shooter, but he was very up and down in college, shooting 34.9 percent from three overall, but with one season below 27.5 percent and one at nearly 40.
If Hairston can hit his shots at even a league-average rate, he should be a natural fit for a Hornets team that is hoisting 3-pointers at a rate even higher than last year's Rockets in the preseason. He could have utility for Fantasy and is now a nice sleeper option heading into the season, especially in category-based formats. If he isn't ready, the options look a lot less promising.
We should probably be beyond expecting Jeremy Lamb to live up to the potential he once showed as a lottery pick. He still flashes that sweet shooting stroke, but he has managed to shoot just 34.8 percent from three over 2,318 NBA minutes, and doesn't bring much else to the table. He has a pretty good opportunity here, but after he failed to take advantage of good opportunities the previous two seasons with Oklahoma City, it's tough to believe in him.
Finishing out the shooting guard possibilities worth mentioning, we could see the Hornets roll with dual point guard lineups more often this season. That was a look they surprisingly leaned on late last season, though it was easier to do with Mo Williams as the off-ball shooter than Jeremy Lin, this year's backup. With Kemba Walker's shooting woes, that may be an awkward fit, but this news should boost Lin's value a bit. He is definitely worth drafting in all formats as a reserve.
The most natural option -- and also probably the least exciting for Fantasy purposes -- would be to keep Batum at shooting guard and just slot Marvin Williams in at small forward. He has moved more to power forward in recent years, but Williams brings enough shooting and defense to make it tenable. That would probably lead to a bigger role for Cody Zeller, another potential breakout candidate, but this configuration would probably lead to more of the awkward floor spacing issue we saw last season. Williams would be a low-end starter, and Zeller might be worth adding late in a draft, but there are just as many reasons to be wary of both as to be excited.
The addition of Nicolas Batum gives them flexibility to weather the storm of Kidd-Gilchrist's injury better than they otherwise would have. This injury doesn't change his value much, but only because both players were likely looking at 30-plus minute roles per game anyways. Batum is going to be a main playmaking hub for this team no matter what, and is one of the top bounce-back candidates in the league.
If there is a positive to be found in this injury for Fantasy, it is that the Hornets might have to open up their offense even more when their best defender gone. Hairston and even journeyman Troy Daniels have the shooting potential to make that a reality, which should put them on your Fantasy radar.
The Hornets aren't in a good spot overall in the wake of this injury, but there are some Fantasy sleepers to be found here. Let's see if any of them can step up to the challenge.