No. 10 in the conference standings after 21 games. The NBA Live 18 Coins silver lining is that Minnesota is dreadful (3-9) at home but good (6-3) on the road. If the Wolves can start winning at Target Center and keep up a solid road record, that could change the calculus and launch Minnesota into the playoffs for the first time in a decade.HORNETSIS IT SUSTAINABLE? The Hornets' offense is better for a few reasons. For starters, Lance Stephenson, one of the least productive starters in the NBA last season, is gone. Just freeing up those minutes for anyone else is a boon. Those minutes (plus those recovered from Gerald Henderson) have gone to a mix of Jeremy


Lamb and Jeremy Lin, who have been competent. (Lamb has actually risen to the level of solid, a vast improvement over Stephenson.)The bigger change is that Nicolas Batum is playing like an All-Star, and offensively deficient Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out with an injury. That's been a huge boon on offense -- Batum is a shooting threat on a team that has been short of them. The loss of MKG hasn't mattered too much on defense.Batum's excellent play seems somewhat unsustainable simply because he's a veteran with a larger offensive role than he's ever had ever before. There's no evidence in his record that he can mix this high volume and efficiency for a full season.


We'll see. I'm also concerned about the defensive ramifications of a stretchier front line featuring Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes in rotation. It's working on both ends, but on paper that's a unit that should be getting shredded by quick or brawny big men. As Charlotte transitions away from Al Jefferson (who has been injured and is now suspended), that's something to watch.IS IT ENOUGH TO COMPETE THIS YEAR? Absolutely. Charlotte is in the top 10 in both offense and defense, and Batum is the only guy really playing well above expectations. (Lamb is another candidate for that distinction, but his production isn't outrageous.) For all the talk about the rise of the


East, it's still wide open. No team, not even Cleveland, has distinguished itself. Charlotte is No. 2 right now, and there's plenty of space for the Hornets to fit in somewhere in MUT Coins the 2-8 range.HEATIS IT SUSTAINABLE? You'll never convince me that anything relying on Hassan Whiteside is