The Charlotte Hornets are suddenly one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA. Second-year stand-out LaMelo Ball has brought new energy and swagger to the franchise. With Mitch Kupchak leading the way in the front office, the Hornets have built a team around him that will maximize the things he does best on the court. After failing to make the postseason last year the Hornets will look to improve and earn a top eight spot in the eastern conference during the 2021-22 NBA season.
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The Hornets solved their crowded backcourt rotation by allowing guard Devonte’ Graham to leave during the offseason. They maintained depth at the important point guard position by bringing in a mentor veteran for Ball and his teammates in Ish Smith. Smith fits the style of play the Hornets want to rely on like a glove.
They also added Kelly Oubre, who played for the Golden State Warriors a season ago. Once again, he is a perfect fit for their up-tempo style of play. He fits into their frontcourt well despite the fact that they lack a true center in their projected rotation. That isn’t what they want to emphasize and how they rotate smaller players into the spot will make sure they are one of the must-watch teams on NBA League Pass all season long. The Hornets also drafted James Bouknight and Kai Jones to add to their suddenly promising young core of players.
The Starting Five
PG – LaMelo Ball
SG – Terry Rozier
SF – Gordon Hayward
PF – Kelly Oubre
C – P.J. Washington
This is a super small starting five, ev=en by today’s NBA standards. The Hornets are going to embrace the quick-hitting, outside shooting reliance that is perfect for Ball at point guard and that is how they plan on getting around being undersized on most nights. Washington is no slouch and can hold his own pretty well down low for a player of his size.
The forwards are able to score in the halfcourt and in transition and should find themselves plenty of open looks created by Ball and Rozier. Those two, Ball and Rozier, are what truly make this group work. They can both score, distribute, and what they lack on defense they make up for with quick hands and long arms to disrupt opponents passing lanes.
The bench will play a crucial role because of the small starting unit. Veteran big man Mason Plumlee should have a role playing a handful of minutes as the team’s only true center presence on a nightly basis. Some nights he will get more playing time than others but the veteran understands his role and will be fine with varying roles on a night in and night out basis.
Smith and Bouknight are going to create the offense for this group like the guards in the starting unit will do for the first five on the court. Finally, Miles Bridges is going to have the opportunity to become the team’s relied-on sixth man and closer on most nights. He is arguably the best defender on the team and is able to score in transition with ease. Expect him to play plenty of minutes even if those minutes are not coming with the starting five to open games.
One Potential Move to Make
IF=f the Hornets believe their locker room can handle it, and this writer thinks it can, the Hornets should sign veteran center DeMarcus Cousins to a low-risk contract. If the big man bought into the high volume passing the Hornets will play with he would add an entirely new dynamic to the roster that fits perfectly.
The Hornets lack true big bodies and Cousins is certainly a big body. His uber talent is a bonus and he could be the focal point of the half-court offense at times when players like Ball, Rozier, and Hayward are not on the court. With Hayward’s injury history, an insurance policy like Cousins is a smart idea.
While wins are valued and ultimately the goal for this franchise, like any other, wins are not the final way of determining the success of this upcoming season. The continued development of LaMelo is the true priority for the franchise as they hope he starts turning into the franchise player they have lacked since (smartly) letting Kemba Walker leave a few years back.
How Ball plays with young players like Bridges, Jones and Bouknight are much more important than increasing their win total in general. With that being said, this team should be and will be eyeing a back of the playoffs spot in the suddenly deep eastern conference playoff race.
Season Prediction: 40-42, Make the Playoffs
Follow Garrett Brooks on Twitter @GBrooksNBA
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