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Now What? – Charlotte Hornets | Basketball Insiders

Welcome again to Basketball Insiders’ “What’s Subsequent” collection. We beforehand lined the groups that missed each the playoffs and the Play-In Match. Now, we’re specializing in groups which are both on the cusp of creating the playoffs or try to construct contenders. The Charlotte Hornets, regardless of the result, had fairly a unbelievable season. There’s a sense across the group that if Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball hadn’t suffered important accidents, the Hornets may’ve pushed for homecourt benefit within the playoffs.

That’s not removed from the reality. For a lot of the season, Charlotte appeared like a shoo-in for a minimum of a top-six seed. Nevertheless, a number of accidents plagued the staff and despatched the Hornets spiraling down the Japanese Convention standings. Although accidents performed an enormous half in Charlotte’s downfall, it wasn’t the one difficulty. So, what’s subsequent for the Charlotte Hornets?

Strengths

At one level within the season, the Charlotte Hornets appeared primed to win the Southeast Division and declare their first playoff spot since 2016. Whereas that didn’t come to fruition, there’s little doubt {that a} strong framework is already laid out for the staff. For the primary time in ages for Charlotte, the staff is loaded with younger expertise, which makes for troublesome rotational selections.

The elephant within the room is, in fact, LaMelo Ball. Beneath the lately carried out lottery odds, the Hornets have been in a position to jump up to the No. 3 selection in 2020 to amass the younger guard. Not solely did Ball ship on the hype, he flat-out dominated in his rookie season. He hasn’t even turned 20 and but, Ball put up 15.7 factors and 6.1 assists per recreation this yr. Moreover, the guard shot the lights out earlier than taking place with an harm, which was certainly one of his solely pre-draft weaknesses.

Charlotte additionally boasts P.J. Washington, who has the makings of an All-Star. Washington completed his season averaging 12.9 factors and 6.5 rebounds whereas serving as an ideal small-ball stretch 5 for Ball and firm. Although he was comparatively stagnant between his rookie and sophomore seasons, Washington has a full offseason forward to develop. Additional, Washington could already be Charlotte’s finest defensive participant. Washington posted the second-best defensive score on the staff whereas main the staff in complete blocks and rating third in steals.

Outdoors of Washington and Ball, there are many different dominant younger gamers. Miles Bridges does greater than put up highlight-reel dunks, he’s the proper pick-and-roll complement to Ball. Bridges even took a serious leap offensively, coming ridiculously near the elusive 50/40/90 membership.

Each Malik Monk and Devonte’ Graham had their justifiable share of highlights and Jalen McDaniels excelled in an expanded function. The Martin twins, Cody and Caleb, faltered barely of their play from final yr, however each gave the Hornets good minutes. Vernon Carey Jr. confirmed glimpses of offensive greatness whereas Nick Richards appeared nice on the opposite finish of the ground. Even two-way contract gamers Grant Riller and Nate Darling have been two undrafted rookie steals. 

In truth, there are optimistic issues to say about each participant on this roster. Group constructing has been an absolute energy for common supervisor Mitch Kupchak and the remainder of the entrance workplace. The way in which this roster has been constructed leaves the door huge open for inside development as a result of each younger participant on the staff has proven potential for rotational greatness.

That’s the place Charlotte’s different large energy is available in: teaching. James Borrego is from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, which has paid apparent dividends for the Hornets. Borrego’s philosophy of enjoying gamers that earn enjoying time was huge for the staff final season. Former head coach Steve Clifford appeared to rely closely on former Hornets veterans like Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams, which didn’t give many alternatives for youthful gamers to step in.

Borrego adjusts his rotations based mostly on how gamers fare in apply, not their tenure. That allowed Charlotte to get a jumpstart on its rebuild and for its youthful gamers to see the limelight a lot earlier.

Final however not least, the Hornets have Hayward and Terry Rozier. Each gamers performed at All-Star ranges final season and have far exceeded expectations. Many thought Hayward, earning $28.5 million in 2020-21, and Rozier, earning $18.9 million, have been huge overpays. Nevertheless, each gave the Hornets cornerstone choices and the proper complementary gamers for his or her younger core.

Weaknesses

Whereas there are a lot of strengths of the Hornets, it isn’t all sunny within the Queen Metropolis. Firstly, measurement and the middle rotation have been obtrusive points for the staff. A part of the rationale the Hornets misplaced so badly within the Play-In Match was as a result of they’d no person that would cease Domantas Sabonis or Goga Bitadze from snagging boards.

Charlotte’s middle rotation was unfold between three gamers for almost all of the season: Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo and Carey. Beginning with Zeller, it’s clear to see the Hornets have been phasing him out of their rotation. A longtime beginning lineup staple, Zeller appeared in simply 48 video games with 21 begins on the yr. The Hornets really performed properly in his minutes, however a change in surroundings is presumably on the horizon.

For starters, Zeller isn’t in a position to do a lot defending if he’s unfold out past the rim. Zeller is the second-tallest player on the roster and is sort of gradual. So if Zeller will get taken out of his consolation zone by a guard or wing, it’s a direct difficulty for Charlotte.

Past Zeller, the Hornets did some experimentation. Biyombo really bought 36 begins on the yr however ranked seventh in minutes performed. Like Zeller, Biyombo is barely efficient on the rim on protection. However in contrast to Zeller, Biyombo shouldn’t be in a position to generate any offense for himself and infrequently finds himself on the mercy of a defender if he tries to submit up along with his 6-foot-8 body.

Carey bought seems on the beginning middle place, and put up some offensive highlights, however is ineffective on protection. Carey is gradual to react to attackers with the ball and it’s expensive. Moreover, Carey is simply 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, so he usually finds himself on the flawed finish of a mismatch. Whereas Biyombo is equally small, his 7-foot-6 wingspan permits him to masks his measurement on the rim, whereas Carey shouldn’t be.

Washington was the opposite participant to see minutes on the 5, and people have been among the most profitable of the season. Charlotte’s fourth and sixth-most used lineups on the year both feature Washington at center and submit a plus-21.4 and plus-30.4 score, respectively. Out of Charlotte’s five-man lineups to see greater than 50 minutes, solely five of 11 boasted positive ratings. Three of these 5 featured Washington at middle.

So whereas Washington performed properly in these minutes, the staff suffered miserably in minutes with out him at that place. For reference, Biyombo helmed the 5 for the primary, third and fifth-most used five-man groupings and people lineups have been a -10, -19.3 and -47.5, respectively. The Hornets want middle assist in the worst means.

Alternatives

Fortunately for Charlotte, the free-agent market and draft current glorious alternatives for enchancment on the 5. For starters, free agent Richaun Holmes of the Sacramento Kings is expected to see significant interest from the Hornets. Holmes would current a direct improve with measurement, and he’s a faster defender than the Hornets’ present choice. Moreover, Holmes is simply 27 and posted 14.2 factors and eight.3 rebounds per recreation.

Outdoors of Holmes, the draft is rife with stellar younger facilities. Evan Mobley can be a pipe dream for the Hornets, as he’s among the finest defenders within the draft and has main star potential. It’s not not possible that the Hornets leap up, they moved from the eighth-best odds final yr to the third decide once they landed Ball. This yr, the Hornets have an 8.5 percent chance of moving into the top four.

Even when the Hornets can’t get a high decide, there will probably be a number of premium choices accessible at No. 11, the place they’re at the moment slotted. One specific standout is Alperen Sengun, who’s rapidly rising up the large boards of NBA groups. Sengun stands out as a possible Hornets acquisition as a result of he’s simply 18, is 6-foot-10 and performs like some extent guard at occasions. Sengun averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game in Turkey. In line with Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, Sengun averaged round 4 assists per recreation in his final 14 video games. Sengun at the moment ranks eighth on Vecenie’s board.

Different alternatives will include how cohesive this group turns into. If Ball develops into an All-Star degree participant in an identical strategy to guards like Ja Morant or Trae Younger, the Hornets may rapidly grow to be an Japanese Convention contender.

Threats

Outdoors of the draft, Charlotte’s offseason begins and ends with how the franchise handles the pending free agency of Monk and Graham. Each gamers confirmed the potential for greatness throughout their Charlotte tenures however neither has lived as much as the hype.

Graham exploded onto the scene final yr as a Most Improved Participant candidate. Graham averaged 18.2 points and shooting 37.3 percent from range on 9.3 attempts per game last year. Graham’s efficiency additionally earned him a spot within the three-point contest last season. Whereas Graham is a unbelievable sniper, he doesn’t provide a lot else for Charlotte. He was one of many staff’s finest gamers final season however took a step again and noticed his numbers, exterior of three-point clip, dip from what they have been earlier than.

Alternatively, Monk had a variety of hype surrounding him following his choice within the 2017 NBA Draft. Monk was faculty teammates of Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox and have become infamous for his dynamic faculty season at Kentucky. Nevertheless, it hasn’t all clicked for Monk. He had an amazing 2020-21 season however he additionally missed time the yr prior because of a PED-related suspension.

Each Monk and Graham will possible earn eight figures per yr once they hit free company. Charlotte’s determination revolving round each will possible decide the trajectory of Borrego’s guard rotation and the way Ball’s function develops over time. If the Hornets overpay for one or each of Monk/Graham, then it may spell hassle for the staff. Nevertheless, Kupchak has a historical past of proving doubters flawed on the subject of free-agent signings, as seen with Hayward and Rozier.

No matter what occurs within the offseason, the Hornets clearly have the items essential to compete. It’s all only a matter of determining which gamers are right here for the long term and constructing round these. One factor is for sure: it’s a brand new period in Charlotte.

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