When Lamelo Ball went down with the wrist injury, he was wildly considered out for the season. That put a gloom look on the Charlotte hornets season. For a team that has been one of the NBA’s bottom feeders for as long as I can remember and definitely since they made the move to Charlotte, to being a league pass darling with an exciting fast-paced brand of basketball, almost overnight, can be traced back to the drafting of Lamelo Ball.
They were some question about Lamelo being drafted so high. One that couldn’t be ignored was his shot which just looked ugly at times. Most of his game was compact; had a quick first step, could get anywhere he needed to with his crisp ball handling, and the best part of his game was his vision and passing ability.
All of that in a lanky 6’6 frame. But the way he shot the ball looked like that could limit his ceiling. Well, he has that figured out, shooting 37.5% from three on five attempts a game, proving there’s little to no limit to his game.
Since Ball went down, the Hornets have been battling to stay afloat, and they were dealt with another injury with the loss of their star forward Gordon Hayward, who went down early this month with a sprained ankle. Credit has to go to Coach Borrego, who has to continue to adjust his lineup, with the latest example of him going small, starting PJ Washington at center the last two games. With creative adjustment like that, he has led the Hornets to a 10-9 record since Lamelo went down.
The Eastern Conference has been competitive this season. The emergence of the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks has made the playoffs spots a little crowded. The Boston Celtics have won seven of their last ten games. There won’t be any panic in Miami and as a result, you expect them to make a run down the stretch. These are the teams directly in front of the Hornets and they are going to need to play some of their best ball to catch up.
Meanwhile, the team in Washington is hot on their chase, winning nine of their last ten games, the Wizards are heating up at the right time. In addition to the dynamic play from their guards, they could push them over the line.
With Lamelo Ball expected to make a return in less than a week, the Hornets can make a final push for the playoffs. They are currently holding on to the 8th seed but they are two games out of the Celtics who own the 6th seed. With 12 games left for Charlotte, that’s still enough games to make a significant push to catch up with both the Heat and Celtics who are two games up in the win column above them. Making the 6th seed is a big deal to avoid the play-in tournament, where nothing is guaranteed.
Most of the decision the Hornets have made to get to this point has been questionable, to be honest. From the players they got through the lottery, who never contributed the way they envisioned to some head-scratching signing at free agency, letting go of Kemba Walker. The future looked bleak at times there.
But somewhere along those lines, they got some things right, signing Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward from the Celtics, drafting Miles Bridges and PJ Washington, and continued development from Devonte Graham and Malik Monk. This roster is talented, and if Lamelo Ball can just continue on the path he is on, we could be onto something in Charlotte.