With Mitch Kupchak in charge of Buzz City, the sky is looking bright for the Hornets as the time is now for Michael Jordan’s team to cause havoc in the Eastern Conference. In the past year, the Charlotte Hornets have turned a 23 win team into a surprising 33 win team this season.
Though this data may not be something worth applauding, it is the fact that at one point during the 2020-2021 season, the Hornets actually reached 4th in the Eastern Conference that is impressive. Sadly, Charlotte missed the playoffs after a disappointing defeat to the Pacers in the play-in tournament, but it’s all smiles in Charlotte as they are preparing for a strong offseason in their push for a playoff spot.
How the Season Went
After the Kemba Walker trade, the Charlotte Hornets were in a position to start a much-needed rebuild to transform that franchise. What most fans didn’t expect is for the light to be this quick to change. The acquisition of Boston’s previous core of Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward was a pivotal step in the right direction for that needed star to lead this team. In the previous drafts, the Hornets had made some pretty good moves with the pickups of forwards, P.J Washington and Miles Bridges. These two players have been playing exceptionally well over the course of the season. Miles Bridges has now become a must-see TV for the league with his ferocious dunks seen a lot on social media.
Not to mention, the Hornets surprisingly ended up with a 3rd pick-up, Charlotte picked up the gold mine this draft taking LaMelo Ball as their selection. With him being the most likely Rookie of the Year this season, Charlotte should be locking up Ball as their franchise piece to build around for the coming years.
What can they do to improve?
The knock for Charlotte’s season this year was their defense, specifically in their frontcourt. How can this team compete with the likes of Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Rudy Gobert if the team’s frontcourt only consists of Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller? These players make great off the bench pieces but not starting centers for this team. Ball’s elite passing and Rozier’s scoring ability should be matched up with athletic bigs that can run the floor to catch up with Charlotte’s fast-paced offense. If we consider Biyombo and Zeller gone this offseason, the Hornets should be under the cap this season which gives all the money to spend on who they choose to.
Who to Shop?
The team’s current needs are in the frontcourt position. Luckily, a lot of frontcourt pieces are on the market this offseason. The most obvious, Myles Turner would be one that the Hornets might take a run at this offseason. Turner was one of the best defensive bigs this season. In addition to his outside shooting, he would create space for the drive and kick motion offense the Hornets loved using during the season. The second would be Jarret Allen. Allen’s potential on both sides makes a perfect fit for Charlotte’s team. He might be a bit of a reach for Charlotte as Cleveland may match that offer as Allen as part of their future core. Other frontcourt pieces that Charlotte may pursue are Nerlens Noel, Mason Plumlee, and Karl Anthony-Towns.
With the expected salary for Ball, Rozier, and the current core the Hornets have. Some players that I see might leave are Malik Monk and Devontae Graham. As much as I am a fan of Graham just by his success in the NBA, it may be hard to keep him and Ball in the backcourt together with Rozier. His contract will be too much if the team decides to provide a balance with the pieces to intend to pursue in the coming years. Earlier in the year, Monk was on the bench in most games. However, in the latter half, Monk contributed much to the needed scoring load that propelled the Hornets to a 4th seeded team. It would be a question though how much Charlotte is comfortable to give out an offer for the coming years a go.
Making the Right Moves
Recently it was announced that James Borrego would return as the head coach for this young Hornets team. Honestly, I thought it was the right move as the culture and brand of basketball dramatically shifted to a more upbeat and lively Hornets squad.
The Hornets have a lot of assets to play with this offseason. In addition, the Hornets are projected to get in between the 10-13 place in this year’s draft. This could play out huge for them just like Atlanta’s offseason last year. We would have to wait and see in the eventual future the Hornets might have in the future. But in the meantime, all Charlotte fans have all the reasons to be excited for what’s to come.