Coming into the 2020-2021 season there was a lot of uncertainty about the Hornets. Charlotte’s season ended in March and they didn’t qualify for the bubble. They lucked up – moving to 3rd in the NBA Draft Lottery and took Lamelo Ball. Ball had questions about how his game would translate to the NBA, however those answers would come quickly. Ball adjusted early and became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple double and he brought a shot of energy that the franchise needed. Ball’s game, along with the development of younger players, made the Charlotte Hornets one of the most exciting teams to watch. Charlotte had risen all the way to 4th in the East, before injuries would derail their season. The Hornets were able to qualify for the play in tournament, but got blown out by the Indiana Pacers. Despite the disappointing end the future is very bright in the Queen City and as training camp is set to begin, let’s look at how the 2021-2022 Hornets are shaping up
James Bouknight was selected with the 11th pick in the draft. Bouknight is a dynamic scorer who can score at all three levels – at the rim, from midrange/pull up game, and from the three. He has a quick first step and good handles, but will need to add strength to his frame.
The Hornets traded a future 1st round pick in the draft to select Kai Jones with the 19th pick in the draft. Jones is a 6’11″ athlete who can run the floor and jump very well. Lamelo Ball will love throwing lobs to Kai on fast breaks and off pick n rolls. Jones will bring rim protection to the Hornets, which is something they’ve been lacking, and the ability to switch onto smaller players and hold his own. Jones has shown an ability to hit shots from the perimeter, but his game is very raw. Adding strength and developing his skills will be key to becoming the player many people think he can be, but if he can reach his ceiling Kai could be a steal at 19.
Fun fact: Kai Jones was on the Bahamas’ national team in track and didn’t play organized basketball until he was fifteen years old.
Charlotte acquired the 8-year veteran Mason Plumlee from the Detroit Pistons before the draft. In 27 minutes per game, Plumlee averaged 10 points and 9 rebounds. Plumlee is a solid addition to the roster after losing Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo. He won’t do anything spectacular, but will be a solid.
The Hornets picked up Kelly Oubre this off season on a 2-year contract. The 6’7″ forward will bring athleticism and will be a solid defender on the wing with his 7’3″ wingspan. Oubre isn’t the best 3-point shooter, but if he can get back to his 2019-2020 form, when he was near league average, it will benefit Charlotte tremendously. Oubre can make plays at the rim and should be able to get out in transition for some easy opportunities.
Keys to a Successful Season:
Health: The Hornets proved that when healthy they can compete with most teams in the NBA. Keeping their best players healthy this year is important. Gordon Hayward was playing well until he got hit with injuries that forced him to sit the end of the season. They added Oubre to add wing depth, but having Gordon healthy will be important if this team wants to get past the play in game and into the playoffs.
What’s Next for Lamelo: The 2021 Rookie of The Year is coming into his 2nd season confident, stronger and more comfortable. Lamelo Ball has been on a solid strength program and reports are saying that Ball has grown to 6’8″. Ball will have to cut down on some of his turnovers and look to improve his 3-point shooting, but the sky is the limit for Ball – who is already the biggest star in Charlotte right now.
Defense: The Hornets added more length and athleticism this off season to help improve their defense. Charlotte was 20th in rebound differential at -1.4 per game, 25th in defensive rebounding, 23rd in point differential, and 19th in defensive rating. If Charlotte can improve its defensive rebounding and overall defensive rating it will create more opportunities for Lamelo Ball to find athletes in primary and secondary transitions and provide more easy scoring opportunities.
What will Define a Successful Season: A successful season for the Hornets will be getting past the play in round and into the 1st round of the post season. The East continues to get stronger each year and the top of the East should be a combo of Nets, Bucks, Sixers, Miami and Atlanta. We’ll see how the Celtics adjust to new coach Ime Udoka and if the new additions to the Bulls roster can gel, but Charlotte can be in the mix with those two teams along with the Knicks and Indiana Pacers. The Hive will be alive as fans return to the Spectrum Center. An exciting season of basketball is on the horizon.