How good are the Charlotte Hornets? Did they get better this offseason? Where do you expect them to finish in the Eastern Conference?
Added: Mark Williams, Bryce McGowens, hired coach Steve Clifford
Lost: Miles Bridges (most likely), fired coach James Borrego
Please sign Kemba Walker. I need to see it. I need to see all those former Celtics — maybe Kemba, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and maybe even Isaiah Thomas — all on the same team. But then again, it kills me that Charlotte seems a little rudderless. Re-hiring Steve Clifford is just as much a head scratcher as the direction of the roster.
LaMelo Ball is awesome, but I’m really not sure there’s enough around him to make me care about the Hornets all that much. They can’t defend anybody, they still don’t have a viable rotation at the center position and their second-best player (Gordon Hayward) has played more than 52 games just once in the past five seasons – and all that is without mentioning the deeply disturbing Miles Bridges situation looming over the organization. It’s odd for a team this young to feel like it’s trending in the wrong direction, but I think this Hornets roster finishes near the bottom of the East this year.
Going into last season Charlotte was everyone’s favorite league pass team, but now they seem stale. They never improved at the center position and rely too much on Gordon Hayward, who’s a borderline all-star when he plays but can’t stay on the floor. Their future was based on the paring of Lamelo Ball and Miles Bridges, and Bridges won’t be playing in the NBA any time soon (if ever again). Their poor defense held them back last season, and while Steve Clifford (in his second stint with the team) is known to construct capable defenses with bad defensive players, I can’t see them making an appreciable leap on that end of the floor. The only way they make the playoffs is if Lamelo has an all-NBA caliber season. (edited)
The Hornets got worse this offseason. It’s sad, because this team is fun to watch, but it’s true. LaMelo Ball is a going to be superstar in this league (if he isn’t already), but his supporting cast is severely lacking. Gordon Hayward is always hurt, Miles Bridges’ days in the NBA are likely over, and Steve Clifford doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in this team. All of that said, there’s enough talent on the roster to get Charlotte to the play-in, but they’ll likely fail to make it out of the tourney for a third-straight year.
Perhaps no team had a more underwhelming offseason than the Hornets, though that’s not entirely due to their own failures. The Bridges situation does leave a large gap of productivity on their roster they cannot replace. They’re really young up front, need defensive infrastructure to win games with LaMelo Ball as their best player, and suddenly are thin of quality wings. Steve Clifford will have to work miracles to get this defense out of the NBA’s basement. I see a sub-30 win season in their future.
The Hornets got worse through no fault of their own. If anything, I think they need to take a gap year, which I wrote about for SB Nation’s At The Hive. LaMelo Ball is very clearly a franchise player, but supporting him moving forward will be crucial. Drafting Mark Williams was a solid start, but that’s virtually all they did this summer (outside of re-hiring Steve Clifford). They’re going to finish around 11th or 12th in the East (if not worse).
They’re in a tough position. The Hornets had already been on the outside looking in after consecutive play-in tournament appearances, blown out in each game. Steve Clifford is a rock solid head coach who’ll emphasize defense, and could possibly be a big help to LaMelo Ball on that end. Regardless of the likely Miles Bridges loss, a healthy Gordon Hayward has stabilized this group over the past two years. P.J. Washington can probably step in and give some percentage of what Bridges did at the four, but they’re nowhere close to a playoff team in an improved east. They’re also nowhere close to the bottom. Will they realize the perils of mediocrity and try to pull off a mini reset, sale around the deadline? Whether they do or don’t, they’re not a team you can overlook on the schedule even if they’re not a threat in the conference. Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. are coming off excellent seasons while rookie Mark Williams looks like the ideal modern center.
Aside from hitting on LaMelo, I’m not sold on anything with this team. It feels like this could be a year to step back, move some of their players, and really double down on building around Ball. That’s frustrating for a team that wants to get back to the playoffs, but I don’t see that in the cards for this season.
Where will the Hornets finish?
This poll is closed
Out of the playoffs
Solid playoff team
Your turn: Are the Hornets good?