Hornets fans have got to be pumped about the recent additions to the roster. Getting LaMelo Ball at the 3rd pick, they were already trending in the right direction. Saturday night, Buzz City landed free agent Gordon Hayward to a 4 year-$120 million deal. Charlotte had to waive Nicolas Batum to complete the move to land Hayward. Charlotte had been interested in Hayward since they made him an offer when he was a restricted free agent with the Jazz. He brings playoff experience and playmaking ability to the roster. Though these are encouraging moves, the team has a long way to go to start consistently winning games, after finishing last year as tenth place in the Eastern Conference.
Charlotte hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season, something the team hopes will change sooner rather than later. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are long gone, and they have been lacking an all-star presence since the two have departed. Hayward has potential to change that this upcoming season. LaMelo Ball gives this roster real potential, though he might have to wait to be handed the keys to the franchise. Last year, the Hornets gave point guard Terry Rozier a 3 year-$56 million deal, and with that kind of investment, it’s hard to see them simply moving him to a bench role for the rookie. Lamelo will likely have to earn his spot in the starting rotation. Learning from Rozier and playing his role may actually be something that is in Ball’s best interest long-term.
The Hornets do have some other solid pieces on the roster to attempt to compete for a playoff spot this upcoming season. Devonte’ Graham finished fourth in Most Improved Player voting last season averaging over 18 ppg. Graham made a big jump from his rookie season, showing a consistent ability to get buckets. PJ Washington started his rookie campaign off with a hot start before injuries slowed him down. He did come back and show he should be a part of the team’s future plans, earning 2nd team All-NBA Rookie Team honors. Cody Martin also showed some promise as a rookie last year earning honorable mentions for the Rookie teams but he may get lost in the shuffle of productive wing players on the roster which also currently has Malik Monk and Miles Bridges. The Hornets have a plethora of young guards, and will have to decide which show the most promise and will be part of the rotation this upcoming season.
Overall, there is now something to be optimistic about for Hornets fans, other than their badass jerseys and having Michael Jordan around. They did draft Vernon Carey Jr. with the 32nd pick, but will need to add some veteran depth in the post during free agency to bang with big men like Joel Embiid in the East. Though I’m not ready to make any claims about the Hornets playoff chances, they are surely heading in the right direction and I don’t see any reason why they can’t compete for that 8th seed in the East this season.
Tyler Valdez – @tyylerv