The Charlotte Hornets suffered a tough loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday, stifling some of the optimism left over from the Hornets' successful preseason performance. Tonight, Hornets play the Atlanta Hawks in Georgia, where they hope to get their first win of the new season.
Much like last season, the Hawks are projected to be very, very good — many analysts suggest they'll finish in one of the top three spots in the Eastern Conference — and despite losing to the Detroit Pistons in their season opener, present quite the challenge for the Hornets.
The Hawks were a disgustingly good defensive team last season, due in large part to the excellent schemes of head coach Mike Budenholzer. Their offense, also ranked sixth, relied on players being selfless and constantly moving. The Hawks fully bought into both systems and finished first in the East. Budenholzer won the NBA's Coach of the Year award as a result.
Things to watch for
Can the Hornets still shoot?
On Wednesday, the Hornets shot just 25 percent from behind the arc and 39.3 percent from the field overall. That's a far cry from the Hornets' marks of 35.1 percent from the arc and 42.2 percent overall in preseason. Five players took 10 or more shots against the Heat, but only two — Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin — shot 50 percent or better from the field. The Hornets got decent looks but simply did not make them. The Hawks are an excellent defensive team, so easy shots will be rare. Keep an eye on how the Hornets respond to a smothering, efficient defense.
Can the Hornets still defend?
The Hornets, on paper, do not look like a good defensive team. Still, head coach Steve Clifford somehow created a functional defense in the preseason. Unfortunately, that did not translate to the Hornets' game against the Heat. The Heat shot 49.3 percent from the field and 60 (!!!) percent from behind the arc. Against an offense as volatile as the Hawks', the Hornets desperately need to find themselves on the defensive end. A lot of the pressure will fall on Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, and Spencer Hawes to step up.
Frank Kaminsky's minutes
Kaminsky played just six minutes against the Heat, despite being touted as a good, ready-to-play rookie by the front office. Adding some salt to the wound was Justise Winslow, picked right after Kaminsky in the 2015 draft, playing 25 minutes and having a stellar, all-around game. Is Kaminsky ready to play? It's hard to say. Picking up the intricacies of the NBA game can take some time, but is Kaminsky really behind Hawes in the rotation?
Projected starting lineups
|Charlotte Hornets||Atlanta Hawks|
|PG||Kemba Walker||Jeff Teague|
|SG||Nicolas Batum||Kyle Korver|
|SF||P.J. Hairston||Kent Bazemore|
|PF||Marvin Williams||Paul Millsap|
|C||Al Jefferson||Al Horford|