The Charlotte Hornets had quiet yet significant offseason in which they overhauled the entire front office and added new rotation players. As the 2018-19 season rolls around, it’s time to see whether the Hornets can improve off of their second straight 36-46 season.
Last Year’s Record: 36-46
Key Losses: Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, Treveon Graham
Key Additions: Miles Bridges, Devonte’ Graham, Tony Parker
What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The Charlotte Hornets started the offseason just one day before the NBA Draft when they dealt Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets for Timofey Mozgov and two second-round picks. Being just one day before the draft, it almost seemed as if Charlotte was prepping for a rebuild.
This didn’t turn out to be the case though. On draft night, the Hornets traded the draft rights to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the Los Angeles Clippers for Miles Bridges and two second-round picks. Selecting Bridges, one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft, signaled the Hornets were aiming to make a run at the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Mozgov, meanwhile, turned out to be temporary. He was dealt along with Julyan Stone for Bismack Biyombo and two second-round picks (yes, another trade where the Hornets acquire two second-round picks).
Then, after all of the hoopla surrounding LeBron James’s decision, Paul George’s free agency, among other things, Charlotte came out of nowhere to sign 36 year old future Hall-of-Famer Tony Parker.
While the Hornets didn’t make many flashy moves, the decisions they made could be crucial to how the team performs in 2018, especially if they manage to hit on Bridges.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The Hornets are a very athletic team. From Kemba Walker to Malik Monk to Bridges, the roster is loaded with players whose intangibles are superior to other teams.
Another strength that should be noted is the wing depth that Charlotte has. While Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum may not be impressive starters, the Hornets have Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon, Bridges, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all on the bench. The ability to rotate role players onto the floor while taking minimal talent away is not something that should be taken for granted.
Finally, the depth at point-guard has largely improved from the past few seasons. Parker, though he may be old, is one of the best point guards of all time. Not to mention, Monk and Devonte’ Graham could also get some run at point should Parker underperform or get injured. Again, the ability to function as an offense without Kemba Walker on the court has been something Charlotte has struggled with in recent years, and it appears, at least right now, that they have addressed that.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Marvin Williams would be a nice role player for most NBA teams, but for the Hornets, he’s asked to start. I don’t want to sound too negative, but Williams just isn’t the same player he was in 2016 — and he’s only getting older.
Charlotte doesn’t really have much power forward depth in general. After Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has seen most of the action in the preseason. And while Kidd-Gilchrist has been decent playing the four, he is literally learning a new position and was a fringe starter at small forward in seasons prior.
Another major weakness for the Hornets is the lack of two-way players on the roster. After Lamb and Bridges, there is a lack of players that are sufficient playing on both sides of the floor. Improving this over the next couple of years, especially with the way the modern NBA is shaping up, has to be one of Mitch Kupchak’s top priorities.
What are the goals of this team?
The Hornets are perhaps the most directionless team in the NBA — or at least that’s what the media tells us. But Charlotte has playoff aspirations. Whether they are going to achieve this goal is another question. As of right now, the Celtics, 76ers, Raptors, Pacers, Heat, and Bucks seem like locks for the 2018 Eastern Conference playoffs. But those final two spots will be battled for by the Wizards, Pistons, Nets, and Hornets.
Even if they are able to make the playoffs, Charlotte likely won’t make it to the second round. However, it has been proven in the NBA that things can change quickly — like, really fast. It will be interesting to see how the Hornets’ ambitions morph throughout the year and whether the style of James Borrego as coach changes because of it.
Will Kemba Walker be dealt before the trade deadline?
Any question forecasting whether a player will be traded is difficult to answer. This is especially true with this Hornets team. Charlotte has never been particularly keen to the media, and when Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that the Hornets had made Kemba Walker available in trade talks last February, many fans were upset and displayed this in the team’s following home game. It was clear fans wanted Walker to stay, and that remains true today.
If Walker is traded this season, it will likely come with no warning. And while the Hornets would like to think they are successful enough to maintain Walker, not just this year, but many years moving forward, dealing him might be the correct move given the horrendous money situation Rich Cho and Michael Jordan got themselves into during the 2016 offseason.
Will Miles Bridges be in the Rookie of the Year conversation?
If there’s one particular player that has caught the eye of Hornets fans this preseason, it’s Miles Bridges. He has displayed athleticism, great shooting ability, and solid perimeter defense. Bridges, being one of the most pro-ready rookies in all of the 2018 draft class, might have been a steal, and from the early looks of it, could be in the Rookie of the Year conversation at least.
I don’t think Bridges does enough to actually win the award though. Luka Doncic has been spectacular so far and will actually be starting for the Mavericks this year. Another player that has been drawing attention is DeAndre Ayton, who excelled in his first preseason game. Bridges, meanwhile, will likely be apart of the rotation, but isn’t expected to start.
To conclude, Bridges might be on either of the two All-Rookie teams, but it shouldn’t be the expectation for him to win Rookie of the Year.
What is the expectation from Malik Monk after a disappointing rookie campaign?
From what has been said by coach Borrego, it looks as if Monk will take charge of the sixth man role this season. In his final six games for Charlotte last season, Monk showed great progress, averaging 20 points, four assists, as well as one steal and one block per game.
And again, while this was a very small sample size, seeing Monk given more minutes only made Hornets fans more excited than when they drafted him in 2017.
It is expected that Monk excels in his new role. However, Charlotte supporters should not set the bar too high - as Monk is still barely 20 years young - which isn’t even old enough to consume alcohol in the United States.