For the last several seasons, the Charlotte Hornets opening day starters were pretty much set in stone. Under Steve Clifford the starting lineup never changed, aside from plugging in Dwight Howard at center when he was acquired. When James Borrego arrived, he swapped Jeremy Lamb in for MKG, but left the rest intact.
Last season we saw a rarity for the Hornets—the head coach altered the starting lineup to try to mix things up. Previously we only saw this kind of experimentation when players were injured or at the end of a lost season. The Hornets did it in the middle of the season to try to make a playoff push.
We’ll probably see more of the same this season, especially if the Hornets lose a lot of games. But the starting lineup heading into the season seems pretty set, and it’ll probably match up with the lineup we saw to start the preseason against the Boston Celtics.
- Terry Rozier
- Dwayne Bacon
- Nicolas Batum
- Miles Bridges
- Cody Zeller
The Hornets didn’t sign Rozier to a big contract to have him come off the bench. Rozier is here to prove he’s good enough to be a full time starter in the NBA. The Hornets need a player that’s good enough to be a full time starter in the NBA. Boorrego has said he expects Rozier to play a whole lot of minutes, and there isn’t anyone on the roster to threaten that.
Bacon finished last season strong. He started the team’s last 12 games and averaged 12.6 points per contest to help push the team to an 8-4 record in those contests. It was enough to earn him a starting spot out of the gate this season, and the third year pro looks poised to be one of the team’s leaders in scoring.
Batum’s spot in the starting lineup is the most questionable of these five. He came off the bench in three of the six games he played during the aforementioned final stretch of games. There’s a chance he’s replaced by Marvin Williams, which would slide Miles Bridges to the three spot. Borrego has said he wants to play Bridges at the four more this year, which opens minutes for Batum to start.
Bridges took over as a starter coming out of the All Star break last season, and never let the spot slip from his grasp. He averaged 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while starting at small forward. This year, he’ll start at power forward where he’ll be able to better utilize his athleticism to create mismatches.
As long as he’s healthy, Cody Zeller is this team’s starting center. He might be the least flashy player in the NBA, but he’s solid. He’s always in the right place on both ends of the court and the team just runs smoother when he’s out there. The big question, like always, is whether or not he can stay on the court for the majority of the season.