What: Charlotte Hornets (12-17) at Cleveland Cavaliers (6-21)
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse; Cleveland, OH
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
On the second night of a home-and-away back-to-back, the Hornets are in Northeast Ohio to face the Cavaliers for the first time this season, who have had nothing but bad news circling them over the past few weeks.
I don’t mean to offend, but the Cavs are bad. They’re 6-21 on the year, and just 2-16 in their last 18 games. Head coach John Beilein left his long-tenured post at the University of Michigan this summer to make the leap to the NBA, and it hasn’t gone swimmingly. There were reports that the Cavs’ veteran players (i.e. Kevin Love, Jordan Clarkson, and Tristan Thompson) didn’t take kindly to Beilein’s hard-nosed approach to coaching, especially amid a stretch where they lost nine out of 10 games.
It’s also become common knowledge around the NBA that the wildly-disinterested Kevin Love is available on the trade market. Love’s recent abandonment of all forms of effort leads me to believe he’s lobbying to get himself out of there. Tristan Thompson could be a really helpful piece on a contender with his offensive rebounding acumen, so I’m sure general manager Koby Altman’s phone is ringing off the hook.
Cleveland’s leading scorer is Collin Sexton, who averages 17.4 points per game on 43.8%/29.5%/82.1% shooting splits (Kevin Love is currently at 16.2 points per game). They chose Sexton and Darius Garland with their last two lottery picks, and in an effort to cover up the redundancy of their decision-making, the two comprise their starting backcourt. Defensively, it goes about as well as you’d expect. Cleveland’s net rating with Sexton and Garland on the court is -12.2 (bad), and it jumps all the way up to a whopping -8.1 when they’re on the bench (still bad). Some would say this is a big reason as to why the Cavs have the 28th-ranked defense in the NBA, and “some” would probably be correct.
I would like to take some time to shout out Kevin Porter Jr. I thought he would’ve been a good fit with the Hornets back in June (good thing I’m not a GM) and after a rough start to the year, his shooting percentages have been steadily rising, and he’s starting to figure out how to play team defense in the NBA. Somehow, his defensive win shares are positive (0.3) and his offensive win shares are negative (-0.2). I’m unsure of how he fell to 30th in the draft, but I’m gonna chalk this up as a W for me being early on the KPJ hype train.
The only player on Cleveland’s injury report is rookie Dylan Windler (lower left leg), who they took with one of their three first-rounders in the 2019 draft. However, Love may end up sitting this one out with a DNP-Hates Playing For An Awful Team.
For the Hornets, we know PJ Washington is out with the fractured pinky (as a guy who has fractured BOTH pinkies, I know how hard this is, PJ). Nic Batum is probable with hand discomfort, and even if he plays, I’d bet that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still sees the floor.
Even on the second night of a back-to-back, this is a winnable game for the Hornets. This is one of the few matchups where the Devonte’ Graham/Terry Rozier backcourt isn’t too small to play defense on the opposing team’s guards. Having PJ to follow Love out to the three-point line would’ve been nice, but I don't anticipate Marvin Williams being exposed, either. This could also be a game where Borrego whips out the Cody Zeller/Bismack Biyombo front court. Perhaps we get some extended Cody Martin minutes with PJ out and the Cavs being so bad? I, for one, would welcome that. I like Cody Martin. Good player. I think Borrego tries to work him into the rotation as often as possible, but he’s juuuust not quite there yet as a scorer/shooter.