The Charlotte Hornets have not been participants in the NBA playoffs since the 2015-16 season. Since then the team has gone through a major overhaul on all levels, from the front office to the coaching staff, to the roster. But after all the major shifts, I feel the Hornets are in a prime position to return to the playoff stage as soon as this season.
Experience and Growing Chemistry
The Hornets are gaining more experience with their core players as P.J Washington will be coming into his 2nd season. Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham are players moving towards their 3rd year in the NBA, and Terry Rozier is coming into his 5th season in the league. Albeit they are still a young team, the Hornet’s natural progression should work in their favor as they gain more chemistry playing with each other in Borrego’s system.
The Hornets will have spent more time together than most of the teams vying for some of those last playoff spots and will be bringing back most of their roster. I look at the Denver Nuggets, for example, a team that kept adding talent while at the same time continuing to build chemistry with their core players season after season. The Hornets will surely be adding some pieces from Free Agency and the upcoming NBA Draft, but not having a season of overhauling the roster is an edge that should work in Charlotte’s favor.
Weaker Eastern Conference
The Eastern conference is still competitive at the top don’t get me wrong. But towards the bottom of the playoffs, the competition has softened up as a handful of teams are shaping up a complete overhaul of their rosters. The Hornets will bring back several key pieces, including whoever they select at #3 in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Hornets will be a team with the most continuity out of the teams vying for the last couple of playoff slots, and that holds weight when the difference in talent between the teams in that range are not that significant.
The Hornets will also benefit record-wise going up against easier teams in an Eastern conference where the bottom is expected to be downright awful. The Hornets depth is still an issue, but we still have to wait and see the moves that will be made in FA and the draft. But I’m confident in the timeline the team is currently on against the teams in their tier who are also playoff hopefuls.
The Hornets talent level is rising and after the soft rebuild post-Kemba Walker era I think it’s not ambitious to say they will be ready to compete for the playoffs after adding an immediate impact player in the Draft and free agency. Taking into consideration the cornerstone players’ level of play will be rising. Devonte Graham, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, and Terry Rozier these players have not reached their ceiling talent-wise and I think each player has something to add. Whether that happens is something I can’t guarantee, but it is something that I can predict.
The Hornets season will not be determined if they make the NBA playoffs this year or not, it’s about the core players and the team overall taking the next step in their development. I have confidence in the players and the coaching staff moving forward that they will, and that alone should propel them to a playoff berth.