When: Saturday December 12, 7:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: FOX Sports Southeast, NBATV, NBA League Pass
Normally we don’t do these until the day of the game, but it’s the first preseason game, and I’m sure everybody is super excited for it. I know I am. The Hornets will be introduce their new pieces for the first time in live game action, and they’ll do so against a Raptors team that’s probably pretty good but is in a state of transition themselves.
As of this writing I don’t know what the starting lineup for the Hornets will be, but my guess would be Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, and Cody Zeller. Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball will probably be the first players off the bench in place of Zeller and one of Graham or Rozier, shifting Washington to the five and letting the Hornets play small. All of this is just a guess, but this is a preview and I’m doing my best to preview what I think will happen.
Normally we could look at past preseason games to get a feel for how the Hornets would divvy up minutes in their preseason opener, but the uniqueness and brevity of this offseason make it difficult to compare. For reference, the Hornets played their younger key rotation pieces between 20 and 25 minutes per game in the first couple games and went 15 deep in the rotation. James Borrego has said in press conferences that he’s going to want to see more of the top ten to twelve players of the rotation at the start of the preseason. With all that in mind, I think we’ll see about 20-25 minutes for the players that are the core part of the team. We probably won’t see much of the Exhibit 10 and two-way guys early on in the preseason.
The one major Hornet we probably won’t see is Malik Monk, who has been out after testing positive for covid. He’ll be able to rejoin the team for group practices on Saturday, and Borrego has said he’d like to get Monk into a few practices before he appears in a game.
As for the Raptors, they’re undergoing a bit of a change as well. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol have departed and been replaced by Aron Baynes and Alex Len. Their team runs through big man Pascal Siakam and their duo of craft guards, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. They’ve had three players out with covid, but I don’t know who those players are.
The Raptors are a good test for the Hornets first two preseason games. They’re a well coached veteran team that should provide a challenge for the Hornets as they try to implement new concepts. Borrego has said there won’t be any team-specific game planning, so what we see on Saturday night won’t be directly comparable to what we see when the real games start in less than two weeks. The results don’t matter, so just sit back and enjoy LaMelo Ball and the rest of Hornets basketball.