As funny as this may sound, for as much as I like watching and following the NBA, I enjoy playing fantasy basketball even more. I’m not a gambler so playing fantasy hoops gives me a vested interest in multiple games every night and can even make it entertaining to watch a random Magic-Cavs game.
From a fantasy hoops standpoint, the Hornets will have more intriguing, viable players this year than in any previous season in recent memory. My favorite site to use for fantasy hoops projections is Fantasy Pros (projections here) because they average out the data from multiple sources such as ESPN, CBS Sports, and Hashtag Basketball. Here are the projected stats for the 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets per Fantasy Pros:
2020-21 projected stats
The fantasy stud
Gordon Hayward’s projected stats of around 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game with solid shooting splits (47% FG, 85% FT) will make him a valuable fantasy asset. Last year only six players averaged 20-6-5 and they were James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James. That’s elite production.
Throw in the fact he should hit around two 3-pointers per game and he now has value in six different categories for a small forward. He doesn’t really provide any meaningful “money stats” (steals and blocks) but he’s not a liability, either. If the Hornets play at a faster pace this year, I could see Hayward averaging closer to 22 points per game than the 20 shown above. As I’ve written before, I’m bullish on the Hayward signing and I’d love to land him on my fantasy team this year.
Rookie LaMelo Ball is projected to have nice stats with nearly two 3-pointers, 15 points, over four rebounds, and six assists per game. Not surprisingly, he will likely struggle as a shooter and hover around 40% field goals. Rookies are always hard to project and usually have up-and-down seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if some nights LaMelo flirts with a triple double while the next game he could have as many turnovers as points. He’s a high-risk, high-reward option in fantasy but over the course of a full season will deliver a versatile stat line.
Devonte’ Graham should continue to be a high-end source of 3-pointers (2.8) and assists (6.1). His scoring will likely drop this year as he moved off-ball more frequently with the additions of Hayward and Ball, but still projects at a respectable 14.8 per game. Graham needs his 3s, assists, and points to be solid because he can be a fantasy liability in rebounds (2.8) and field goal percentage (38.3%). After being one of the fantasy “waiver wire wonders” of the year last season, Graham will come back down to earth a bit in 2020-21.
Terry Rozier is projected to be the player most negatively impacted by the presence of Hayward and Ball. The consensus estimate is he will play about 25 minutes per game with averages of two 3-pointers, 12.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and just 2.8 assists. Last season he averaged 34 minutes, 18.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. When also factoring in Rozier may be a trade target, I’m going to steer clear of Terry in fantasy hoops this year.
PJ & Miles
Frankly, I think the projections for PJ Washington are too low. Current estimates are for him to play two additional minutes per game this year while only increasing his stats by 1.7 points, 0.4 rebounds, 0.2 assists per game. I think PJ’s overall game will be noticeably stronger in Year 2, plus LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward will open up the floor and actually give him some easier buckets. Additionally, with James Borrego indicating PJ could play some small ball 5 this year, I think his rebounding will improve. I’m going to project PJ ends up somewhere around 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. Add in his decent 3-point shooting and he can be a high-floor, low-ceiling value pick in most fantasy formats.
Miles Bridges appears to be the odd man out with the addition of Gordon Hayward. His stats are projected to decline slightly versus last year, putting him in the fantasy hoops no-man’s land for a forward. As with PJ, I think these stats are a bit too stingy for Miles, but not by much. Even if he moves to the 4 and shares some small ball floor time with PJ this year, he’s not a great fantasy option. There always seem to be dozens of forwards who can put up 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, and limited money stats. Sorry, Miles, but I’ll take a pass.
None of the other Hornets players are really worth drafting in fantasy hoops. I’d prefer to take a flier on a sleeper candidate than invest a roster spot in Cody Zeller.
Overall this is the most fantasy hoops assets the Hornets have had in a couple of years. It’s no surprise the team is becoming a more desirable source of fantasy hoops production as the roster appears much improved on paper. As Charlotte looks poised to push for the NBA playoffs, some of their players could help you win your fantasy playoffs, too.