The Charlotte Hornets are on a four-game skid at the moment and it honestly seems like the sky is falling. After dropping one to the Mavericks and then two close games to the Raptors, they proceeded to get stomped by a subpar Bulls team. While they do have a chance to get back on the right path against the Magic, there are definitely some internal storylines that need to be addressed as the season moves forward - both good and bad.
First and foremost it’s important to note that Gordon Hayward has completely lived up to the contract he signed this offseason. Coming into the year a lot of people (Pacers fans, Celtics fans, and Hornets fans included) were baffled by the amount of money that Mitch Kupchak gave to Hayward. Coming off of three tough years with the Celtics, most questioned his ability to play at an All-Star level. He snapped his leg in year one, dealt with team chemistry issues in year two, and fought off even more injuries in year three, so while the concern may have been warranted, it wasn’t exactly fair to Hayward. So far this year, he’s proved everyone wrong. Currently averaging 23.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists, Hayward has been nothing short of an All-Star for Charlotte thus far. Whether or not he’ll be voted in as one is another story, but the Hornets have definitely gotten their money’s worth.
"If you’re turning the ball over five times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me. If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively."— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 23, 2021
- Hornets Coach James Borrego on LaMelo Ball losing minutes
(Via https://t.co/DLwZUwC8Bb) pic.twitter.com/814JeS5Ass
LaMelo Ball was the other major storyline coming into the season for Charlotte after being selected third overall in the draft this past year. He’s come off the bench in every game he’s played in and while there have been some real signs of superstar potential, he’s not the most consistent player. Ball is averaging 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists a night with roughly 40-32-69 shooting splits. While this may lead to the belief that he should be given a starting role, watching him on the floor may lead to a different conclusion. Ball struggles to take care of the ball, averaging 2.3 turnovers a night, and this was especially evident in their past game against Chicago. Ball had five turnovers in 16 minutes and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter because of it. James Borrego called him out for it after the game, and if Ball is going to improve, taking better care of the ball has to be one of his top priorities. Outside of that, his shot selection and decision making should be better. He can have the best vision in the world, but without great decision making to back it up, it won’t matter.
The center position has been at the front of most Hornets’ fans’ minds this season, too. With Cody Zeller just returning from a fractured hand last game, Bismack Biyombo has been the starting center for Charlotte this year. Now you can love Biz as much as you want, but he’s just not a starting quality center if your team is looking to win basketball games. He’s undersized, has struggled rebounding against other bigs, and is almost completely useless on the offensive end. Whether or not Zeller being back is the solution to Charlotte’s big man struggles is left to be seen, but that’s something that has to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Terry Rozier... TOUGH bucket. pic.twitter.com/dfcSDCR8yf— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) January 15, 2021
The guards have been solid so far this year, with the statistics not telling the whole story. On paper it seems like Devonte’ Graham is having a terrible season. He started off looking really bad shooting the ball, and his shooting splits (roughly 33-33-74) leave a lot to be desired, but as of late he has been getting better. Graham’s shown flashes of being that same spark plug that he was for Charlotte last season, but the key is going to be doing that on an every game basis. Meanwhile, Graham’s running mate Terry Rozier has been playing really solid.. He’s had a couple rough games, but outside of that he’s been one of the most consistent players for the Hornets. Whenever the team is having trouble generating offense he’s the one guy that can come through and deliver with a big bucket, because that’s exactly what he is - a bucket.
Outside of that other storylines include Miles Bridges’ improved three-point shooting, PJ Washington’s experiment playing center, and Jaden McDaniels’ struggle to find playing time. The Hornets have been a team of streaks thus far this season. The key to their success is going to be the same thing that’s the key to all of their players’ success - consistency.