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Roundtable: Analyzing the Hornets first half of the season

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Your favorite ATH contributors and Zach share their thoughts on the first half of the Hornets season.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I asked our panel of esteemed At the Hive contributors a few questions about the Charlotte Hornets season so far. The answers are below. Read them and enjoy them.

What’s impressed you most with the Hornets this season?

Chase: The general quality of the team, honestly. I figured they’d be decent but fighting for a playoff spot (rather than play-in) at the All-Star break is better than I expected. Also, LaMelo has been pretty good, I guess.

James: It has to be LaMelo Ball, I was always high on him towards the very top of my big board, but even I didn’t see this coming. LaMelo is having one the most impressive rookie seasons from a statistical point of view in a long time, on top of that he’s helping impact winning. As long as LaMelo does not go all “Tyreke Evans” on Charlotte they have a special talent.

Jack: Honestly, the ball movement. It’s talked about so much nowadays, but overall it’s still super impressive how they’re able to move the ball so effectively. As a Celtics fan, I’ve spent the whole season watching Boston play iso ball, so watching Hornets games has been extremely refreshing.

Zach: Make no mistake, everyone should be most impressed with LaMelo Ball. The stats are there for you to look at. The numbers are so dominate that its like looking at a google (the number 1 followed by 100 zeros), its so expansive its hard to put in context. It is imperative to understand that his performance has been unmatched by a rookie. Period. I’m sure you’ve seen the Elias Sports Bureau stat that states he is the first rookie to lead all other rookies in their class in points, rebounds, assists, and steals… But you can’t quantify the joy LaMelo Ball has and brings to the game. You can write about it like my boy, James Plowright on At The Hive. The pocket passes, the opportunistic offensive outbursts, the maturity beyond his years, LaMelo is the total package and has earned that description instead of being tweeted into it like Zion Williamson and Andrew Wiggins. LaMelo Ball is future of the Charlotte Hornets, and the future is now.

Jonathan: LaMelo Ball for one. As for the team as a whole, the Hornets’ ability to play well in crunch time. The entire team turns it up to 11 in key moments of the game, which I think bodes well for their future as they learn to focus for a full 48 minutes.

What’s disappointed you most with the Hornets this season?

Chase: The lack of urgency to add a center that can play behind Zeller, but even that’s not a huge deal given how solid PJ is at the five. Disappointment has been few and far between this season for me.

James: Devonte Graham’s shooting efficiency, he looked as though he might have been turning a corner before he got hurt but his shooting percentages this year are looking rough. 35% at the rim, 36% mid range and 35% from three. His impact on the team is still a hugely positive one, but he has to shoot better.

Jack: The delayed reaction by James Borrego in a lot of areas. He gets there eventually, but I feel as though the fanbase realizes things before Borrego does. Things like LaMelo Ball earning a starting spot and Malik Monk getting playing time took way too long.

Zach: Again, not a surprising answer here, but the most disappointing part of the season has been Covid-19. Put aside for one moment the half million dead in the USA and millions more around the world. The coronavirus has affected every game that the NBA has been able to put on this season. Whether it be players having to sit out games, teams having to reschedule games, contact tracing, lifestyle shaming, all-star weekend ruining; it has just sucked a lot of the joy of covering the league out. However, the coup-de-grace of Covid is the lack of fans in the arenas. The lack of pop moments like when a Terry Rozier hit that off-balance jumper to win over the Warriors. There should have been an explosion of applause and adulation in The Hive that night. What we got was an uncanny-valley, Black Mirror-esque raising of the levels on the control board of faux crowd noise. Fans not being in the Spectrum Center has been the most disappointing part of the season… but that’s all about to change!

Jonathan: Probably the most recent rash of injuries. The team has been improving as the season has gone on, but key players taking turns missing time has prevented us from seeing this team at full strength for awhile.

What’s your favorite moment from the season so far?

Chase: The Malik Monk Resurgence or LaMelo’s triple-double. Terry’s game-winner against the Warriors was fun, too.

James: There’s an array of close games I could pick, but I’m going to say LaMelo’s triple double against the Hawks. Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to have a 22 point 12 rebound 11 assist triple double, and that is even with a delayed start to the season. It was at that moment when it really hit home that the future of the Hornets franchise could be brighter than we ever imagined heading into the draft.

Jack: I have to guess this will be everyone’s answer but that Terry Rozier buzzer beater was top tier. It was close between that and the comeback over Sacramento, but Rozier’s shot was too electric to forget.

Zach:

Jonathan: LaMelo Ball taking over the end of the game in the win over the Bucks. He had good performances before that, but that was the first time we really saw him dominate a game and single handedly dictate the final result.

What would you like to see from the Hornets from now until the end of the season?

Chase: Keep playing hard and give the younger guys at least a shot at the rotation (Richards, Carey, Riller). We’re still rebuilding, so it’d be nice to see what they’ve got before their rookie seasons are over.

James: Clarification on how Rozier, Monk, Ball & Graham all fit together, due to various reasons they haven’t all been healthy so far. With Graham & Monk restricted free agents this offseason the Hornets need to know exactly what they have going forward.

Jack: This falls under the category of Borrego being a little late to the party. Maybe it’s just me, but I want to see Jalen McDaniels get a serious uptick in playing time. I feel like if he’s given the chance he could be a solid rotation piece in Charlotte and would fit perfectly next to Ball.

Zach: I would like to see fans in the stands of The Hive if they can attend safely. I would like to see Devonte’ get integrated back into the lineup using the minutes played by the Martin twins. I would like the Charlotte Hornets to be involved, but not necessarily active in the trade deadline. In that vein, I would like for our 1st round draft capital to be preserved. There isn’t a truly available center who is worth mortgaging the future or forgoing the potential of the young talent on this team. As much as I hate to say it, I would like to see Bismack Biyombo stay on the far side of the bench. I would like to see PJ playing the 5 in a way that does not disrupt is progression as a player, by that I mean allowing him to be the playmaker he can be from the outside in. In the first 35 games of the season there have been nine games decided by one possession, I’d like to see more nail biters. Mostly, I would like to see the national media put some respect on the Charlotte Hornets’ name.

Jonathan: A healthy Hornets team. Maybe a move to add some young depth at the five would be cool, but I don’t think the Hornets need to make a move to address that position out of desperation.

Will the Hornets make the playoffs and what will their final record be?

Chase: I think they’ll make the play-in, finishing between 7 and 10. They’ll probably be around .500 or a little below like they are now, but they’d get waxed by the Celtics, Nets, Bucks, Sixers, etc, so maybe a final lottery pick isn’t the worst idea

James: Yes, I think they will at least make the play in if they can stay healthy. With the 4th easiest schedule remaining in the NBA, Charlotte have an opportunity to finish above .500 for the first time since 2016. However, I’ve learned never to get too carried away with this franchise, so I’ll stay conservative and say they finish a straight .500 at 36-36.

Jack: With the way the East is shaping up, I think the Hornets are a shoe-in for at least the play-in tournament. I’ll go with a 37-35 record and the 8 seed in the East, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they push for 40 wins.

Zach: The Hornets will make the playoffs, forgoing the play-in games and snatching the five seed from the Chicago Bulls. The Hornets will exploit the soft spot in their second half schedule. The last 10 games of the season they are playing 8 teams that are currently sub .500. They will run through that 10-game gambit and come out on the other side 40-32, good for 5 th in the east. This will pit them against the Boston Celtics in the 1 st round which will bring the season full circle from the sign and trade with Boston to get Gordon Hayward in the offseason to facing off against a franchise legend in Kemba Walker. I’d buy a ticket to that show.

Jonathan: Yes. I think they’ll finish right around .500. We’ll go with 37-35, which probably gets them somewhere in the 6-7 seed range.