There are two good results that can come out of the preseason. One, the team or particular players play well, and you can convince yourself that it means that we’ve got a good squad on our hands. But if the team plays poorly, you can write it off as meaningless preseason basketball, especially if you still have the second good result in your back pocket—health. “As long as we come out of preseason healthy, we’re good.”
The Charlotte Hornets got neither of those results. Not only did they lose all five of their preseason contests, they also lost their best player LaMelo Ball to an ankle injury (though it seems to be relatively minor). So we’ve got bad results and bad injury luck. What else is there to take away from the preseason? Well that’s what this article is for. Let’s see what we got.
A more aggressive LaMelo Ball
The efficiency wasn’t always there, but the Hornets rising superstar looked much more aggressive hunting for his shot in his preseason minutes. We’ll see if that was a product of the preseason or a true directive for him in due time, but it was fun to watch while it happened. The Hornets are going to need some guys to pick up the scoring this season, and it’d be super cool to see Melo take a leap up into the mid 20s as a scorer to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists per game.
Nick Richards might be figuring it out
At one of his first conferences of training camp, head coach Steve Clifford told reporters that if the season started on that day, Nick Richards would be the backup center. That surely got a collective eye roll from a large segment of the Hornets fan base who want to see rookie first round pick Mark Williams on the floor early on.
However, Richards acquitted himself very well in the preseason. He was very active on the glass and had a couple of really nice defensive plays. He averaged 7.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.0 block in 16 minutes per game, which extrapolates out to a very healthy 16.7/14.4/2.3 line per 36 minutes. He has a good lob connection with LaMelo Ball and may yet prove that he deserves that backup center spot.
Worry for James Bouknight
Bouknight had a tumultuous rookie year highlighted by a spat with former head coach James Borrego. A new season with a new head coach is supposed to give Bouknight a fresh start, but this preseason was not the start he would have been looking for. He finished the preseason shooting 25% from the field and 16.7% from three with more turnovers than assists.
He finished the preseason strong with 11 fourth quarter points in the Hornets final preseason game, and hopefully that’s the springboard he needed to get his confidence up. But the other 19 quarters of really bad play is certainly concerning.
The Hornets are getting their misses out early
The Hornets shot an appalling 39.8% from the field and 22.9% from three in their preseason slate of games, which rank 28th and 30th in the league respectively at the time of this writing. Those numbers will stabilize as the season goes on, so there’s nothing to take away from them in terms of projections, but boy was that hard to watch.
I’m sure there are some things I missed, but we can talk about those in the comments. It would have been nice to get a feel for what we could expect in terms of rotations, but it was hard to get an idea of Clifford’s plan given that players were in and out of the lineup all preseason. We’ll find out in a week when the Hornets open the regular season on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.