The Charlotte Hornets had what we’ll call a less-than-ideal offseason. Now all of that tumult is behind us and it’s time to shift our attention to the court, where the Hornets will try to get over that ever-present hump between them and a genuine playoff berth. They brought in a new head coach to try to get them there, but it feels like it might be a house of cards. Let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for the Hornets.
Last season’s record: 43-39
Last season’s conference ranking: 10th in the Western Conference
Last season’s offensive rating: 114.9 (9th)
Last season’s defensive rating: 114.4 (22nd)
Roster additions: Mark Williams, Dennis Smith Jr. (non-guaranteed), Bryce McGowens (two-way), Theo Maledon (two-way)
Roster losses: Miles Bridges (probably), Montrezl Harrell, Isaiah Thomas,
What’s the ‘Best Case’ scenario for the team this season?
The best case scenario for the Hornets this season is that they finally get into the playoffs for a seven game series. We’ve seen the last two seasons end in blowout losses in the first round of the play-in series, which had a significant influence on former head coach James Borrego being relieved of his duties. Steve Clifford was brought in to whip the boys into shape and take them where Borrego couldn’t.
A best case season sees Steve Clifford improve the Hornets defense to a level of respectability without sacrificing any offensive output. LaMelo Ball takes another step as a scorer and a floor general and establishes himself as the kind of rare talent that can carry almost any roster to the playoffs. Other young players like PJ Washington and James Bouknight take significant leaps and elevate themselves past role player status.
Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward stays healthy and plays most, if not all of the season as a steadying presence and third scoring option. Terry Rozier continues to be one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league.
What’s the ‘Worst Case’ scenario for the team this season?
The worst case scenario is we see a repeat of the last several seasons. Gordon Hayward gets hurt and misses the back half of the season. The team collapses at some point during his absence and takes a huge hit to their playoff chances. However, the presence of Steve Clifford and LaMelo Ball keeps the team just good enough to keep the playoff aspirations alive, so the team tries to make a push for the postseason that ultimately falls short and lands them with another late lottery pick. Meanwhile, young players like Bouknight, Williams, Kai Jones, and others don’t show any growth that suggest that they’ll become key roster pieces moving forward.
What’s the ‘Most Likely’ scenario for the team this season?
The line between the Hornets best and worst case scenarios is extremely thin. One bad stretch of play or an unfortunate injury at a bad time can quickly turn a season heading towards the best case scenario to the worst case. Unfortunately, recent history would suggest the worst case scenario is the most likely scenario this season, as that’s what we’ve seen in five of the last six seasons.
What are you most excited for going into this season?
The answer here is easy—LaMelo Ball. The third year pro is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the entire league. He’s done things that only Hall of Famers have done, so regardless of how the rest of the season is going, he’ll always be a joy to watch.
I’m also excited to go into a season with a fresh start and renewed hope. There might not be much evidence to suggest that we should expect a bunch of internal improvement, but there is enough youth and talent on this team that we can be hopeful that someone is going to be a breakout star.
Predicted record: 40-42
Predicted conference standing: 10th in the Eastern Conference