The Charlotte Hornets are a few days into training camp and have their first preseason game coming up this weekend. As we wait for news to trickle out and games to happen that we can watch, I thought we’d look at a few stories to be on the lookout for and pay attention to.
1. Who will emerge in the center battle?
In his media day press conference, Steve Clifford said if the team had to play a game today, Mason Plumlee would be the starter and Nick Richards would be the first backup off the bench. He also said Nick Richards has made the biggest improvements over the offseason. Can he solidify himself as a starting option? Can one of the young guys in Kai Jones or Mark Williams supplant the veterans in the rotation before the regular season gets here?
2. Are there any signs of a breakout candidate?
Last year, Miles Bridges elevated his game to another level out of the gate and provided a big boost to the Hornets. He’s not here, so the Hornets need someone to fill that void. They didn’t add anyone significant from outside the organization, so the team will be counting on someone to make a leap. Last year, Mitch Kupchak famously said that PJ Washington looked like he had gold dust sprinkled on him, and that was followed by Washington looking like much the same player he was in his first two years. Maybe he’ll make the leap a year late. James Bouknight is another player to watch here.
3. How do the Hornets look schematically on the defensive end compared to last season?
Steve Clifford as said that he wants the offense to play similarly to last season while tightening some things up defensively. He has said the team has implemented their rebound rules and has set goals for rebounding and transition defense. The preseason will give us an early look on how well those are sticking and if there’s a noticeable difference to the team’s approach.
4. Can the Hornets maintain their pace and style of play?
The offense was good last season, and fans won’t want to see it change to much. Clifford has a reputation for funneling offense through a post-centric big man, but the Hornets don’t have one of those. The talk has been about maintaining the free flowing perimeter-oriented offense the Hornets had last season, and we’ll see if they can truly keep it up with new principles to operate under.
5. Is LaMelo Ball ready to leap closer to superstardom?
Ball is already a star, but he hasn’t quite hit the level of a player that can drag any roster to the playoffs...yet. An effortlessly dominant preseason would suggest that he’s on the precipice of reaching that level of stardom.
And on the topic of LaMelo Ball—reporters, please stop asking about Ball drawing more fouls. It’s been the preeminent topic of just about everyone’s interviews. There are other things we want to hear the players and coaches talk about.