“Fire and Ice” – The Young Hawks And Hornets Are Closer To Contention Than You Think

Of all the young teams in the Eastern Conference, two have made the moves to change their outlook on the upcoming season.

The Charlotte Hornets drafted, cut, and traded pieces to build a roster that is competitive on paper and full of good young talent. The Hawks went the free agent route and also developed the young pieces on their team to become one of most promising teams in the NBA. These two share a lot of similarities despite their starkly different approaches to the offseason and team building.

The obvious one is that neither team has been the most relevant as of late and are looking to capture some semblance of a winning franchise. Each has built around their guards and wing players, and slotted in bigs that are multi-functional, but it goes deeper than that.

Below are a couple of key ways these teams have built their teams in similar yet different ways:


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There is no secret that Trae Young is one the most electrifying young guards in the NBA currently, but for everything he has on the offensive end, he lacks on defense. Enter Rajon Rondo.

Rondo is everything Young isn’t but that is exactly what makes this mentor/mentee relationship work. Rondo, standing roughly 6’1”, is no slouch as an on ball defender, and even at his slighter stature has shown the tenacity to get after larger guards with craftiness and grit. Rondo can definitely rub off on Young in that regard and elevate the youngsters game to an even higher level.

The Hornets aren’t far off the veteran teaching trend, either.

The Hornets brought in Terry Rozier last season after a great showing in the playoffs with the Boston Celtics, even though they had a stellar young point in Devonte Graham on the roster. This season they added another young gifted guard in LaMelo Ball and the trio is an odd company to say the least.

The great thing is Rozier can teach Graham how to turn it on full throttle, which at times has been an issue for the young guard. Graham can also in turn teach Ball how to adjust to the pro game and maximize his talents at the pro level.


Wingin’ It

The wings in the NBA have become the premier “do it all” position, and who better to be ahead of that curve than Michael Jordan?

Jordan’s Hornets have been stock piling versatile wings for years now and it shows in just how many they have. With nine guard-forward wing players on the roster, this Hornets team boasts one of the most versatile units in the NBA.

Players like Gordon Hayward, Kaleb Martin, and P.J. Washington can shoot the ball as well as pass and create for others. Whereas Miles Bridges and Javin DeLaurier are rim attackers and rebounders who can defend.

The Hawks though are more uniform with their selection.

Opting for the “heavy dose” philosophy, the Hawks have built their wing rotation with players that have similar upside and skill sets. Danilo Gallinari, Cam Reddish, DeAndre Hunter, and Solomon Hill are capable of defending as well as shooting and scoring the ball with efficiency. With the Hawks being a guard centric team, it doesn’t surprise me that they have built the wings to be complimentary to the their premier position group.


Run, Run, and Run Some More

The bread and butter of most young and athletically gifted teams is to run the floor in transition to create easy looks at the basket. Seems like the Hawks and Hornets got the memo and are using their own variations of this effective scheme.

The Hawks, who have great shooters and below average athleticism team wise, look to shoot in transition. This plays into the strength of players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Trae Young, Danillo Gallinari, and Kevin Huerter, who can shoot as well as pass in transition.

The Hornets have taken a page from the Lakers’ book and want to attack the rim. The difference is not only can their wings attack, but their athletic bigs like Bismack Biyombo can as well. This adds an extra dimension to the transition when you have gifted scoring and passing guards like LaMelo Ball and Devonte Graham operating in the open floor.


I firmly believe these teams have made themselves better by utilizing these schematic, roster building, and cultural changes to their franchises. These teams can definitely make the jump from up and coming to playoff contenders this season and moving forward.

It’s only the preseason currently but both clubs are showing promise, and the optimism is high. But, we will have to wait until the real season starts to see if these two have what it takes.

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