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The Charlotte Hornets entered the off-season with many questions after losing in the play-in game against the Indiana Pacers. Armed with free agent cap space and the flexibility to make moves, general manager Mitch Kupchak and his staff had a lot of work to do in this shorted period.
So let’s take a look at some of the moves that the team made and how the roster will shape itself heading into training camp.
First and foremost, the Hornets will return 2020-2021 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball at point guard. Ball grew into the role and lived up to his pre-draft expectations. His starting backcourt mate, sharpshooter Terry Rozier joins him as the starting backcourt. Rozier averaged a career-high 20.4 points per game and knocked down a career-high 222 three-pointers. The chemistry between the two was evident as 19.3% of Ball’s total passes and 56 assists went in the direction of Rozier.
After missing the final 23 games due to injury, last year’s big free agent acquisition Gordon Hayward returns to pick up where he left off. Hayward was playing at an All-Star level before he suffered a right foot sprain in April. Miles Bridges looks to continue to grow after having a season in which he finished very close to being the 10th player in the history of the league to finish in the 50-40-90 shooting club.
PJ Washington had to adjust to playing a new position at center and even though he had an up and down season, his numbers were on par with his rookie numbers. Second-year players Vernon Carey Jr. and Nick Richards will provide more depth at the center spot and will have the chance to earn more playing time as they get an entire full offseason with the team.
Welcome To Charlotte:
The Hornets for the second straight season ended up with one of the more coveted free agents in former Golden State Warriors swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. The 25 year-old can play three positions, and when teamed up with Bridges, he will give the Hornets one of the most athletic and dynamic duos on the wings in the league.
The addition of Mason Plumlee at center, gives the team a rim protecting presence that can run the floor and rebound at a high level. Plumlee averaged right under 10 rebounds (9.3 per game) in less than 27 minutes a game last season.
Veteran Ish Smith will take over the backup point guard role from the departed Devonte’ Graham. Even though Smith has played for 11 teams in his career, Smith has always produced in every place he’s been. You shouldn’t expect much of a drop off when Ball is off the floor. Wes Iwundu, who came over in the Graham trade, should provide depth and another capable defender that head coach James Borrego can use to guard other teams’ top offensive players.
Rookies James Bouknight and Kai Jones were first-round picks that will have a chance to earn a good amount of playing time in their first year. Bouknight can create his own shot and will have a chance to showcase that off the bench to start his career.
Jones is extremely athletic and can play both power forward and center. His ability to run the floor and play in the pick-and-roll will be perfect with Ball and Smith.
Second-round pick JT Thor has an interesting skillset at the power forward position and will be a talented project that Borrego and his staff get to work with. Arnoldas Kulboka and Scottie Lewis have the teams two-way spots and provide solid depth when called upon from Greensboro.
Who Is No Longer In Charlotte?
- Point Guard Devonte’ Graham (sign and trade with New Orleans Pelicans)
- Shooting Guard Malik Monk (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers)
- Center Cody Zeller (signed with the Portland Trail Blazers)
- Point Guard Brad Wannamaker, Shooting Guard Caleb Martin and Center Bismack Biyombo are free agents
- Small Forward Cody Martin and Jalen McDaniels have non-guaranteed contracts and their status is yet to be determined.