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During the preparation of the Charlotte Hornets preseason opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday evening, head coach James Borrego has been new faces on this year’s roster. Preseason is normally a time where team chemistry and rotations are solidified but last year, COVID-19 interrupted that.
For a team that exceeded expectations last year, let’s have a little fun making some predictions that some might find out of the box.
The Hornets will finish the season with eight consistent players in double-figures in scoring.
The news of the Hornets putting Gordon Hayward on a “pitch count” at the beginning of the preseason, only makes the signing of swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. even more important. Before getting injured last season, Hayward was looking like the old Hayward that played with the Utah Jazz. After his injury, most of the offensive attention from his spot in the lineup came from Miles Bridges and no one else.
So the team brought in the former Golden State Warriors small forward as an insurance policy. Not only will Oubre Jr. play the usual allotment of minutes when Hayward is available, he will play close to 30-35 minutes a night when Hayward is not available. On top of having five of their top seven scorers on the team returning, Oubre Jr, the newly acquired Mason Plumlee and rookie James Bouknight will finish averaging 10 points a game each.
Mason Plumlee will have five triple-doubles this season
Plumlee is one of the most underrated passing big men in the entire league and had plenty of chances to show it last season in Detroit. After a couple of near misses in his career, He’s recorded the first two of his career during the 2020-2021 season. As long as Borrego allows Plumlee to play at the top of the key in the half-court or letting him operate down low, his passing skills and the team’s ability to shoot from long range should make this an easy target to obtain.
Plumlee averaged nearly a double-double in under 30 minutes a game last season with almost four assists per game. When played more than 30 minutes, those numbers sky rocked to right around 13 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly six assists per game.
LaMelo Ball will finish in the top five in assists per game
This is a major leap from where he finished in his rookie season (17th place). His number should improve due to consistently playing more minutes for a full season. With the additions of Plumlee and Oubre Jr. catching his passes, their finishing ability at the rim will add more to the assist total.
Importantly, the game slowing down for Ball will be the determining factor in his assist growth. In most players’ second season, the game slows down, allowing them to see things differently than they did in the previous season.
Because Ball has such a high basketball IQ, the opportunities that he did not see last year, he will see this year and the plays he didn’t make as a rookie, he will as a second-year player. Everyone knows about Ball’s potential, this year I believe he turns into a Jason Kidd-level elite point guard.