It's hard to believe we are officially just days away from Charlotte Hornets basketball returning in the Spectrum Center. On Wednesday, the Hornets will open the lid on the 2021-22 season by playing host to the Indiana Pacers. Head coach James Borrego is heading into his fourth year on the job and is looking to capture his first winning season. The Hornets got off to a decent start a year ago but collapsed in the 2nd half of the season going 6-15 in their final 21 games.
Moving on to the new season, who can we expect to be in Borrego's starting lineup? Let's take a closer look.
The Rookie of the Year is back and ready to take another big step in his career. Ball brought a ton of excitement back to the Hornets organization with all of his deadly accurate, fancy passes and ballhandling. Ball shot 35% from three which for him is pretty good. Very few thought his deep ball percentage would even be that high. If he can make more shots from the perimeter and get closer to a 40% shooter from deep, it will stretch the floor and open things up.
Rozier is coming off of a career year in which he averaged 20.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. His increase in production allowed the Hornets to move off of fellow guards Devonte' Graham and Malik Monk. Although he put up decent numbers in his first year in Charlotte back in 2019-20, many believed the Hornets were on the wrong end of the Kemba Walker deal. Now, you could argue that they won the trade considering Boston has already parted ways with Walker who is now with the New York Knicks.
Can Gordon stay healthy? That's the biggest question mark around his game. Over the last four years, he's had a heck of a time staying on the floor appearing in only 115 of the last 328 regular season games. I wouldn't necessarily say that this is Hayward's team by any means but the success of this team will ride on his availability. If he plays in 40 games, it's going to be tough for the Hornets to make the playoffs. They need his scoring, especially in big moments to help close out games.
I have this feeling that Miles Bridges is about to have a breakout year. What exactly does that look like? Well, he doesn't need to go off for 20 points a game but I do think his scoring average will increase, he'll be more active on the glass and will have a more consistent jump shot, mainly from the mid-range. We saw Bridges' three-ball percentage rise up to 40% last season, making nearly two threes per game. I can see him finishing the year averaging 15 and 8 while shooting over 40% from deep.
After eight seasons with the Hornets, Cody Zeller is now off to the next chapter of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. To replace Zeller, Charlotte signed Mason Plumlee to a three-year, $24.6 million deal. Zeller and Plumlee are very similar players offensively except Plumlee doesn't take shots from deep. In fact, he's only shot the ball from three 39 times in his career, making just two. He'll live in the paint, be used a lot in the pick and roll, and will do work on the glass. Plumlee is a slightly better rebounder than Zeller which the Hornets desperately need to see improvement in.
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