The Charlotte Hornets haven’t made many moves in the 2022 offseason, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They have a young core that can continue to grow together, veterans who once played significant basketball, and a new coaching staff ready to take this team over the hill. It all starts with LaMelo Ball and how much it has grown from year two to three. Someone else needs to step up and make this team live up to some high expectations. Here are three early bold predictions for the Hornets
Hornets 2022-23 Predictions
The same goal is expected of this club every season. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, back in Steve Clifford’s first tenure as head coach of the Hornets. That was back when Kemba Walker led that team, but the squad as it’s currently being put together is probably better. The Hornets have made it to the play-in tournament the last two seasons but have been blown out in both games. First to the Indiana Pacers in 2021, 144-117, then to the Atlanta Hawks, 132-103. They didn’t show up and it cost them their season. Still, the Hornets should be motivated to get over that hump and take the plunge.
Much of her success will depend on her former Rookie of the Year and 2022 All-Star, LaMelo Ball. With his game improving year after year, everyone is looking forward to another great year. If you’re a fan of the team, Ball should be the last player worried about his A-game. Miles Bridges was the team’s second most consistent player in 2022 and his situation is in limbo. Someone else has to step up there. Whether it’s PJ Washington, James Bouknight, Terry Rozier or Gordon Hayward, someone’s gotta fill those shoes. That assumes Bridges won’t be available after his terrible decisions.
James Bouknight will be productive
James Bouknight’s rookie season has been underwhelming, to say the least. He split time between the Hornets’ G-League team, the Greensboro Swarm, but only played 31 games with the big dogs. He averaged 4.6 points but showed some flashes of his potential to create his own shot and moved off the ball quite well. The backcourt was crowded so the time he saw on the ground was already limited. Between Ball, Rozier and Cody Martin, Bouknight rarely saw the word. Also, former Hornets head coach James Borrego never really agreed.
However, this season will be different. With a new trainer and system, Bouknight has a fair shot at fighting for a roster spot. He was a lottery pick in the 2021 draft for the Hornets and will be able to show his worth. The backcourt is still overloaded, but if he can take shots and play well on and off the ball, he can soak up more minutes off the bench on this two-cover pitch. Clifford can use him as the primary ball carrier with this second unit when Rozier and the ball are off the ground. Heck, he might even crack the starting lineup if he maximizes his potential.
The boldest must be saved for last, right? Now you understand, everyone knows this is a long shot. The Hornets haven’t won more than 50 games since the 1997-98 season, so why the heck would you think that’s possible? Well, they’ve increased by 10 every time since 2019. 23 wins in 2019/20, 33 wins in 2020/21 and 43 wins in 2021/22. It could be a pattern that works in the Hornets’ favor as long as there is optimism across the organization.
It won’t be easy if all the teams in the East improve. Most of the teams that were at the forefront of the conference will likely stay there. Like the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat to name a few. The Hornets’ roster doesn’t quite compare with these teams, but they might surprise us.
They bring back most of their boys and find some success with them. As long as the key figures stay healthy for most of the season, Hayward & Rozier could be one of the surprise teams. Definitely a long range, but if you’re a Hornets fan it might be a good idea to buy into the boldest takes before the season starts. If they flop, so be it, but anything is possible at the moment.