The Charlotte Hornets have been one of the biggest afterthoughts in the NBA for some time now. The drafting has always been quite mediocre, so the talent pretty much stayed at a minimum. They are a typical small-market team with no franchise prestige and zero potential to make up for it.
That was until weeks ago, though (hopefully, at least), because after a long run of nothingness, there’s finally a ray of hope that things may turn for the good. We can probably go as far as saying that this can be more interesting than the 2015-16 squad that made the playoffs, mainly because that group didn’t have the upside that the current one has, specifically in talent and playing style.
It’s evident with how that previous core quickly faltered and put Charlotte back in the lottery on the very next season, which then reverted the franchise into rebuilding yet again.
Now back to the present-day Hornets…
Though the Hornets are an iffy 6-7 on the season, they are proving to be one of the most unselfish basketball teams in the league. The young, unheralded, collection of okay-ish players simply play a traditional game: find the open man or anyone who’s in rhythm to score and explode on the open floor.
By continuously moving the ball, the overall offensive flow has become better than ever before. After finishing 19th in assists in 2019-20, the new kind of unselfishness has catapulted them 18 spots this season, placing them atop the NBA in dimes per game (28.9 APG) and third in fastbreak points per game (17 FBPPG).
Those two are just the tip of the iceberg. Digging deeper into the numbers also showed that they’ve assisted in 376 of their 508 total field goals, which rates at a solid 74%. They even lead the league in assisted 2-point field goals at 67%, impressively 11-12% higher than the succeeding team.
Third-year head coach James Borrego deserves great credit for the sudden shift. He’s doing a fine job leading the climb back from last year’s forgettable campaign and the departure of Kemba Walker in 2019. However, there’s one in particular who’s always revving the engine up everytime he gets on the court.
Much of the excitement has come from the team’s marquee youngster: LaMelo Ball, the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. As a fast, flashy ball-handler with good court vision, Ball has brought life to the pick-and-roll attack, half-court sets, and, most notably, the fastbreak.
We’re only 13 games into the season and he has already erased the possible “stigma” of being Lonzo Ball’s younger brother. He’s arguably having a much-significant rookie season than Lonzo as he is averaging an all-around 11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while also helping Charlotte look like a playoff team.
The rest of the roster looks good as well
The team’s early-season burst is also due to the play of leading scorers Gordon Hayward (22 PPG) and Terry Rozier (19.4 PPG), who have also become instrumental in helping LaMelo hone his craft and pile up good numbers. The two combine for a dynamic type of scoring inside and out, and they can keep up whenever the pace gets faster than usual.
Though Hayward is currently listed as ‘day-to-day’ due to a hip injury, the next men up are still interesting as they are young and filled with potential and youthful energy – namely starting big man PJ Washington and athletic forward Miles Bridges, one of LaMelo’s favourite partners for a highlight-reel.
The Hornets will return to action this Sunday at 8:30 AM to face the Toronto Raptors. They’ll look to avenge Friday’s 111-108 loss, where they fell short of completing a comeback.