Charlotte Hornets and NBA reporter James Plowright assess the 2021-22 season for her team, then take a look at 2022-23.
Where does my love for the NBA and the Hornets come from…
My name is James PlowrightI’m an NBA journalist based in Manchester, UK who writes and broadcasts podcasts about the Charlotte Hornets for Sports Illustratedfrom the site “All the hornets”. I’ve been following the Hornets since 2007 when I had a 50/50 choice between buying a LeBron James or Adam Morrison jersey… Guess which one I chose!
In recent years, I have stepped up my work as an accredited member of the media, attending virtual media availabilities, games in Charlotte and last July at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. It’s safe to say that the Hornets don’t have the biggest media footprint or the biggest fan base, but there is a small group of passionate fans in the UK.
Last season standings: B
Despite the negative end of the year, I considered last year a success; the team finished 43-39, which was the first time since 2016 the overall franchise record was over .500. This was achieved despite having the league’s fourth-youngest roster and missing their most experienced player in Gordon Hayward for half the season through injury (again). I’m more patient than most, so don’t hold the game against them too much, overall, which is why I gave them a B.
Offseason review for the Hornets
Charlotte had the worst NBA offseason of any team in recent memory, and it’s not even close. To their credit, most of the issues that arose were out of their control, the team took a beating. You do not believe me ? Well let’s look at what happened this summer:
- Miles Bridges’ future in the NBA is now in question as he faces felony domestic violence charges in the offseason. If found guilty, Bridges could be sentenced to several years in prison.
- The Lakers have hired rumored number one candidate Darvin Ham. Kenny Atkinson then accepted the new position as head coach only to change his mind a week later and step back.
- Charlotte ended up coming back and hiring their former head coach Steve Clifford (2013-2018)
- Charlotte traded the 13th overall pick for a non-lottery pick from Denver plus x4 second rounds
- 2021 lottery pick James Bouknight has fractured his finger and missed the summer league. Scottie Lewis also broke his leg during the team’s first practice in Las Vegas
- With Bridges’ future up in the air, Charlotte hasn’t signed any players in free agency
- Charlotte teams are competing for playoff spots with like Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta and the Knicks all making major improvements to their squad
Believe me now?
Other key moves on the list
The team decided to let Montrezl Harrell (also on drug charges) go as a free agent as well, and re-signed 2019 second-round pick Cody Martin to a reasonable contract for a rotation player. Believe it or not, Martin is the first second-round pick Charlotte has ever re-signed in franchise history. Cody’s twin brother, Caleb, also signed a lucrative contract with the Miami Heat this offseason, he started his career in Charlotte.
Unfortunately, Bridges’ situation largely prevented the team from making any further moves. Bridges is currently a restricted free agent, which means Charlotte has very little flexibility until they know more about her case which is due to be heard on August 19.
Regardless of Bridges’ outcome, Charlotte will need a backup ball handler behind LaMelo Ball. Rumors are circulating that they would choose between Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker. The return of the franchise’s all-time top scorer to Walker would be a return of Ronaldo to Manchester United, hopefully that works out better. Fan favorite Isaiah Thomas was picked up late in the season last year and has shown excellent leadership skills. My preference is towards Kemba, but both seem to be acceptable choices.
Key points to note from the 2022 NBA Draft
The Hornets drafted Mark Williams with the 15th pick they received from New Orleans in the Devonte Graham trade, an underrated move from GM Mitch Kupchak. Although he suffers from “boring name syndrome”, Williams’ skills are exactly what Charlotte was looking for. Williams has an impressive standing reach of 9’9, the most recorded in NBA databases outside of Tacko Fall. I had Williams ranked 12th overall and I like the selection, but would have preferred Memphis big man Jalen Duren who was available when Charlotte was on the clock.
Bryce McGowens, picked 40th overall, has shown flashes of promise in the summer league, I hear reports that he looked excellent at summer training camp in Charlotte and could surprise some people on any line.
On draft night, Charlotte also opted to trade the 13th pick for a 2024 first-round pick from Denver (likely 22-30) and four second-round picks. I was not in favor of this decision, because it is very rare to transform a premium asset into several less valued assets. On top of that I was a big believer in Duren who was my dream pairing with LaMelo Ball he unexpectedly slipped on draft night at number 13 and momentarily I thought the stars had aligned for that Duren and LaMelo are united. Hornets fans will be watching the evolution of William and Duren’s careers closely over the next decade to see if Charlotte made the right call.
The Hornets’ goals for next season
The team will try to qualify for the playoffs next year whether Miles Bridges makes the team or not. Seems an unlikely task with the level of talent in the East and limited roster upgrades. However, I can’t completely rule out the playoffs, not with a generational talent like LaMelo Ball on the team. If LaMelo continues to rise to NBA stardom, he could lead the Hornets to a playoff berth in the same vein that Ja Morant and Devin Booker have with their teams in recent years. If the Hornets can get a healthy full season out of Gordon Hayward (big “if,” I know), that could make up for some of Bridges’ lost production.
Other things I will watch in the coming season
I love analyzing the NBA draft, so the most exciting thing for me is always seeing rookies and sophomores making progress. Having made my trip to Las Vegas Summer League in July I got to see a lot first hand, the duo of Jabari Smith and Paulo Banchero are going to be a fun watch this season and it’s just a shame that we couldn’t see Chet Holmgren due to his injury.
Three predictions for the coming season…
- The Hornets are in the top 15 in defense
- LaMelo Ball earns second All-Star appearance but this time not as an injury replacement
- PJ Washington signs contract extension
Why should people watch the Hornets?
I’m biased, but Charlotte has a few things no other team has, which still makes for an entertaining watch.