The Charlotte Hornets may have found sustainable success

Highlights

  • The Hornets are showing promise with a new roster, key players stepping up, and a more aggressive defensive culture in place.
  • Adding veteran help and shaking up the roster have been crucial to the team’s recent success and positive signs for the future.
  • With salary cap space and a focus on adding depth, the Hornets are well-positioned to build on their recent success next season.


Don’t look now, but the Charlotte Hornets may have found something to build around heading into the off-season.

Since rebranding back to their original name of the Hornets in 2014, the Hornets have made the post-season once. Only twice in that span have the Hornets finished over .500.

The past calendar year has seen a wave of new players brought in and previous owner, Michael Jordan, sold his majority share of the team for 3 billion dollars back in June. A change was needed and if recent results are any indication, such changes may be exactly what the Hornets needed.

With fresh eyes in the front office, new veterans to establish a new culture, and the continuing development of top lottery picks, the path to relevancy for the Hornets is clearer than it has been in years. It won’t be easy. The Hornets have the fourth most difficult remaining schedule. But the goal shouldn’t be complete mastery, but gradual improvement. And the Hornets have gradually improved.


Adding veteran help

The Hornets are 4-1 in their last five games.

4-1 since right before the trade deadline, the Hornets have scored more than 111 points in each of their four victories after experiencing a 10-game losing streak leading into the All-Star break. And although the Hornets lost to the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, there are positive signs for the team moving forward. But to get here, the Hornets first had to shake up their roster.

The trade deadline was kind to the Hornets. Trading away players like P.J. Washington and Terry Rozier and acquiring players such as Grant Williams from the Dallas Mavericks as well as Tre Mann and Vasilije Micic from the Oklahoma City Thunder provided depth for a struggling Hornets team.

So, to improve their team and empty bad contracts, the Hornets traded three guys who were a part of their rotation in 2021-2022, a season that saw them rank in the top 10 in the league in total offense. That season saw them finish 43-39 and show signs of becoming a playoff regular.

Hornets’ Stats by Season

Season

Record

Total Points (Rank)

Total Points Allowed (Rank)

Total Assists (Rank)

2022-2023

27-55

27th

22nd

17th

2021-2022

43-39

4th

25th

1st

2020-2021

33-39

23rd

13th

5th

2019-2020

23-42

30th

1st

25th


But things soon regressed to the mean. Charlotte has only finished over .500 in two seasons since rebranding the Bobcats into the Hornets. Furthermore, the Hornets have only made the playoffs once since the rebrand. And the Hornets will most likely not make the playoffs this year. But that’s okay. The future is showing signs of being promising in Charlotte.

A new culture?

Veteran pieces help instill grit and a new attitude

Grant Williams

Entering the season, the Hornets had an average age of 24.3 years old. Good enough for the fourth-youngest team in the league. But a young team meant a young and inexperienced culture.

The addition of veteran, rotational pieces at the trade deadline has resulted in a culture shift that manifests itself on the court. Before the Hornets’ loss to the Warriors on Friday night, the Hornets won an impressive 115-107 contest against the Utah Jazz and included a 14-0 run to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.

“Earlier in the season we would have gave up and let them run away with it. But you know, we got veteran guys in our locker room now, winning players, and we got it done.”-Miles Bridges

Holding the Jazz without a field goal in the final 3:33 of the game was no easy feat. But the Hornets have been playing aggressive defense for a few games now. Holding the highest-scoring team in the NBA, the Indiana Pacers, to 102 points when they average 123 on the season highlights the cultural change happening in Charlotte.

Key Players’ PPG in Regular Season and February

Player

Season PPG

February PPG

Miles Bridges

21.6

23.2

Brandon Miller

16.5

21.5

Grant Williams

9.0

17.0

Adding perimeter defenders and the development of young players has been a huge catalyst in the Hornets’ success. Rookie Brandon Miller has averaged 16.5 points per game for the season, Miller has drawn comparisons to veteran wings like Paul George for his offensive fluidity and defensive acumen.

He is well-rounded, and he fits seamlessly with the play style of today’s NBA. He can defend the perimeter at an elite level in an increasingly perimeter-centric league. He can shoot the three, attack from mid-range, or use his elite length to drive and finish around the rim.

In his last five games, Miller is shooting 44 percent from three and is averaging 1.8 steals per game. He is proving to be a pivotal building block for the Hornets moving forward.


All of this was done without their star player LeMelo Ball. The 6-7 point guard has missed the last 16 games with a foot injury but has been working his way back. Missing 23.9 points per game and 8 assists per game is difficult to replace, but the addition of new players plus the emergence of Williams has made this February one of promise for the Hornets.

With more than $53 million in projected salary cap space entering the off-season, the Hornets are in a position to build on the success they have found recently. Adding more depth down low to combat teams like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks should be a top priority this off-season.

The return of star players, the development of younger players, the addition of veterans, and the large salary cap space prove, yes, the Hornets’ recent success will be sustained heading into next season.

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