Hornets have a big three in the making

The player empowerment era has been the driving force behind building a lot of the super teams that we have seen in recent years. Some have been home grown, like the Golden State Warriors, and that is the blueprint that most teams would like to follow. Seemingly, that is what the Charlotte Hornets are hoping to do.

Hit on a few draft picks, build out the young core, and find a way to add depth wherever necessary. Charlotte has a lot of weird draft picks throughout the years but have hit on a few recently. This is why they have a big three that is in the process of being a formidable team.

It’s LaMelo Ball…but who else?

Out of everyone else on the Hornets roster, Gordon Hayward is the only person to make an All-Star game besides LaMelo Ball. We know Gordon Hayward’s prime years are behind him, so who are the two guys that will aid in this team’s development?

Brandon Miller is an obvious option here. After averaging around 15 points & seven rebounds in Summer League, Miller made some fans relieved that the team didn’t pair Scoot Henderson with Ball. Plus, to make matters better for the Hornets, both Jayson Tatum & Paul George averaged similar numbers in Summer League.

One thing that both George & Tatum did not have when coming into the league was an All-Star point guard that can help create for him. George was tasked with bringing Indiana’s franchise back to life, while Tatum played with a lot of good talent in Boston to kick off his career, but no point guards like Ball.

Miller won’t have to create all his shots throughout the course of the game. He could be a good slasher off of back doors, spot up in the corner, or be used in small pick & roll actions to crash to the basket or fade in the mid-range to three-point area. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of creating for himself or possibly others.

It’s not Miles Bridges, not officially anyway

As good as we’ve seen Miles Bridges play, it’s been a year since we saw him on a court. Not to say he’s lost any of his ability at all. It’s a matter of seeing him back on the floor and meshing with his teammates all over again. Shouldn’t be too hard to do, but for now, someone else might deserve that spot a little more until Bridges is back to being the player Charlotte fell in love with.

Mark Williams is another player that will help this team level up into possible playoff contention. Not so much for what he does on offense, but for his impact on the defensive end. Once thrown into the starting lineup in his rookie year, he helped Charlotte’s lineup jump into the top 10 in defensive rating.

The ability to alter shots does not put points on the board, but it sure as hell prevents the other teams from scoring. It will be interesting to see what a full offseason and training camp will do for him heading into year two. Plus, he is another guy who will feed off of playing with LaMelo Ball. A point guard should always be a center’s best friend.

If everyone is able to fit coming into training camp and hit their stride early, it could be a fun season. Ball, Miller, and Williams are the three guys that can help this team reach the postseason. The other pieces are vital too, but the Hornets are going to need those three to grow up fast for immediate success.

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What Kelly Oubre’s departure really means for Hornets

After Kelly Oubre Jr. signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, some Charlotte Hornets fans were a little confused about why they let a 20-point scorer walk for nothing. He played in 48 games on a team that only won 27 games and moved onto a team that is usually a mainstay in the postseason. Philly added more wing depth around Joel Embiid and maybe James Harden if they figure out his situation with them. While the Hornets lost a pretty good player, he’s a replaceable one. One they kind of needed to let walk.

There’s plenty of depth at the wing positions to replace his production. Drafting Brandon Miller with the second pick in 2023 is an ideal replacement. In fact, he is a better move for their immediate & short future. Miller was clearly drafted to be LaMelo Ball’s running mate moving forward and one of their go-to scorers for the Hornets as they move forward. Even with all that expectation and talent Miller has, he may not even start. There are solid veteran players who can make Miller a featured piece of the second unit.

Gordon Hayward is reliable on the floor when he’s able to play. For two straight seasons, he’s had the Hornets in the postseason picture before poorly timed injuries. PJ Washington is likely to soak up more minutes at the power forward spot rather than the small but can take away some of Miller’s minutes as well. He was the team’s most consistent player in 2022-23 and set career highs in games played and points per game with 73 and 15.7. Lastly, Miles Bridges should have fresh legs after having the year off.

He is suspended for the first 10 games of the season, but he should be just as bouncy and anxious to get back on the floor to show his two-way dominance from two seasons ago. As fun of player Kelly Oubre was to watch in Charlotte for the last couple of seasons, the team just didn’t need him and he likely knew that too. A young team’s top priority in the league is to assess what’s on the roster & figure out their roles within the organization. To some degree, Oubre would’ve taken minutes away from the other guys mentioned above or even guys like Nick Smith Jr. or Bryce McGowens.

It was a win-win situation for both parties. Oubre gets to compete for an NBA title, while the Hornets continue to build a young core and establish a culture.

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3 burning questions Hornets must answer heading into 2023-24 NBA training camp

With the 2023-24 season approaching fast, there is a lot of optimism heading into the season for several teams. For the Charlotte Hornets, it feels more like a redemption season for most of the guys on the roster. LaMelo Ball missed a majority of the season with injuries, Miles Bridges is on a prove-it kind of deal, and the rest of the young players on the roster are still trying to find their niche in the NBA. Before the season officially kicks off in late October, training camp is still a major deal coming up. Here are three questions we need the answers to.

What will the Hornets starting lineup look like?

It’s a good problem to have when you have to figure out who exactly will be getting the bulk of the minutes moving forward. The backcourt is solidified with Ball & Terry Rozier, and Mark Williams will more than likely lock down the middle.

It’s the forward spots where there is a little more uncertainty. The Hornets have four players who can potentially start in Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, Miles Bridges, and rookie Brandon Miller, each of whom are all good enough to contribute at the small or power forward spots. Hayward has had unfortunate injuries during his stint with the Hornets, but his impact is felt when he’s on the floor.

Maybe that is a good enough reason to bring him off the bench to avoid playing him those heavy minutes against the opposing team’s starters. As for Miles Bridges, before sitting out the entire 2022-23 season, he was averaging career-highs across the board. In case you forgot, he will miss the first 10 games with a suspension, but he could arguably be the best two-way player again once he gets back in the mix. Washington’s game took a step up in his absence and Miller was the number two pick in the 2023 draft. It’ll be interesting to see how they stager all their minutes in this fast-paced offense.

What to expect from LaMelo Ball in year 4?

After only playing in 36 games a season ago, Ball is likely motivated and itching to get back on the floor to show what he can do. After signing a five-year $260 million contract, it is time to see why the Hornets paid the man. Everyone knows he’s talented, makes his teammates around him better, and is one of the better offensive players in the league already. The reality of the situation is that he still has yet to make it to the postseason, though. While a guy like Anthony Edwards, who he will be forever-linked to in his draft class, has already been there twice. Another All-Star caliber season is need from Ball, but more than anything, he needs to win games.

Is Brandon Miller the real deal?

Brandon Miller’s development might be the key to the Hornets actually taking a big step up. His draft comparisons were to Paul George, because of his two-way potential. Again, there is no guarantee he will be a starter, but he can be an impact player off the bench if need be. If he has a strong rookie season, it will show that the Hornets’ past draft mishaps were perhaps just unfortunate mistakes. They’ve had early lottery picks in the past that haven’t panned out. Think of Michael Kidd Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, and more.

Charlotte really needs Miller to turn into a go-to scorer as soon as possible. Hopefully he rounds into form quickly and meshes easily into the speed of an NBA game.

There are several questions going into training camp, but these three could be vital for their success moving forward into the season.

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Steve Clifford’s early assessment of Brandon Miller will have Hornets fans buzzing

The Charlotte Hornets franchise, at least from the outside, doesn’t appear to be particularly well-run at the moment. But Hornets fans still have plenty of reasons to be excited about the upcoming season. For one, fans will be hoping that LaMelo Ball puts his injury-riddled 2022-23 campaign completely in the rearview mirror. Another reason is that Brandon Miller, the prospect the team selected with the second overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft, could give the Hornets the sort of elite wing talent who can help lead the team to great heights if his development goes according to plan.

And the early review on Miller behind the scenes seem to be promising, according to Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. In an interview with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, Clifford raved about what a complete package of a player Miller is, especially when he’s coming off a solid collegiate basketball infrastructure in Alabama.

“He has a combination of size, skill and IQ that’s hard to find even in our league. Almost 6-foot-9. Very good decision maker. Great skill package. Better off the dribble than I realized. He has a big advantage in that he played for a terrific college coach [Alabama’s Nate Oats] where there’s a lot of structure,” the Hornets head coach said.

That structure, Clifford adds, has helped the Hornets youngster conduct himself in a mature, professional manner during practices. This then bodes well for Brandon Miller’s potential emergence as a do-it-all wing in the mold of his idol Paul George.

“We could see it even in Summer League practices – he knows how to practice, everything is very serious, about doing his best. That’s the best for young guys to get up to speed quickly,” Clifford added.

The Hornets coaching staff, however, have their work cut out for them in terms of making sure that the environment in the locker room is conducive to bringing out the best in their players. One NBA veteran, in particular, thinks that the Hornets are lacking in that department. But cream always manages to rise to the top, which is certainly the franchise’s hope not just for Brandon Miller, but for LaMelo Ball as well.

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Hornets 2023 offseason recap: LaMelo Ball, Brandon Miller aiming to change recent misfortunes

The Charlotte Hornets are one of the youngest organizations in the NBA. Forming in 1988, the Hornets rebranded to the Bobcats in 2004 before they once again became the Hornets in 2014. While the name of the team has changed, this franchise’s lack of success has remained.

They’ve never advanced past the Eastern Conference Semifinals and since the conclusion of the 2001-02 season, this team has not won a playoff series. In fact, they’ve only made the playoffs three times in this span, their last appearance coming in 2016.

The 2022-23 season was a major disappointment for Charlotte. They went just 27-55 to start Steve Clifford’s second stint as the head coach of the organization after finishing with 43 wins during the 2021-22 season. For a little bit, the Hornets appeared to be a young team on the rise in the Eastern Conference, but a handful of things went wrong for them.

All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball could not stay healthy, as he appeared in a career-low 36 games, and the team as a whole only had four players play in at least 60 games. It seemed like Clifford and his staff were having to change their rotations every single night due to injuries and ailments, which does not bode well for an immature and inexperienced roster.

What had transpired with Miles Bridges last summer also loomed large over the organization, as Charlotte’s breakout star was arrested and faced domestic abuse charges. Once thought to receive a new nine-figure contract from the Hornets, Bridges ended up sitting out the entirety of 2022-23 season.

Compared to what happened a year ago, this offseason presented a chance for the Hornets to regain hope and promise. They do have one of the better youthful cores in the league based on their overall potential and Charlotte’s financial flexibility allowed them addresses their future at hand.

Offseason additions and departures

Additions: F Miles Bridges (free agency), F Brandon Miller (draft), G Nick Smith Jr. (draft), G Frank Ntilikina (free agency), G Amari Bailey (draft)

Departures: G/F Kelly Oubre Jr. (free agency), G Dennis Smith Jr. (free agency – BKN), G/F Svi Mykhailiuk (free agency – BOS), G Theo Maledon (free agency)

As he prepares for his fourth season in the league and entering the final year of his rookie contract, Ball is not going anywhere anytime soon after inking a five-year, $260 million extension. This was an easy decision for the Hornets and their All-Star guard to make, as he has been everything this franchise has been needing. Ball plays with a certain level of swag that resonates with his teammates, plus there’s not much he can’t do on the floor.

“Where we at, I feel like we are all growing together,” Ball stated during his offseason press conference. “I think it’s just a great position and I think we are all going the right way now.”

The face of this franchise was not the only player to receive long-term security, though, as PJ Washington recently put pen to paper on a new deal and Bridges is returning after his year-long absence.

Washington entered the offseason as a restricted free agent and one of the better players available given the rise he made this past year. However, interest in the 25-year-old was low as a result of the Hornets having the ability to match any offer he could have received from a rival team. Following roughly two months of going back and forth in negotiations, Washington and Charlotte agreed to a three-year, $48 million contract that will pay him an average annual value of about $16 million.

Ball and Washington were both expected to receive new contracts this offseason, which is why the Hornets biggest addition was Brandon Miller. Selected second overall in this year’s draft, Miller enters the NBA as a lengthy combo forward who thrived as a scorer at Alabama. He possesses a high basketball IQ and can be a stable presence on the wing, which is why Charlotte fell in love with him throughout the pre-draft process.

Alongside Ball, the Hornets are hopeful that Miller will rapidly become the team’s No. 2 option who can impact winning on both sides of the floor. It will be interesting to see what the 20-year-old’s role looks like heading into the new campaign, especially with Bridges returning to the team.

Once the budding star this franchise needed on the wing, Bridges still has a lot of work to do in order to possibly repair his image, something he alluded to during his introductory press conference this offseason.

“I apologize to everyone for the pain and embarrassment I caused to everyone, but especially my family,” Bridges stated. “This year away, I’ve used it to prioritize just going to therapy and becoming the best person I can be… A lot of people don’t get a second chance and I want to use this just to prove to everyone that I’m the same kid that you drafted five years ago. I’m just happy to be back and I can’t wait to get this year started.”

After agreeing to the one-year qualifying offer that was extended to him, Bridges will become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2023-24 season.

In addition to Miller and Bridges joining the team on the wing, the Hornets also continued to form their young core of the future with Nick Smith Jr. and Amari Bailey in the NBA Draft. Smith was drafted 27th overall, while Bailey was drafted 41st overall and signed a two-way contract with the team.

With Dennis Smith Jr. and Theo Maledon no longer with the organization, plus James Bouknight’s future being a question mark, Smith has a chance to see a handful of minutes early on in his career. His two-way abilities are what makes him an intriguing prospect in Charlotte.

With training camp right around the corner, the Hornets currently have all 15 of their roster spots filled. Kelly Oubre Jr. remains a free agent who some believed the team would consider bringing back, but after drafting Miller and signing Bridges, his NBA career will need to continue elsewhere.

Futures of Gordon Hayward & Terry Rozier

Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have a ton of recent draft picks on their roster, all of which are continuing to grow and develop every single offseason. Players like Nick Richards, Mark Williams, Kai Jones, JT Thor and Bryce McGowens are all in this group of younger players.

The team also has some veteran players such as Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, both of which do not necessarily fit the youthful timeline put into place.

Rozier is only 29 and he has played the best basketball of his career since joining Charlotte in 2019. Although he currently has three more years left on his contract, including the upcoming 2023-24 season, Rozier has been a subject of trade rumors over the last year. There were a handful of teams expressing interest in him ahead of February’s trade deadline, yet the Hornets were reluctant to trade him since they lacked depth in their backcourt.

With Ball healthy and Smith set to begin his rookie campaign, the veteran guard has now become somewhat expendable. He is owed $23 million this upcoming season and still has over $70 million left on his current deal. If the Hornets’ new ownership is looking for ways to open up cap space for next summer, possibly to either re-sign Bridges or pursue other free agents, moving on from Rozier would surely be an appealing option.

Then again, he’s arguably been the team’s second-best offensive option alongside Ball in the backcourt. In 63 games last year, Rozier averaged 21.1 points and 5.1 assists per game, both of which were new career-highs for him. As he prepares for his ninth NBA season and fifth with the Hornets, the crafty combo guard will likely hear his name in trade rumors once more as the season progresses.

Hayward has been in Charlotte since the start of the 2020-21 season and he’s been a veteran voice for this team. However, he has only played in 60 percent of the team’s total games over the last three years.

With his production declining and the Hornets bringing in more forward depth this offseason, it does appear as if Hayward’s days with the franchise are numbered. His salary is hefty at $31.5 million this season, but the 33-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

The organization could elect to keep him around in order to mentor some of the rising talents on the roster, Miller especially, but Hayward likely wants a role where he can contribute meaningful minutes to his team. It is hard to see him being this type of player in Charlotte moving forward.

This is why the veteran could possibly be traded over the course of the first portion of the season. There is virtually no interest in Hayward around the league right now, but he is on a large, expiring contract. As a result, he could wind up being an interesting option for teams searching for a veteran contributor out on the wing. Since the Hornets are unlikely to re-sign him next offseason, it may be worthwhile for the team to get what they can from another organization for Hayward.

2023-24 season outlook

The good news for the Hornets is that they can only get better compared to the product they put out on the court last season, although they were not necessarily the worst 27-55 team in NBA history.

There is absolutely potential that exists on this roster and the start of their success revolves around LaMelo Ball. He dealt with a handful of ankle injuries last season before suffering a fractured right ankle before the start of March. The word coming out of Charlotte this offseason is that Ball is 100 percent healed from this injury and ready to go for the start of the new year.

Growing as a scorer, facilitator, and all-around leader every season that he has been in the league, Ball will be the catalyst that once again looks to get the Hornets trending in the right direction.

What this team’s offense looks like outside of LaMelo is going to be the key question entering the 2023-24 season, as they certainly have some interesting secondary options. Miles Bridges and Brandon Miller will both be tasked with taking on the scoring load from the wing position, and the Hornets should be confident in Terry Rozier’s abilities to play with or without the ball in his hands, regardless if Ball is on the floor.

PJ Washington grew more confident in his abilities to shoot from the perimeter last season and Charlotte continues to speak highly of 2022 first-round pick Mark Williams, who shot 63.7 percent from the floor last year. While he’s more of a factor on the defensive side of the floor, Williams will be a player the Hornets count on in pick-and-roll sets offensively.

It may be hard to come to the conclusion that the Hornets have what it takes to make the playoffs this season, but they can certainly win more than 27 games. Who knows, maybe they can possibly be in contention for a play-in tournament spot entering 2024!

While it is unlikely they will actually finish with a good enough record to compete for a postseason spot, this young, fiery team will be better during the second half of the year compared to the first half. Time and experience are the two things this core lacks the most, which is why the Hornets’ new identity will be forged as the season progresses. There is definitely a lot to like about the future of this organization.

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What PJ Washington’s return to Hornets means for their future

PJ Washington has agreed to return to the Charlotte Hornets on a three-year $48 million deal. Washington has spent his entire four-year career with the Hornets and has steadily improved every season. He’s played a variety of roles for this squad and has emerged as a solid two-way option for this team from the small forward spot and even operating as a small ball five. With that versatility back in the lineup, fan’s minds should be at ease knowing they retained another piece of their young core. Washington could be a big piece for them down the road.

More depth

There is an influx of wing players that the Hornets have at their disposal with Washington returning. Some of the guys can play some four in a pinch as well. Miles Bridges, Gordon Hayward, Bryce McGowens, and Brandon Miller. Having more versatility from shooting guard to power forward is one hell of a luxury to have in the Association. Washington’s ball handling last season wasn’t skilled enough to play two-guard, but he did voice last year that’d he work on his ball handling this summer. So let’s just put in that for now.

Prime PJ??

PJ Washington recently turned 25. In NBA terms, he should be getting ready to enter some kind of prime. It’s very possible we may have seen his ceiling after averaging a career-high 15.7 points in 2022-23. At his age though there is usually a second gear. As mentioned above, he does want to improve his handle. That could open him up to be a better scorer yes, but even a better playmaker. Maybe more of a knockdown catch-and-shoot option. Year five can be special for him. This is great news for a team still trying to figure it out.

His impact should help the young core continue to grow as the Hornets continue to finish up their rebuild and look to compete for a playoff spot. Only time will tell how things pan out, but so far, it looks like a nice start.

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Hornets’ Brandon Miller works out with Cavs star Darius Garland

The offseason is normally pretty slow, but the Charlotte Hornets’ newest forward is making somewhat noteworthy news. Brandon Miller was spotted working out with Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard, Darius Garland. Miller has stated that the two already have a close relationship.

“Literally like my big brother,” Miller said. “I talk to him everyday.”

Brandon Miller’s relationship with Darius Garland crucial

Coming into a rookie season, it’s imperative that players soak up as much information as possible in order to better themselves. Growing out their game is a process and every bit of data helps. So having connections, mentors, and veterans whether they are on your team or not can do nothing but aid their skill set. Think about how often we have seen other NBA players get in the gym with everyone else. Kevin Durant has been spotted training with Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jalen Green and others to give tricks of the trade and more. Brandon Miller is already on the right track by getting some work in with a young player like Darius Garland that’s heading into year five.

Miller also said he is close with Robert Covington, who’s been a solid productive role player throughout his career. Plus he’s played with NBA stars like James Harden, Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard and others. Giving Miller some insight on their routines or even connecting him to those caliber of guys can be beneficial.

Just like how normal people network, athletes are the same way. The NBA brotherhood just wants to see it’s newest addition succeed. Hopefully Miller absorbs as much as possible before the actual season kicks off.

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