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1 Hornets player in danger of losing starting job in 2022-23 NBA training camp

Charlotte Hornets, Mason Plumlee

The Charlotte Hornets are bringing back their same starting lineups minus Miles Bridges. Headlined by their All-Star point guard, LaMelo Ball anchors the group. Terry Rozier will occupy the other guard spot, followed by Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington at the forward spots. Mason Plumlee will likely lock down the middle for the Hornets. At least it seems that way heading into training camp. The Hornets drafted Mark Williams with the 15th pick in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft and have Kai Jones waiting in the wings. That is exactly why Mason Plumlee has the most to lose heading into training camp.

Charlotte needs to embrace the youth movement

When Plumlee joined the Hornets in the 2021 offseason, he provided a nice veteran presence that this team needed. He still offers that same kind of value, but he can do that from the bench. Inserting either Williams or Jones into the starting lineup will show their commitment to embracing their young guys. They’re springy, young, and athletic enough to impact the game immediately. They might not have the intangibles that Plumlee has, but they can learn that on the fly. Both young big men have the potential to be excellent rebounders and shot blockers.

Think back to LaMelo Ball’s rookie season in 2020. Ball came off the bench for the first 22 games of the season. Devonte’ Graham was soaking up a bulk of the minutes in the backcourt with Rozier, which now seems ridiculous because he still went on to win Rookie of the Year, despite not being a starter from day one. The Hornets traditionally don’t play all their young guys on day one. The reality is that some young players need that exposure in order to grow and learn the speed of the game. Especially for centers.

Mason Plumlee played his role well

Even if he is the most likely to lose his starting job, Plumlee came in and played pretty well for Charlotte. The 6.5 points per game and 7.7 rebounds don’t jump off the stat sheet, but the 3.1 assists per game do. He moved the ball well from the high post and made the hustle plays that did not show up in the stat sheet. Also provided leadership for a team that is not packed with veterans. Surely he knew when he came to Charlotte that it would not be the starting center of the foreseeable future. He came in and played hard every night. Which helped this team get to the Play-In tournament two years in a row in a pretty tough Eastern Conference.

Jones should win the starting five spot

Kai Jones only appeared in 21 games in his rookie season but was effective in G-League play for the Greensboro Swarm. He averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds in 24 games. He has also shown an innate ability to block and alter shots around the rim. Most of his highlight plays though are monstrous dunks. He’s also shown a willingness to shoot more outside shots. In today’s day and age, that is almost a requirement for everyone on the floor.

Jones also moves his feet fairly well for someone his size. Being able to switch onto smaller defenders and help out on the weak side could make him the perfect man for the Hornets starting center. As talented as Mark Williams looked in his final season at Duke, Jones might be a safer option to take Plumlee’s spot. Or maybe even have Jones and Williams split minutes along with Plumlee. It’s possible Steve Clifford will utilize a center-by-committee approach.

It is a good problem to have when you have more than one option at a position in any sport. It is an 82-game season. Taking some stress off a seven-footer’s legs can help preserve their careers. Clifford has three interesting options to choose from and it is not easy. Plumlee has served his time as the starting five for this team. Coach Clifford should see that too and make a change. After watching his guys in training camp, he will surely make the right decision.