Before anything else, let’s make one thing clear: not much is really expected of the Charlotte Hornets in the coming year following the departure of now former cornerstone superstar Kemba Walker. As a matter of fact, many are predicting that the Hornets will be one of the worst teams in the league next season.
For the Charlotte faithful, this should be okay. No one can blame Kemba for deciding to walk away after all that he has done for the franchise in the past eight years. It’s not going to be pretty this season, but the focus is obviously on youth development, and as they say, there’s always a rainbow after the storm.
Nevertheless, despite the overall low expectations from the Hornets this year, there are still a number of players on the squad which will need to step up their game this coming season. There is definitely a lot of uncertainty surrounding the whole organization right now, but a good campaign from any or all of the guys mentioned below should definitely have a positive impact on the Hornets moving forward.
Honorable mention: Nicolas Batum/Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
While the premise of this article requires only three names, we just had to slide in these two veterans on our list.
Batum’s inclusion here is mostly due to the fact that he is currently on a five-year, $120 million deal, which extends to the 2020-21 season. Over the past couple of seasons — right after he signed his big-money contract — Batum’s performances dropped, leaving more than a few folks to question if he is really worth all that money. The 30-year-old will have two more years to prove his worth, and hopefully, it starts with a bounce back campaign in the 2019-20 season.
Kidd-Gilchrist is in a bit of a similar situation, with the 6-foot-7 forward coming off a terrible year last season. The 25-year-old is entering a contract year, so he will need to be at his best in the coming campaign if he hopes to up his stock in the upcoming free agency market.
Malik Monk will be entering his third season with the Hornets, and up until today, he has done little to justify the fact that he was selected before Donovan Mitchell in the 2017 NBA Draft. Last season, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard averaged 8.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 0.5 steals in 17.2 minutes off the bench.
Malik Monk will need to do much better than this in the coming year, especially considering the fact that his current deal stipulates that the Hornets will have a team option on whether or not to retain his services beyond this season.
Miles Bridges, the 12th overall pick from last year’s draft, is expected to have a breakout sophomore campaign. In his rookie year, the former Michigan State standout put up only 7.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 21.2 minutes of action.
However, with Kemba now out of the picture, Miles Bridges is given a unique opportunity to really show the rest of the league what he is made of. The 21-year-old definitely exhibited some flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign, and there are some who have been saying that with a little bit of luck on his side, Bridges can actually emerge as the new face of the Charlotte franchise for years to come.
There is no doubt that the biggest amount of pressure will fall on the shoulders of Terry Rozier. The 25-year-old’s problematic season with the Boston Celtics last year was well-documented, with a lack of playing time being blamed (even by Rozier himself) for his inability to bloom as a top-tier point guard in the league.
Well, Terry Rozier is getting exactly what he asked for, and in Charlotte, he will be taking on as much minutes as he can handle. The question now is this: is he capable of putting the fate of an entire team on his shoulders? Rozier’s production will definitely rise significantly, but more importantly, will it be enough to fill the void left behind by an All-Star caliber point guard in Kemba Walker?
Despite the poor outlook for the Hornets this year, there is definitely still a lot to be excited about for the most loyal of Charlotte supporters. It might get ugly at times, but with the right type of perspective, this coming season can actually be seen as a good barometer of how things will unfold for the franchise in the next few years. Hold on tight, Hornets fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, and hopefully, we’ll see you guys on the other side.