The Charlotte Hornets had a good start to their season in the first week of basketball. They have started out their season 2-1 despite missing a few key players in their rotation. For starters, LaMelo Ball has not played in a single game and will likely not suit up for a few more. Cody Martin got hurt within the first few minutes of game one. Terry Rozier also missed a game with ankle issues. Even without all three of those guys, the Hornets are sporting one of the better records in the Eastern Conference. Here are some of the hottest takes to make from the team’s hot start.
Dennis Smith Jr. career is coming back to life
Dennis Smith has found the perfect fit with the Hornets. After many analysts and even coaches wrote him off, the former lottery pick from the 2017 draft has been an impact player in his first three games in Buzz City. Steve Clifford has been on the record praising Smith for his defensive prowess during the preseason and rightfully so. Through the first three contests, he has had the highest defensive rating in the NBA at 81.7, which is great. He gets in the passing lanes, puts a lot of pressure on the ball, and can rise up to contest shots or come away with a block. His activity on that end of the floor has been fantastic. He has eight steals and three blocks in the first three games in the 2022-23 season.
On offense, Smith has been somewhat of a surprise to most. It should not be though. The man was the ninth pick in his respective draft class and was at some point viewed to be the franchise player in Dallas for the Mavericks. Lack of faith from coaches in his career has not allowed him to flourish. Smith has been on the record now that he feels like no one has ever believed in him the way the Charlotte coaching staff does. Thanks to that faith, Smith is averaging 13 points and a little under five assists in these first few showings. He is a reliable scorer and playmaker in stretches. He should be a dynamic piece for the Hornets for the rest of the season moving forward.
Gordon Hayward could still be a lethal weapon
Gordon Hayward has looked pretty good in the opening games as well. Sure the 19 points per game are good for the team, but everyone should be happier that he is moving nice and fluidly on the floor. There is not anything holding him back. No nagging injuries or minutes restrictions stopping him from showing he can still be a productive player. Not just as a scorer either, but as a good playmaker and cutter as well off the ball. As long as he stays healthy, the Hornets should be a sneaky threat in the East. Remember, the Hornets were wedged into the playoff picture the past two seasons until Hayward went down with injuries.
Steve Clifford is a solid coach
Hopefully, fans knew this already. There were a lot of question marks looming around the Hornets fanbase since Clifford was brought back to Charlotte. They believed that he might not be the answer after not being the best team in the league exactly during his tenure. Guess what though? They were not terrible and they were a solid defensive team. The difference between his last tenure and this one is that he has more talented players this time around. Plus, he is able to make adjustments on the fly. At least in this small sample size of games that we have seen thus far. If that becomes a reoccurring theme for the season moving forward, the Hornets can surprise some teams on a nightly basis.
It has only been three games. So are these overreactions? Maybe. The Hornets are playing well though and if it is sustainable, they could find success moving forward.