The Charlotte Hornets open the 2022-23 season on the road Wednesday in San Antonio against the Spurs, and there are a lot of questions circulating around the franchise. LaMelo Ball won’t play because of an ankle injury. Miles Bridges will not be with the team for the foreseeable future because of domestic violence charges. James Bouknight was just hit with a DUI charge after being found unconscious in his car with a gun in his lap.
The vibes for the Hornets aren’t good coming into this new campaign, but there are still some things to be optimistic about. Ball should be back relatively soon and should be better than ever. Gordon Hayward should be healthier than years past. Terry Rozier should be a top scoring option again. So, here are a few bold Hornets predictions for their upcoming 2022-23 season.
3. PJ Washington will take a jump
PJ Washington and the Hornets could not come to an agreement on a contract extension before Monday’s deadline. It will be a prove-it situation for the fourth-year big man, similar to how Bridges was not able to find a suitable deal for himself a season ago and he bet himself to get a big contract. That obviously didn’t work out because of Bridges’ off-the-court problems, but Washington will be looking to follow in a similar path on the court and put forward a career season in order to get a nice payday.
With Bridges gone, touches will be more spread out throughout the offense, meaning Washington could find the ball in his hands more often than not. It helps when you get to play with smart players like Hayward and Rozier, but even better since he has Ball in the backcourt. Fans should look for PJ Washington’s scoring, rebounding, and blocks to spike up in the 2022-23 season to around 16-18 points, eight rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.
2. Gordon Hayward will play 60+ Hornets games
Gordon Hayward hasn’t played over 52 games since the 2019-20 season. It will be a tall task for sure to get to 60 games played, but load management is an option that the coaching staff will explore. Steve Clifford said that could be a necessary arrangement in order to keep Hayward more fresh, especially down the stretch of the season when they could be fighting for a playoff or play-in spot.
In back-to-back seasons, the Hornets were wedged into the thick of the playoff hunt before Hayward got hurt. Hayward is a valuable asset to such a young team with his veteran presence and versatile skill set. Being able to take pressure off Ball as a playmaker and put him off the ball at times helps with spacing and movement. That is a nice luxury to have for a young All-Star-caliber player. Hopefully, Hayward listens to his trainers closely, but his body even more than usual.
1. Another All-Star berth for LaMelo Ball
This does not seem like a really bold prediction, but the East is a loaded with talented guards. Think of Trae Young, James Harden, Donovan Mitchell, and numerous others. The competition in backcourts is going to be fierce on a nightly basis, especially with the East now much stronger than it has been in the past.
So, how is LaMelo Ball going to put up the numbers comparable to the other guys in the conference? Given the roster, Ball is going to have the ball a whole lot more than some of the other All-Star-caliber guards. Charlotte is going to rely on him for everything offensively when he’s out on the floor. He could average well over 25 points a game plus eight rebounds and assists per game.
It is a lot of pressure to put on a third-year player, but Ball will be ready for the challenge when healthy. He exceeded expectations his first two years in the league, and watch for that trend to continue for the Hornets’ franchise player.