The Charlotte Hornets finished the 2018-2019 season with a 39-43 record, missing the playoffs for the third straight season. After an offseason that saw them lose star point guard Kemba Walker, reshaping their roster in lieu of that loss, here are five bold predictions for their 2019-2020 season.
The Hornets will have the worst record in the league
With the loss of Kemba Walker, the Hornets now have the worst roster in the NBA. Walker was a borderline star, who had dragged them through seasons for years, but he is no longer there to save them from being pathetically bad.
They have some proven NBA players on the roster, such as Nicholas Batum, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller, but none are good enough to be a starter on a playoff level team. Outside of a few other veterans, the roster is very young, with a slew of first, second, and third-year players rounding out the rest of the team.
When looking at the rest of the league, there isn’t a roster that comes together quite as poorly as Charlotte’s. There will be bad teams, such as the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Memphis Grizzlies, but they won’t be as bad. Washington has Bradley Beal, at least for now, Kevin Love is still on the Cavs, and Memphis’ team is at least a little more competent. This leaves Charlotte as the worst team in the NBA.
The Hornets will get younger during the season
The Hornets already have a super young team, but it would make sense for them to be active in the trade market to get younger. There will certainly be teams interested in Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams. Zeller, when healthy, is a good center, and would be a nearly elite backup center for a contending team. He is a low usage player on offense, but defends, rebounds, and sets screens at a high level.
Williams, although his contract is more than you’d probably want to pay him, is still a useful player. Last season, he averaged 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 36.6% from the 3-point line. He is a prototypical veteran forward in today’s league. He can shoot, has length, and defends, but isn’t elite at anything. He’d just be a good role player on a competing team, and it is up to the rest of the league to decide if they want to pay $15 million for a player of that level. William’s will be a free agent following the 2019-2020 season.
Nicholas Batum, who is due $27 million this upcoming year, will be tough to move due to the steepness of his contract. He will also be a free agent at the end of the season. It just makes sense for the Hornets to try to coup any assets they can for these players, as any value they have can be turned into assets for Charlotte’s future.
Terry Rozier will be a disaster
The Hornets have never been frugal when it comes to spending money, except when it came to re-signing Kemba Walker, who they lowballed this offseason when they offered him a contract $60 million below what his max extension was.
Instead, they threw just under $60 million at Terry Rozier, who was nearly unplayable at times in Boston last season. It’s hard to imagine many teams were lining up to offer Rozier the type of money Charlotte gave him. Because of that, the Hornets are stuck with him for better or worse.
After a rather solid 2017-2018 campaign, Rozier was just bad last season. He averaged 9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game while shooting just 38.7% from the field and 35.3% from deep. He has never had a season in which he shot at least 40% from the field. This helps indicate just how inefficient of a scorer he is.
To go along with that, his 3-point shooting is sporadic. He shot 22% and 32% in his first two years in the league. He followed that up with a career-best 38.1% season, but then regressed back down to last year where he shot just 35%. He is known as a score-first guard but he is a mightily inefficient scorer. Now he’s expected to be… Charlotte’s best player? It’s just a terrible situation that is going to play out incredibly poorly for both sides.
Miles Bridges will be Charlotte’s best player
I want to preface this by saying that this doesn’t mean too much. The Hornets’ roster is putrid. Bridges , however, has the highest potential of any current player on the roster and he showed flashes last season in his rookie year. Post All-Star break, when Bridges was given a larger role, he succeeded.
In 25 minutes per game, he averaged 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 steals. He shot 49 percent from the field and 35.1% from the 3-point line. He was clearly a different player compared to how he performed before the break. After an offseason of training and having completed his transition into the league, Bridges seems due for a big jump.
The situation in Charlotte is great for him, considering their desperate need for contributors. He has the perfect size for a forward at 6’7”/225 lbs, and has elite athleticism. It may take some time, but Bridges has a very high ceiling, and he’ll start climbing towards that this upcoming year.
PJ Washington will make an All-Rookie Team
So you know how the Hornets need contributors? Well, PJ Washington can be one for them right away. He was uber-efficient at Kentucky over his career and has the prototypical game for a power forward. He can score in a multitude of ways, including an improving 3-point shot, passes extremely well for a big-man, and uses his size to succeed as a rebounder.
After a rough freshman season shooting from distance, Washington had five games in his sophomore year in which he made three or more triples in the game. On the season, he shot 42.3% from beyond the arc.
There will be an opportunity for Washington to play meaningful minutes, and he could work himself into the starting lineup if Charlotte trades Marvin Williams. Along with Bridges, Washington is one of the few players on the Hornets with a high upside. It’d be smart of Charlotte to maximize that upside and do so in a fast manner.
All in all, all signs indicate that next season will be tough for the Hornets. Even their potential bright spots come with disappointing caveats. But there is hope. Between Bridges, Washington, Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon, and Devonte’ Graham, the Hornets have a group of prospects to monitor as their rebuild progresses.
All stats from Basketball-Reference or stats.nba.com unless otherwise indicated.