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LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier COVID protocol absences leave Hornets in precarious situation

LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Hornets

LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, and Jalen McDaniels have all entered health and safety protocols for COVID-19. All four Charlotte Hornets players could miss up to 10 days.

The Hornets are 13-11 and have been one of the most exciting teams to watch so far this season. In large part due to their young star, LaMelo Ball. His game has helped put Charlotte back on the map and he has even emerged as a dark horse candidate to win the MVP award. Terry Rozier had a rough start to the season after coming back from an ankle injury, but was starting to find his groove. He was just starting to find his groove with the Hornets again. McDaniels and Plumlee have been key cogs in the rotation as well.

What this means going forward

With four key guys missing from the lineup, it’s likely that the Hornets will slide in the Eastern Conference standings. Especially since their starting backcourt will likely miss the next four to five games. Ish Smith will likely see the court a lot more and possibly start. Smith is seasoned veteran who has a ton of experience playing big time minutes. However, he can only fill in for one of the guard spots, so someone else will have to step up.

Maybe Kelly Oubre gets the nod to start at the shooting guard spot and maybe we see more of James Bouknight. Oubre has been a potent threat off the bench. He’s had five 20 point games off the bench and lifts the offense up when he enters the game. Bouknight has only played a handful of NBA games. He comes in during garbage time when the game has already been decided. Bouknight has spent some time in the G-league though. He’s averaging 26.8 points a night there along with seven rebounds and a little over three assists.

Bridges and Hayward gotta step up

Everyone should expect a lot more plays to be drawn up for both Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward. Bridges has had a handful of 30 point games so far this season and seems like their most consistent offensive threat at times. Not to mention that he is a likely candidate for the Most Improved Player award. Bridges’ game has taken major strides form years past and he is playing his way into a huge contract in the summer time. Last year, Bridges carried the team with Ball, Rozier, and several others out. His late season surge pushed the Charlotte Hornets right into the play-in tournament.

Gordon Hayward will also have to step up. Once upon a time, Hayward was a go-to scoring option for the Utah Jazz and averaged over 20 points. He can score from all three levels, get his teammates open, and deliver in the clutch. It’ll be fun to see if he can reach those heights again. The Hornets will need every bit of it to stay afloat in the tough Eastern Conference.

The other guys

Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels soak up a lot of minutes in the front court. With the two of them gone, a few guys will play for extended periods of time as well. PJ Washington will likely teeter between both the center and power forward spots, with Bridges as well. Nick Richards can get more starting nods as well. Kai Jones and JT Thor may found themselves playing down the stretch as well. Both rookies have had stints in the G-league and should be good go whenever needed. Plus, the Hornets are getting Cody Martin back from his illness. James Borrego might even opt to start him at one of the guard spots. He did play point guard back in college at Nevada and has shown that he is comfortable creating shots for others.

On the bright side, this team has the depth to sustain whatever length of time those four will be out. Sure you never want to miss out on your guys out for extended time, but they have young guys that can step right in for them. They won’t put on a show like Ball or Rozier, but they can get things done collectively as a unit. Basketball is a team sport, right? Maybe the Hornets can hold their heads above .500 until those guys are able to return.