Which players on the Hornets roster will be a part of their regular rotation, and what will their roles be?
PG LaMelo Ball
SG Terry Rozier
SF Gordon Hayward
PF PJ Washington
C Mason Plumlee
DEEP BENCH – VETERANS
DEEP BENCH – DEVELOPING YOUTH
LIKELY TO BE WAIVED
Veteran Mason Plumlee started at center last year and is the favorite to retain his spot. But the team does have some talented young big men on the roster and one them could make it a more difficult decision (or if the things just start to unravel out of the gate, the Hornet might just decide to go young). Kai Jones hardly played last year for the Hornets, but really came on strong in the G-League at the end of the year and then followed that up with an impressive summer league performance. Jones is an excellent shot-blocker but sometimes can be a bit too eager and easily faked out of position. He also needs to develop a more versatile offensive repertoire. The team did double down on young big by drafting Mark Williams from Duke in the 1st round this year. It’s unlikely that the rookie will jump everyone on the depth chart, however, and end up in the starting lineup, but he will be in the rotation and could benefit if he plays well while the others falter.
Terry Rozier is once again penciled in to start alongside LaMelo Ball in the backcourt. Like Plumlee, however, Rozier could find himself a casualty of a youth movement. Talented scorer James Bouknight was drafted by the Hornets last year with the 11th pick. Bouknight was buried last year, only playing 304 minutes the entire season, and had a troubled relationship with coach James Borrego. But this is a new year with a new coach, and new coach Steve Clifford seems to believe in Bouknight’s talent and is in synch with the young guard. Rozier is one of the more underappreciated productive guards in the league. In 3 years with the Hornets, he’s averaged 19.3p/4.4r/4.3a/1.2s on 48.9%/38.8%/84.7% shooting splits. It’s unlikely that Bouknight will outplay Rozier at this point, but if the team decides to rebuild Rozier could fetch a lot in a trade.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Gordon Hayward has had a horrific run of bad luck over the past 5 seasons with regards to bizarre injuries, missing 40% of his games with the Hornets after missing 47% of his games with the Celtics. Hayward is also now on the wrong side of 30. When he has played for the Hornets, he’s been productive (17.6p/5.2r/3.8a/1.1s on 49.8%/40.2%/82.6% shooting splits) and the team has performed better. If the Hornets have any hope of moving up in a tough Eastern Conference, they’ll need Hayward to continue this level of production over a full season.
Miles Bridges is no longer with the team and may never play in the NBA again. Bridges has been charged with felony assault and faces up to 12 years on prison. From a basketball standpoint, he was the Hornets leading scorer, 2nd-best player, and a borderline All-Star, and to just lose him with no compensation is crippling. His absence, however, creates opportunities for others. Jalen McDaniels and JT Thor are young talented players who could really help the team if they could take their games up another level. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where any of the young players can replicate Bridges’ production or handle his workload (35.5 minutes per game).