The Charlotte Hornets are definitely overachieving this season. Currently, the Hornets are holding on to sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 20-20 win-loss record, but nobody expected them to even be in playoff contention in the first place. For context, this is a team that has only been to the playoffs twice in the last 10 years, losing both series in the first round.
Even with the addition of veteran forward and former All-Star Gordon Hayward in the offseason, the Hornets were supposed to be stuck at the bottom of the conference. Even with Hayward, the Hornets are full of young players who have yet to establish themselves in the league. Out of the Hornets’ 15-man roster, 12 players have been in the league for 4 years or less.
Enter 19-year-old rookie point guard LaMelo Ball. Ball has turned this joke of a franchise into a playoff contender overnight with his thrilling play and basketball IQ. Ball is running away with the Rookie of the Year Award averaging 16 points, six assists and six rebounds. He is also not lacking for efficiency as he is shooting 38 percent from deep, 45 percent overall while shooting above 80 percent from the stripe.
But what is so impressive about the No. 3 overall pick is his command and court vision. His pinpoint passes (some from behind the back) has filled the highlight reels of the NBA. Fans are beginning to watch the Hornets just to see “What LaMelo would do next with the basket.” But more than just the entertainment value, Ball is bringing out the best in his teammates, one of the characteristics of a great player. His teammates know if they get open, Ball will find them.
His play has also been contagious. When all players get to touch the ball, it improves not just the flow of the game but the chemistry in the team. Proof of this is that eight players on the team are averaging over 9 points per game. Ball may even get more playing time as his fellow guards Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier are rumored to be on the trading block.
However, this team needs to add more players if they are to be taken seriously in the playoffs. They need more experienced big men plus more wings who can shoot. They also lack depth even if they have some up and coming youngsters like Malik Monk and Miles Bridges. Outside of Hayward, Rozier, and Ball, the team doesn’t have a bonafide sixth man who can carry the team when the starters sit.
Reportedly, the team is eyeing Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner to shore up the frontline. His ability to stretch the floor and his shot-blocking rim protection will suddenly give the Hornets a potent starting line-up that can go toe-to-toe against the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While the Hornets are entertaining and exciting to watch, they are still a long way from becoming a serious contender. Team owner Michael Jordan must now build this team up since he already has a future All-Star in the making.