The Charlotte Hornets’ playoff chances ended quickly in the Play-In Tournament, but their future is bright moving forward.
After the Charlotte Hornets lost LaMelo Ball for what was originally believed to be for the remainder of the season in the middle of March, no one believed that they would hold on to their 7th seed and make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Nevertheless, the Hornets stuck around in the East standings and Ball made his (somewhat surprising) return to the lineup at the beginning of May (after missing 21 games) and helped Charlotte clinch a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
Unfortunately, their pursuit for a playoff spot ended Tuesday evening at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. It was a brisk end to a regular season that offered much promise, but also an experience that should help this young team moving forward.
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The promising Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets’ postseason experience ended almost as quickly as it began – the Pacers jumped out to a double-digit lead in the opening minutes of their play-in game and never looked back – but this was a season that could jump-start this team’s current build.
It all began last offseason when the Hornets elected to take the risk and select LaMelo Ball with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. In what was a non-traditional pre-draft process, there was no real guarantee that Ball was going to be as talented or good as advertised – and there was even more of a risk considering he didn’t play on the grand stage that is college basketball.
Nevertheless, the Hornets trusted their process and Ball emerged as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year favorite. During his rookie season, Ball became the first player at the age of 19 or under to averaged 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game (per CBS Sports). He also shot 44 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.
But the encouraging signs for Charlotte go beyond Ball. Terry Rozier, who the team acquired a couple of offseasons ago, had the best season of his career thus far and appears to be a priority for the team heading into the offseason.
Gordon Hayward, who missed the latter portion of the season due to injury, appeared as a great fit on the roster and gave the team a value veteran presence. That was clearly missed when Hayward was lost to injury.
Devonte’ Graham, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges also had their moments throughout this season and have emerged as complementary pieces next to Ball, Rozier, and Hayward. Equipped with another lottery pick, expect the Hornets to try and add to its frontcourt this offseason.
The Hornets are well on their way to relevance in the East and this past season was a huge step in the right direction. For the first time since Kemba Walker left, the Hornets have a face of the franchise and a clear building direction.
Charlotte may have had a disappointing end to their season in the Play-In Tournament against the Pacers, but the future is bright for the Hornets.