The Charlotte Hornets are a franchise that hasn’t accomplished much in the past. The Hornets have never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs in any season. They have only made just three playoff appearances total since the franchise was reborn back in 2004-05 as the Bobcats. Charlotte has lost in the first round in each of those three postseason appearances.
Charlotte went 39-43 a season ago, which was good for a tie for second place in the Southeast Division. Unfortunately, second place in the division was not good enough to rank among the top-8 spots in the Eastern Conference as a whole, so the team missed out on the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The Hornets have won more than 40 games just once in the last five years, and only twice in the previous nine. The team has cycled through a few coaches and front office executives in recent years, but nothing has stuck.
Oddsmakers certainly aren’t bullish on Charlotte’s chances of making much of a dent in the 2019-20 season, either. MyBookie.ag lists the Hornets with an over/under of just 23 ½ wins for the upcoming campaign, which is the lowest total in the entire league. Is there a reason for optimism with the Hornets moving forward? Or are the oddsmakers on the right track in thinking that this will be a long season in the Queen City?
2019 Charlotte Hornets Offseason Moves
The big question coming into the offseason was whether the Hornets would be able to keep All-Star Kemba Walker. Walker has emerged as one of the game’s best point guards during his eight years with the franchise. But, the fact that, the team never managed to win anything of note surely wore on the former UConn star. Walker averaged a career-high 25.6 points per game a season ago in his first year under new head coach James Borrego.
Rather than deciding to commit to the Hornets, though, Walker ultimately decided to sign with the Boston Celtics after free agency opened in July. While Kemba was reportedly open to a return to Charlotte, the team reportedly tried to lowball him with an offer. The Hornets had the opportunity to sign Walker to the “super max” 5-year deal worth around $220 million. However, they came nowhere near that, as they reportedly offered Kemba about $160 million instead.
Rather than taking that, Walker took $141 million over four years to join a team with a more realistic shot at winning soon. With Walker out the door, the Hornets threw a 3-year deal worth $58 million at the Celtics’ former backup point guard, Terry Rozier. Rozier has enjoyed some moments of brilliance during his time with the Celtics. But legitimate question marks are surrounding his ability to lead a team as the full-time starter. Regardless, the Hornets felt as though they had to do something to try and make up for Walker’s departure.
The team also lost key swingman Jeremy Lamb, who signed with the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte has reportedly tried to trade Nicolas Batum, but his cumbersome contract has attracted no takers yet. Bismack Biyombo ($17 million), Marvin Williams ($15 million) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million) exercised their player options this summer. The Hornets lost another $45 million worth of cap space that could’ve been spent elsewhere.
Tony Parker (retirement) and Frank Kaminsky (signed with Phoenix) were a couple of other offseason departures. With very little other money to spend on the market, general manager Mitch Kupchak was essentially hamstrung when it came to signing any more players of note.
The team did land former Kentucky standout P.J. Washington with the No. 12 overall pick in the draft. Washington looks like he projects as a decent stretch-4 at the NBA level, but he’s unlikely to ever turn into a star.
Charlotte Hornets 2018-19 Statistics
Points per Game
Points Allowed per Game
Opponent 3-Point Shooting
Charlotte Hornets vs Southeast Division
Charlotte finished just two games out of a playoff spot last year, and they went 10-6 against the rest of the Southeast Division. The Magic were the only Southeast representative to qualify for the playoffs, though, so Charlotte did plenty of its damage against non-playoff opponents. The Hornets went 29-23 against the rest of the Eastern Conference, but they were only 10-20 against the West in 2018-19.
The Hornets split their four games with the Heat and Magic while going 3-1 apiece against the Hawks and Wizards. The division isn’t expected to improve in the upcoming season. But it’s still hard to imagine a team like the Hornets even matching the 10 wins they racked up in the division a season ago. Miami and Atlanta look a little bit better, while Orlando seems an awful lot like the same team, we saw last year. Ditto for Washington, who will still be without John Wall for most, if not all, of the new season.
Charlotte Hornets 2019-20 Win Total Prediction
Frankly, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the Hornets to replace Kemba Walker. Rozier has shown that he can put up numbers in the past. I would be surprised if he didn’t average career-highs across the board now that he’s going to be an unquestioned starter for the first time. The Louisville product averaged about nine points per game last year as the primary backup to Kyrie Irving. He has still shot just 38 percent from the field for his entire career.
Being “the man” with the Hornets will be an adjustment, but the numbers should be there. That said, I’m not sure where the rest of this team’s offensive production is going to come from. Charlotte is optimistic that Miles Bridges will continue to take steps forward in his second season. The former Michigan State Spartan averaged just 7.5 points and four rebounds per game as a rookie, but he also averaged only over 21 minutes per game. More playing time should be available for him now that Lamb is gone, which is a plus. Bridges averaged better than 10 points and five rebounds per game in April when he averaged over 32 minutes a night.
Borrego has reportedly told some of his veterans that the team will use the upcoming season to get a long look at younger players. That means there is a very real chance that guys like Batum, Williams and Biyombo don’t factor much at all into the rotation. While playing those guys may be in the Hornets’ best interests in terms of winning games in the immediate future, it’s clear that winning isn’t a priority for this team.
So, we can naturally expect plenty of playing time for Rozier and Bridges. It will also be interesting to see what Charlotte decides to do with former No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG has been a useful defender during his time in the league, but he has never made the offensive strides the Hornets had hoped he’d make. Kidd-Gilchrist has averaged more than 10 points per game just twice through his first 7 seasons in the NBA, and he’s a career 27.7 percent shooter from 3-point range.
While there is undoubtedly a place for defense-first wings in the league, players that can’t consistently knock down open threes are finding it harder and harder to stick. Cody Zeller will continue to operate as the team’s starting center, and he quietly enjoyed a solid season a year ago despite a few injuries. Zeller will likely never be an All-Star at this level, but he has some skills in the pick-and-roll and he’s still only 26.
While the Hornets do have some interesting young pieces, it’s incredibly difficult to imagine this team winning very many games. They lost a legitimate superstar in Walker this summer, and teams in the NBA don’t just replace that kind of production right away. The Hornets are aiming at a full-on rebuilding project here. I’d be shocked if they didn’t finish with one of the worst records in the Association.
While they may luck into a few extra wins thanks to the weakness of the Southeast Division, I still confident that the Hornets’ ceiling is probably about 20 wins heading into 2019-20. Rozier may have a career year, but he likely won’t come close to Walker’s production or efficiency on the offensive end. Rozier has hardly been replacement-level throughout his career, so the drop-off from Walker could prove to be quite dramatic. Charlotte will play at a fast pace again, which will probably result in some miserable defensive numbers as a team, to boot.
This looks like the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Give me the hard under on 23 ½ wins for Charlotte in 2019-20.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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