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Vince's 5 Buzzin' Things About The Charlotte Hornets

Updated: Jun 18

Taking a page out of Zach Lowe's playbook, here are 5 things on my mind as it relates to the Charlotte Hornets now that they're a month removed from playing.

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It Was All A Tease



Heading into last season was like most seasons before Hornets fans; the expectation of no expectations. Even with the addition of Gordon Hayward (which I'll talk about later), most "experts" saw the Hornets barely winning 30 games this season. And they were right. The Hornets finished the season with a 33-39 record. But it wasnโ€™t in typical Hornets fashion. The Hornets sitting at 9-11 and an ankle injury to Terry Rozier, LaMelo Ball found himself in the starting lineup for the first time. What followed was an 11-9 run by the Hornets that helped catapult and cement Ball to the top rookie rankings for essentially the entire season. But these are the Charlotte Hornets. And most fans will tell you that โ€œCharlotte gonna Charlotte.โ€ After a surprising run that saw the Hornets above .500, more dunks than a coffee break at your local police station, and challenging the #3 spot in the East; the Hornets were decimated by injuries and only won 8 of this final 25 games, while ending the season on a five-game skid before getting the brakes beat off them by the Indiana Pacers in the NBA's first-ever play-in game. Hornets fans did a lot of hootin-and-hollering over the season, and it was almost like the basketball gods looked over and said, "ok cool." Ouch. Lesson learned. Again.




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The Nic Batum Stretch



For a conditional second-round draft pick, the Boston Celtics traded Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets along with two second-round picks of their own. Considering Hayward's injury history, the fanbase was pretty split on his arrival. And then the conversation was heightened when he agreed to a 4-year deal worth $120M. However, critics were silenced early on as Hayward began the season averaging over 24 points per game. But everything comes with a cost. In order to make room for Hayward, the Hornets decided to stretch Batum's current contract shortly before waiving him. What does this mean? Well, Batum was in his last year with the Hornets, so by stretching his contract, the Hornets agreed to pay him for the next three years. Had the Hornets not made a move in free agency and focused solely on the youth movement, Batum's entire $27M salary would've fallen off this season along with Zeller, Biyombo, Graham & Monk; and the Hornets would've cleared about $52M in cap this offseason. Instead, Batum is on the books for another $18M still, and Hayward missed the last 25 games of the season due to injury. Oh, and Batum is still playing basketball in the playoffs at the time of this article while the Hornets are home. Again.




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Devonte Graham or Malik Monk?

Two players apart of the aforementioned youth movement are Devonte' Graham & Malik Monk. Both are free agents this year, and even though there have been no talks if either will come back, that hasn't stopped speculation from fans. Ask most Hornets fans whoโ€™d they rather have back, and most will answer with Malik Monk for sure. And they would be justified. Malik Monk's time in Charlotte has been up and down to put it nicely, but when he's at his best, he can easily give you 25 in the blink of an eye. As for Graham, you get more of a facilitator. Someone who runs the offense, selecting his shots as necessary. Unfortunately, Graham had somewhat of a sophomore slump this season (yes, I know it was his 3rd year in the league), which in large part can be chalked up to the arrival of LaMelo Ball. Add to that a few nagging injuries, and a good portion of the fanbase that was in love with him just a season ago now wants him out of Charlotte. Itโ€™s hard to say what will happen with either. However, my money is on Graham to come back.





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The Arrival of Sky Miles


Ask anyone to name the biggest detriment to the Hornetsโ€™ season, and almost universally you will hear "injuries." Before the slew of injuries that saw the Hornets drop from 4th in the East to getting blasted in the play-in game, Miles Bridges was coming off the bench averaging just a stinger over 10PPG while posting 8 double-doubles; tied for 3rd in the league. But that all changed in early April when he was inserted in the starting rotation. And all he did was increase his ppg to 19.6 before having to sit for six games due to the NBA's Health & Safety Protocol. But man was it fun to watch. Pretty good for a player that didn't even work out for the Hornets.


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Gordon Hayward Got Paid. And Then He Played. And The He Sat. For A While.


First and foremost, I did not want Gordon Hayward here. And not because of his injury history. I didn't want him here because I wanted the org to focus on the youth movement while waiting on some of the bigger contracts to fall off. But once the move was made, I was on board. To my understanding, Hayward himself went to then-coach Brad Stevens and informed him that he was willing to come off the bench because he felt like he wasn't playing up to par. Those are the types of players I like. The TEAMme (big team little me) types. So, when he was "traded" to Charlotte and subsequently signed to his new contract, I wasn't too worried. I wasnโ€™t worried because in his last year in Boston he was able to average almost 18ppg as a 4th option; which was good enough for 11th in the NBA amongst small forwards. So with expectations all over the place, Gordon Hayward came to Charlotte, and in 44 out of 72 games played, he averaged 19.6ppg, the 3rd highest of his career and most since his time in Utah. And while it's hard to argue his impact off the court due to the fact Charlotte suffered so many injuries, I'll leave you all with this stat: In games where Hayward finished with a positive plus-minus, the Hornets went 19-4, and in games where Hayward finished with a negative plus-minus, the Hornets went 5-16. That says a lot. I'm personally looking forward to seeing him back on the court next season. But sheeshus Hayward, eat your greens bro.





Vince Dunlap





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