The Charlotte Hornets are in the middle of a potential rebuild. What young stars can step up and be the next generation for the team?
It has been far too long since the Charlotte Hornets have had legitimate hope in the younger generation. For far too long it seemed as though Charlotte, with then Head Coach Steve Clifford, relied heavily on veteran players. Sometimes, so much to the point that rookies were sacrificed for often subpar veteran play. The frustration of watching an underwhelming team age with no legitimate help in site infuriated an already damaged core of fans. And year after year of the same story would be retold, what could the Hornets do to fix the problem?
Now, so much has changed in a lone offseason for the hometown Hornets. After the heavily publicized offseason of change in the front office, Charlotte endured a renaissance of sorts. Since scrapping the ideology of old while also undergoing a much-needed youth movement, Charlotte has almost instantly shown new life. Sure, much if not all, could be contributed to Head Coach James Borrego’s new system, but also the play of Charlotte’s new young players has been a pleasant surprise. The next generation of Hornets (i.e. Willy Hernangomez, Miles Bridges, Malik Monk, Devonte’ Graham, Dwayne Bacon, and two-way players JP Macura and now Joe Chealey) have the talent to excite and rejuvenate a fanbase starving for success.
With a wide assortment of skills and talents, the young men are capable of great success in the NBA. Unlike in years past where the youth were banished to ride the pine for most of their young careers, this group of players have the talent to contribute early and often for the Hornets and Coach Borrego. Many of the young players have the talent to contribute right away as rotational players, while possibly looking to increase their role in the upcoming NBA season. And surprisingly, the Hornets have adequate players in each position to help each young player grow and succeed. With Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Bismack Biyombo all fairly skilled enough to offer something to contribute to their position’s younger players, the young professionals first few steps are to continue to soak up the experience surrounding them while also adding their own individual skills to the overall talent of the team.
For the guards, the experience and craftiness of Walker, Parker, and Lamb offer a decent amount of talent and offensive ability from anywhere on the floor. From shooting, to ball fakes, to step backs, drive-ins, and passing, the veteran guards offer much in the department of offensive capabilities. What it lacks unfortunately is defensive power and size as both point guards are both on the smaller size as well as Lamb being somewhat thin for a two-guard. For Graham who is seen more as a field general and Chealey who is more of a scoring point guard, the experience and similar skillset of the veterans could further improve their knowledge and speed up the learning curve for each, making them more NBA ready while learning from similar players in Walker and Parker. For Monk, the similarities in Lamb could also improve his timetable and possibly push him into the starting lineup. Considering he makes a big jump defensively. Two-way signee Macura also benefits based on his skillset of being an advertised knockdown shooter with high IQ.
For the forwards, the position group has a more all-around skillset to teach the younger group. With shooting, passing, and defense to account for, the forward position could potentially be one of the strongest for the future of the Hornets. The younger players (Bacon and Bridges) all have a solid foundation to build from. But having a defensive specialist in MKG, a glue guy and do-it-all forward in Batum, and a scoring and rebounding veteran in Williams, heavily benefits a player like Bridges and Bacon who are capable of being foundational type do-it-all players.
Last, for center Hernangomez, having a legitimate rim protector in Biyombo and an offensive grinder in Zeller has the potential to make him a valuable two-way threat. Willy (pronounced Billy), has already shown improvements defensively and could stand to be more of a defensive threat. Which is where the skill of Biyombo could come in handy. Offensively, the size and shooting potential has already proved beneficial for the Hornets. Currently in the preseason, Hernangomez is shooting approximately .71 FG% (22-61) and .80 3P% (4-5). Having a player who can stretch the floor at the center position is opening the offense up much more compared to years past and allowing the team to play 5-out offense at times. Though Hernangomez could definitely stand to improve on both ends of the floor, the foundation, potential, and ability is there to warrant more time to learn and improve under a head coach who thoroughly backs the Spaniard.
With the influx of young talent, the Hornets have indeed found a good mix of players who are capable of sustaining this franchise for the next couple of years. The talent is there, but the hard work and grind to become better is within each respective player’s hands, and we all have a front seat view of what is to come for the future of this young franchise and its even younger players.