Charlotte Hornets: Grading James Borrego on the first half of the season

Charlotte Hornets LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The first half of the season is done, and the Charlotte Hornets are sitting in the middle of the playoff hunt at 17-18, which is good enough for 7th in the East, but they are in striking distance for the top six (guaranteed playoff spot) and also in the mix for the top 4. For a team that has really had much more time to get together and acclimated, they took advantage, and even with the draft additions and signees, and a condensed regular season, this has been nothing short of impressive.

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Which brings me to the job that head coach James Borrego has done with this Hornets squad. They’re young, they are entertaining, they have the top candidate for Rookie of the Year in LaMelo Ball. He has done a heck of a job getting the Hornets into this position, especially when many people on the national scene didn’t know what to make of this team.

So let’s take a look at how JB has been doing so far this season.

One thing that has to be taken into account is that this team has been moving in the right direction for quite some time and there’s really a solid foundation. Borrego has really been able to get these guys to play together and the response from the players has been positive In a recent mailbag with Rick Bonnell, he said Borrego’s personality has definitely been a positive and has helped the team win a bunch of games, and you can see that in the way the team plays. They have played well with and for each other. That will definitely come in handy in the second half of the season as the fans start to come back to the Hive and start to get that push to the playoffs going.

The other big positive is the fact that aside from getting the guys to play with and for one another, is that there is a free flow to the offense. The Hornets average 112.7 points per game (good enough for 16th in the NBA), and there has been an exciting brand of basketball with Ball and Miles Bridges forming the duo “Air BnB.” Terry Rozier having some monster games and monster moments as well. We also can’t forget Gordon Hayward and the things he has done this season for this team (21.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.9 APG) in candidacy for Most Improved Player, making JB look really good. As it was mentioned before in the Hornets’ midseason grade from SI, putting Ball in the starting lineup has paid off, as he has averaged 20.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in 15 games this season.

The big weakness for the Hornets, however, is on the defensive side, and that is due to a quality big man not protecting the rim. The average of points allowed per game (113.2) is right on par with a team with a 17-18 record. Getting a big man to clean up the middle would help the Hornets’ defensive woes because Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are not cutting it at this point. Luckily for the Hornets, they are in the middle of the pack and if they can make the strides and get a trade that is beneficial, they can sneak into that coveted Top Six.

Overall, Borrego has done well with this team, there are things to clean up and to improve, but the Hornets are in a much better position than many people thought they would be in, and they could really have a chance to be one of those dangerous teams down the stretch. Or it could go the complete opposite and they could self-destruct. We will just have to see where it goes from here. My grade is a B-.

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