Christmas season is upon us, and with it comes the tradition of Christmas wish lists (especially for Charlotte Hornets fans). For many, Christmas is an opportunity to ask for a new gaming console, headphones, or tickets to watch a favorite band or sports team in action. For others, the Christmas wish list is more practical, made up of useful but unexciting items such as socks. All of this begs the question; what should be on Charlotte Hornets fans’ Christmas wish list this year?
Charlotte Hornets Christmas wish list: Upgrade at center
The need for an upgrade at the center position has been discussed for several months. The 2021 offseason represented an opportunity for an upgrade, with Jarrett Allen, Richaun Holmes, and Andre Drummond all on the market. Instead, the Hornets traded for Mason Plumlee and selected Kai Jones in the draft. Plumlee will turn 32 this season, while Jones is still a raw 20-year-old who only began playing basketball at age 15. Plumlee serves as a low-ceiling veteran while Jones is not ready to contribute at the NBA level yet. Second-year big man Nick Richards has been serviceable when called upon, but the 24-year-old is unlikely to be the long-term solution that the Hornets are looking for. P.J. Washington makes for an intriguing small-ball center in certain lineups, but at 6’7″ he is likely too short to serve as a full-time center.
Recent news of an impending rebuild for the Indiana Pacers has resulted in renewed trade rumors surrounding Myles Turner. Turner has been in trade rumors dating back to last season and would be an ideal fit as an elite defensive big man who can also space the floor with his shooting. It is unclear exactly what the Pacers would demand in return; one mock trade has Charlotte sending P.J. Washington, Mason Plumlee, Kai Jones, and a 2023 first round draft pick. The Pacers are reportedly intrigued by Washington and would likely want a young player and draft capital as well. Other big men have been in trade rumors as well, with players such as Marvin Bagley and Mo Bamba potentially being available. Whichever direction the Hornets decide to go, upgrading the center position remains atop the wish list.
Charlotte Hornets Christmas wish list: Improved defense
The Hornets have struggled mightily on the defensive end this season as they currently rank 30th in team defensive rating. Through 31 games, Charlotte has held its opponents under 100 points just four times and is allowing 116.6 points per game, the highest of any team. Many of these issues are related to the issues at center, with the Hornets being one of the worst defensive rebounding teams and one of the worst teams at defending the paint. Charlotte is also one of the worst teams at preventing second chance points, which ties back to their defensive rebounding woes.
There are also issues beyond the center spot that must be fixed. Currently, every Hornets player except for Mason Plumlee has a worse-than-league average defensive rating. The Hornets are a top-10 team in both blocks and steals per game, but these numbers are also inflated by Charlotte’s pace of play, which is 5th-fastest in the league. Charlotte is a bottom-five team in preventing fast break points despite being a top-six unit in minimizing turnovers on the offensive end.
The Hornets must improve their team defense in order to reach their full potential. Charlotte is an elite offensive team and currently sits atop the NBA in both points per game and 3-point shooting percentage. However, this offensive firepower too often goes for naught due to the team’s defensive limitations. With postseason aspirations, Charlotte must tighten up on the defensive end, especially come playoff time.
Charlotte Hornets Christmas wish list: Health
Health should be on the wish list for the entire NBA this Christmas, as several players have been in the league’s Covid protocols so far. The Hornets have had LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, Ish Smith, and Mason Plumlee recently clear the protocols, while Cody Martin recently entered. Martin and P.J. Washington have also missed games due to non-Covid illness. Meanwhile, Rozier, Plumlee, and Washington have all missed time due to injury. Only three players in Charlotte’s normal rotation have not missed a game: Miles Bridges, Gordon Hayward, and Kelly Oubre. The Hornets do have the luxury of being a deep team, with 11 players currently playing at least 13 minutes per night. Beyond that, rookies James Bouknight and JT Thor have shown that they can produce when called into action. While the Hornets have proven they have the depth to cope with players being out, the wish is that they will not have to rely on their depth to cover for absences over the rest of the season.