Swarm and Sting readers and fellow Charlotte Hornets fans, it’s time to turn our eyes to the prospect of the 2022-2023 season. Finishing with 43 wins this season, the Hornets took a huge step forward in their quest for their first playoff series win since 2002.
Led by LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges, this Hornets team is young and primed for a bright future, but just what should we expect from next season’s journey? As much as I’d love to say that a championship run is in the cards, that wouldn’t be a fair or realistic expectation for a team that narrowly missed the playoffs this season.
Making the playoffs, however, is a realistic goal, and drawing a favorable first round matchup next year could result in a series win if things fall the right way for Charlotte. If next season is even remotely similar to this past season, Charlotte could realistically pull off a playoff series win against teams like Chicago, Cleveland, or Atlanta.
A couple of things need to happen if Charlotte is to take the next step, including finding a new head coach who can capably bring the youngsters into their full potential, resigning Miles Bridges, and possibly trading for a high-caliber player. Russel Westbrook’s talent has been clouded by one bad season and loads of controversy, but the idea of him in a Hornets uniform does hold some promise. Westbrook is simply an example of a talented player who could be a leader for this team. Seeking out other difference makers is, however, necessary as well.
Also noteworthy is the return of Gordon Hayward next season. Many have cast him aside as an injury-prone player, but Hayward can drop 25 or more points on a good night. His leadership will be crucial, as is shown in this tweet by @hornets:
Charlotte has slowly been improving recently, and while the next step is a playoff berth, it simply must happen next year. The team is ready. They put the league on notice this year as a team to watch, but opponents aren’t exactly shaking in their boots as they do when facing the Bucks or Suns. That said, it’s a fact that the team has potential and one of the brighter futures in the league; they just have to realize it.
In the 2021-2022 season, Charlotte averaged the third-highest points per game in the league at 115.2, which trailed only Memphis and Minnesota, but their defensive efficiency ranked 24th. When they’re firing on all cylinders, this team is tough to beat, but the inexperience got the best of them this year. That won’t be the case next year.
Everyone loves a good prediction because you can hold it against the writer if it doesn’t come true. The Hornets will win a playoff series next season, and you can take that to the bank … see you then, Charlotte fans.