Charlotte Hornets opening week report card: grading player performance

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images) /
1 of 3

The first week of the NBA regular season has officially concluded, which means it’s time to dish out some early-season grades for the 2023 Charlotte Hornets. This report card primarily considers player performance compared to preseason expectations. For example, LaMelo Ball will be judged much more harshly than Theo Maledon since Maledon is not the franchise cornerstone who signed a $260 million extension this offseason. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Everyone take a seat and pay attention, because class is in session. Here’s how this year’s squad has fared through week one of the regular season, starting with the backcourt.


LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images) /

LaMelo Ball: D

It’s no secret that preseason expectations for LaMelo Ball were high. Following an injury-riddled 2022-23 campaign where he only appeared in 36 games, Ball was projected to return to health and take the next step as a leader for the Hornets. However, the results after the first three games have been less than inspiring.

Ball averages 14.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists and has seen his minutes intentionally capped in the low 30s as he plays his way back to a full workload. The former all-star has been unable to find a rhythm scoring the ball and has only hit on 25% of his field goal attempts so far this year. LaMelo’s struggles peaked Monday night in the Spectrum Center in a double-digit loss to the shorthanded Nets. Ball played a mere 22 minutes due to foul trouble and finished 3/12 from the field and 0/6 from long distance.

I’m not suggesting to hit the panic button just yet. Ball missed the majority of last season due to injuries, and he’s clearly still getting back into game shape. Three games is too small of a sample size to judge someone with LaMelo’s proven track record, and I have complete confidence in him to right the ship sooner rather than later. Even so, here at Swarm and Sting, we don’t hand out easy grades to our favorite players. Part of being heralded as franchise savior is being held to a higher standard, and LaMelo’s grade accurately reflects his performance through the first week of the season – poor.

Terry Rozier: A-

If there’s one characteristic to describe Terry Rozier’s tenure in Charlotte, it’s consistency. Rozier has averaged at least 18 points every season with the Hornets and has continually been relied on as a closer in countless scenarios. This season has been no different. Scary Terry has posted 20 or more points in all three games this year and came through with some late-game baskets and free throws to seal Charlotte’s opening night win against Atlanta.

Rozier has performed above expectations set for him coming into the year. He’s been able to pick up the slack from LaMelo’s sluggish start by increasing his scoring output and serving as the primary ballhandler and distributor more than anticipated. The one downside for Terry through the first week is that he possesses a 116.4 defensive rating, the worst on the team.

Overall, Terry Rozier has been a bright spot for the Hornets through three games. He’s someone you feel confident in to get a bucket when you need it the most, and that ability can’t be measured. If Charlotte hopes to compete for their first playoff berth since 2016, Rozier must continue this production level throughout the rest of the season.

Theo Maledon: C-

The backup point guard spot in Charlotte has been a revolving door of names for the past few years. We’ve seen the likes of Dennis Smith Jr., Isaiah Thomas, Brad Wanamaker, and Ish Smith come off the bench to spell LaMelo Ball. Each of these players has had their moments, but none have lasted longer than a season – until now.

Theo Maledon re-signed with the Hornets in late September after appearing in 44 games last season. The former second-round pick from France has been solid on the defensive side of the ball, recording two steals in each of the previous two games. However, the offensive side of the ball has been a different story. Maledon has yet to hit a three-pointer through the first three games, and his 31% field goal percentage isn’t helping the Hornets’ shooting woes to start the year.

Maledon has been a serviceable reserve for Charlotte, but don’t be surprised to see newly signed Ish Smith leapfrog Maledon on the depth chart once he’s up to speed.