The Hornets opened up the 2023-24 season on October 25th with a 116-110 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, with a starting lineup that featured LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, and Mark Williams.
Fast forward to February 9th, and the Hornets are 10-39, have lost 9 straight games, and three players from the opening night starting lineup are no longer on the roster, while the other two are injured.
It’s been quite a journey, and quite a transformation, but now we finally have a good idea of who will be on the Hornets team for the rest of this season. There are still some potential buyout candidates, like Kyle Lowry and maybe Seth Curry. But otherwise, if the team can get healthy, the potential rotations are compelling.
The rest of this season should be about taking an extended look at young players and giving them a chance to grow and develop. The front office will want to see how things fit together, which players build chemistry together, and who may have a long-term future with the team.
While it’s certainly not playoff basketball, it is a good opportunity to evaluate talent, grow some good habits, and hopefully start to see the signs of something the team can build on and around going forward. If everyone can get healthy, here’s how things could look.
G- LaMelo Ball
G- Brandon Miller
F- Miles Bridges
F- Grant Williams
C- Mark Williams
This is the most fun lineup the Hornets can potentially trot out. The double Williams frontcourt should provide a respectable defensive base, which would be a welcome sight. The Ball/Miller/Bridges perimeter combo should be able to offer plenty of scoring and playmaking.
This group could actually have a decent two-way balance, and if everyone buys in on both ends, they could really be cooking with gas; the size and athleticism are there.
G - Tre Mann
G - Vasilije Micic
G - Nick Smith Jr.
G - Seth Curry
G/F - Cody Martin
G/F - Bryce McGowens
F - Leaky Black
F - J.T. Thor
C - Nick Richards
That’s a lot of players, but realistically with injuries, there should be plenty of opportunity for all of these guys to get a chance. It’s important to prioritize younger players, especially ones with contract decisions approaching, like Mann. But everyone on this roster deserves a chance and nobody outside of the starters has earned anything.
The rest of the season should essentially be treated as an audition for the future, so let’s hope some of these players can perform well and establish themselves as key pieces of the team as they look to the future.