LaMelo Ball instantly made the Hornets one of the league’s most exciting young teams in his rookie year, and he should only get better as he enters his sophomore season. The Hornets kept their core key pieces together over the offseason and made changes elsewhere, losing Cody Zeller and Devonte’ Graham while adding Kelly Oubre Jr., Mason Plumlee, and a promising collection of rookies. This team probably isn’t ready to take a big step forward yet, but their future remains bright with LaMelo taking centerstage.
The best case scenario for the Hornets is that most, if not all of the young players take a big step forward while the new veterans integrate seamlessly. LaMelo Ball becomes an All Star in his second season and leads the Hornets to a comfortable playoff appearance where they flirt with home court advantage in the first round.
Gordon Hayward can’t stay healthy once again. The rest of the team gets bitten by the injury bug while the youth stagnates in their development. The Hornets struggle to find cohesion and miss the playoffs entirely.
The Hornets likely build on last season’s success and make the playoffs as a frisky yet overmatched team against one of the East’s juggernauts. LaMelo Ball should be able to step fully into his role as the face of the franchise while Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward add more borderline All Star-type talent in support. Miles Bridges looks ready to make a leap, and there’s enough young talent sprinkled throughout the rest of the roster that would make you think someone else is bound to pop as well.
LaMelo Ball in year two. Ball’s stellar rookie season was derailed at the end by a broken right wrist that very visibly hampered his shooting touch and comfort on the floor. He’s gotten noticeably bulkier over the course of the summer and should really take off with a full offseason to prepare for the NBA. To go along with that, I’m excited to see if Miles Bridges can build off his lead dog performances down the stretch last season and if James Bouknight is as good as advertised as a rookie.