One of the bigger disappointments a year ago, the Hornets are poised to improve upon last season’s 36-win club and compete for a playoff spot.
Kemba Walker had a breakthrough season in which he earned his first all-star selection, and will once again be on the short list of top-shelf point guards in the East.
But far too often the Hornets relied on Walker’s offense to carry the day which is why they acquired eight-time all-star Dwight Howard whose presence around the basket should do wonders for a Charlotte team that ranked tied for 26th in the NBA in points in the paint (39.9) last season.
And Howard, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2009-2011), should also play a role in helping the Hornets’ defensively where last season their defensive ranking was 14th (106.1) in the league.
Charlotte also needs more production from Nicolas Batum.
A 6-foot-8 wing, Batum can do so many things at both ends of the floor to the point where for Charlotte to take that next step and become a top-4 or top-5 team in the East, he has the skills to be far more dominant than his stats suggest.
Last season he averaged 15.9 points per game, but also showed his versatility in also averaging 6.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals.
But the real key to Charlotte’s growth this season will lie in its depth which hasn’t been strong or deep enough for them to make the kind of strides required to be successful.
The addition of former rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams and rookie Malik Monk should provide the Hornets with another ball-handler (Carter-Williams) and shot-maker (Monk) that Charlotte absolutely had to have coming out of this year’s draft.
Selected by Charlotte with the 11th overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the 6-foot-3 Monk was widely considered one of the best shooters in the draft as he connected on 39.7 percent of his 3’s in his lone season at the University of Kentucky.
How quickly he adjusts to being an effective NBA shooter will be a huge plus for a Charlotte team that struggled mightily most of the season where they shot 44.2 percent from the field which ranked 26th in the NBA.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Dwight Howard (Houston); Michael Carter-Williams (Chicago);
Key losses: Ramon Sessions (Charlotte)
Rookies of note: Malik Monk.
Expectations: 42-40 (Second in the Southeast Division, 6th in the East)