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Hornets’ Gordon Hayward expected to return to action Saturday vs. 76ers

Michael Smith and Michael Holley both agree that Giannis Antetokounmpo has climbed up the MVP ladder, but does he deserve the award over Nikola Jokic?

Charlotte is about to get a lot more dangerous heading into the postseason.

Gordon Hayward, who has missed the Hornets’ last 22 games with an ankle injury, is set to return to the lineup on Saturday against the 76ers. The Hornets have listed Hayward as “probable.”

Hayward was averaging 16.1 points and shooting 39% on 3-pointers when Toronto’s Gary Trent Jr. rolled up his leg on Feb. 7. Hayward has been out since.

Charlotte went 12-10 without Hayward and finds itself in a three-way tie with Brooklyn and Atlanta for the 8/9/10 seeds in the East. Winning the No. 8 seed is a huge advantage — the No. 8 seed needs to win just one of two games to advance to the playoffs, the No. 9 and 10 seeds need to win both games (and they play each other in the first one). Charlotte has the toughest remaining schedule of any of those three teams, they need all the reinforcements they can get.

Hayward brings depth on the wing and a high IQ game that can take advantage of mismatches and opportunities. Coach James Borrego now has more options when looking at playoff matchups. Hayward started all 48 games before his injury and while he will come off the bench at first he could see a return to the starting lineup. This also means Kelly Oubre Jr., Jalen McDaniels, and Cody Martin could see their minutes drop (especially in the postseason, when the rotations will tighten).