CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Even though, the Charlotte Hornets won’t be a part of the NBA season restart on July 30th, there is a lot to look forward to. Crazy to think that when the all-time leading scorer in Kemba Walker leaves the previous off season but the young Hornets in this post Kemba era can really play.
Of the top 4 scorers for the Hornets this season, one was a rookie (PJ Washington) and the other 2 (Miles Bridges and DeVonte’ Graham) were only in their 2nd year in the league. Graham led the team in scoring with 18.2 points per game. Truly a remarkable stat when you consider, Graham was a 2nd round pick in 2018 NBA Draft. He will be up for the discussion of NBA’s most improved player.
“Given the opportunity I had this year without Kemba and Tony (Parker), I just tried to make the most of it,” said Graham. “My teammates being who they are and pushing me, got me to be in that conversation. It’s a blessing.”
The Hornets finished the year 23-42, but that is not indicative to how this team was performing down the stretch of the season. They finished off the year winning 2 of their last 3 games including the last game of the season when they went down to Miami and beat the 4th best team in the East in the Heat. But finishing strong at the end of the season was not the only thing they did well. They finished strong in close games as well when they happen to get in tightly contested games that came down to the final seconds.
“We played the 12th most clutch games in the NBA and won the most one possession games in the NBA," said head coach James Borrego. “That was one of the areas I was most surprised about.”
Need more proof? They were 3rd in offensive efficiency in close games. They were first in effective field goal percentage in close games. They were first in three point percentage in clutch games. Yes, this young team was showing that they could get it done when it was nail biting time.
That’s the plus and here is the negative.
The Hornets had too many games where things got away from them. To go to the next level, they need to clean that up.
How do they get better? The team will have 3 draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and could have close to $20 million dollars in salary cap space. The plan is not to splurge on a big name free agent, but they don’t shy away from the fact that eventually, they may need to get that supreme superstar talent to take them on a deep playoff run and perhaps a championship. But the young talent must also continue to improve as well.
“A franchise player would be amazing, but I feel like we got good pieces already,” said Graham. “Even though we didn’t make this tournament, we can’t just take these next 5 to 6 months off. We have to work towards how we want our future to be. If we want to be a winning organization, it’s going to start with the pieces we already have.”
“There’s a hunger and a desire,” said coach Borrego. “This group wants to get better. They don’t want to go on vacation. They don’t want to be away from each other. They want to be back together playing and competing.”