Charlotte Hornets Exceeding Expectations This Season

It is no secret that the Charlotte Hornets have not been a great team over the past several seasons. In fact, they’ve finished no better than ninth in the eastern conference standings over the last four years.

Not only have the Hornets failed to make it to the playoffs during that stretch, but they’ve also won no more than 39 games, either. This includes a 23-42 record last season.

Taking those factors into consideration, the Hornets weren’t expected to be in the mix for a playoff berth, and with good reason. However, following a 123-111 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on March 1, the Hornets have been on a roll as of late.

The Charlotte Hornets are one of the surprise teams in the East this season.

They followed up that defeat with a 135-102 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then, the Hornets went on to knock off the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, and the Sacramento Kings, pushing their winning streak to four games. This marks the first time they’ve won four consecutive games since early January.

The Hornets have improved their offense

The Hornets don’t exactly strike fear in the heart of their opponents from a defensive standpoint. They rank 21st in points allowed (112.7 points per contest) and they’re 17th in defensive efficiency. But one of the reasons why the Hornets are enjoying some early success is because they turned it up a notch on the offensive end.

Charlotte is currently ranked 14th in scoring (112.8 points) and 15th in offensive efficiency (112.4 points per 100 possessions). These numbers may sound mediocre on the surface. But when you consider the fact that the Hornets finished 27th and 30th in these categories last season, the improvement on that end of the floor should not be quickly dismissed.

Given the improvement from an offensive standpoint, one would expect that the uptick in scoring would be a result of multiple players stepping up their respective games, and that is certainly the case in this scenario.

Gordon Hayward is among several players providing Charlotte with some scoring punch

Let’s start with Gordon Hayward. Last season, Hayward played in just 52 games. This season, he is the Hornets’ leading scorer, averaging 21.1 points per contest on shooting splits of .484/.410/.870. The last occurrence in which Hayward averaged more than 20 points per outing was in 2016-17. That was his last season with the Utah Jazz.

Terry Rozier is another name that cannot be overlooked in the equation. Rozier was a double-digit scorer just once during his first four seasons in the association. Last season was his first in a Hornets uniform and he put up 18 points per outing. But he did so on a pedestrian 42.3% shooting from the field. This season, Rozier is averaging a career-best 20.4 points per contest. Additionally, he is shooting 48.4% from the floor and 43% from beyond the arc. When the Hornets acquired Rozier via a sign-and-trade with the Celtics in 2019, his three-year, $58 million deal seemed to be a pretty hefty contract, considering they were losing Kemba Walker. Based on how Rozier has played this season, that should no longer be the case.

Last, but not least, it’s time to give a shoutout to the rookie: LaMelo Ball. The Hornets took Ball with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. And while this decision was not well received in some media circles, his production has been pretty solid. He is Charlotte’s third-leading scorer with 15.8 points per contest. He is also averaging six rebounds and a team-high 6.3 assists per contest. Let’s also remember that he is knocking down 38.1% of his attempts from the 3-point line and he leads the Hornets in steals with 1.6 per game.

All of these factors have helped the Hornets move into a tie for the fifth spot in the conference standings. Given how poorly they have played over the past few years, this was not a given coming into this season. Here’s to hoping they’ll be able to sustain their early success during the second half of the season.

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