Charlotte Hornets 2018-19 Depth Chart and Team Outlook

As a chronic pessimist when it comes to the Charlotte Hornets chase for mediocrity, something about the 2018/19 Hornets is giving us all something we haven’t felt in a long time - hope.

Change is always good, right? We’ve brought on a new general manager and hired a head coach with a vastly different coaching style. We decided to stop drafting unathletic seven-footers and have instead chosen players with real potential in the past two drafts.  The Hornets are even bringing back our old uni’s and courts, which I’m 100% for keeping permanently. And let us not forget, we brought Biz back! Looking at our depth chart, we may be as deep as we’ve ever been since the Bobcats/new-Hornets generation:

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Kemba Walker Jeremy Lamb Nicolas Batum Marvin Williams Cody Zeller
Tony Parker Malik Monk Miles Bridges Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Frank Kaminsky
  Dwayne Bacon   Willy Hernangomez Bismack Biyombo

The Borrego era may come to be known as the era of change in Charlotte, and with that comes new factors to watch for this coming season.

Bench Play

Coach James Borrego said in practice that he wants our bench to not only be able to maintain a lead, but also get us back into games when needed.  Last year, the Hornets lost 13 games within five points or less - having a sound second unit will help us close this gap. After the last two drafts and free agent signings, we now have formidable subs to help out our starters.  

We’ve tried our hand at several different back-ups for Kemba Walker since he’s solidified his spot as the starting PG, but we haven’t had anyone secure that role.  Since Walker has been the starting PG for the Hornets (2012-13), Charlotte has run through eight different back-ups, the most successful being Ramon Sessions and the most disappointing (this is an understatement) being Michael Carter-Williams. With Tony Parker, who comes in with some gas left in the tank, the Hornets now have a proven leader taking the ball up the court for the second unit. Parker’s experience and leadership may also help with rookie Devonte Graham’s development, who showed flashes of talent during the preseason and could possibly become a long-term solution to our second unit PG issue.

At SG and SF, we have players who can bring both instant offense and instant defense.  Malik Monk (SG) and Miles Bridges (SF) are both capable scorers from anywhere on the court.  Monk struggled a bit last year with his shot (34% from 3PT) but has proved in college, summer league and preseason that he is still a threat from long range.  Bridges, who skipped out on being a lottery pick last year, is a bigger body who can both shoot and force his way into the paint.  Based on body type and skillset, Bridges could be compared to Tobias Harris and has a ceiling of, dare I say, Carmelo Anthony. Call it a stretch, but wishful thinking has kept me and many other Charlotte fans around for this long.  With a bigger lineup, MKG or Dwayne Bacon could also come in and bring in more defense to protect leads at the end of quarters.

MKG will likely be playing more backup PF this season which may work out in our favor.  With Monk and/or Bridges in the game, MKG can come in and take on the role of guarding the opposing team’s best player while others can focus more energy on offense.  Willy Hernangomez will also likely be used at PF for his above-average post play and capability in three-point range when mounting a comeback. Kaminsky, who is in a crucial year, will likely be playing a mix of PF and C for scoring opportunities but Borrego can also spell Biz, our favorite Congolese Bobcat/Hornet, for defense.  For the first time in a long time, and possibly ever, our bench may come out to be our biggest strength this year.

Contract Years

The elephant in the room: what will happen with Kemba Walker at the end of this season?  Kemba, being an unrestricted free agent next summer and deserving of a max contract, has stated repeatedly that he wants to retire a Hornet and our management has made it clear that he is the cornerstone of our franchise.  However, as we know from the past few summers, words are just words and at the end of the day, players do what’s best for them. Due to this, the Hornets need to have a good season or at least show promise for Kemba to stay.  Having another 36-46 season may be enough for Kemba to lose his QC fever. Jeremy Lamb, who came off his best year last season at 26 years old, will also be a UFA next summer. Borrego is high on Lamb and is likely to start for the Hornets at SG this season.  Given the extra minutes and the stakes of a contract year, Lamb is slated to have a strong year. If so, the Hornets may have to pay up to keep the young talent in his prime. On the other hand, if Malik Monk or Miles Bridges show out and prove their worth, Lamb (and Batum’s) role could be up for grabs.

A New Beginning: Coach James Borrego

James Borrego, a Gregg Popovich disciple, has been coaching in the league for the past fifteen years including time as an interim head coach with the Orlando Magic in 2015.  As mentioned by my fellow Hornets blogger Quinn Pilkey, Borrego will be emphasizing a much faster pace of offense than what we are used to seeing with former coach Steve Clifford.  We got a taste of this style of offense in the preseason and we’ve seen Borrego allow others players to take the ball up court to keep this high pace. We saw the likes of Lamb, Batum, and Monk at some point take the ball up the court during the preseason and will likely transfer into the regular season.  This change in pace may help bring out the best in Nic Batum, who has been largely underwhelming after signing a max contract two years ago. Batum may be able to better showcase his skill as an all-around offensive player with the emphasis on player movement Borrego has implemented.

This is the most exciting Bobcats/new Hornets team ever

Other than Kemba Walker, we haven’t had many players to get excited over during the Bobcats/new Hornets era. Gerald Wallace, my personal favorite Charlotte player of all time, was an absolute highlight reel during his golden ages. Gerald Henderson also had his fair share of highlights during his days in Charlotte, but we also had some terrible teams with him being our first/second best player. Drafting tall, unathletic 7 footers haven’t necessarily helped our cause either.

If there was an award for best preseason highlights, Miles Bridges is an easy winner.  Bridges showed several flashes of his ability to jump out of the gym from any part of the court.  From putbacks to alleys, Bridges showed off his new found spryness during the preseason after losing about 20 pounds over the summer.  Malik Monk also continued to show off us an array of crossovers and step-back three’s as seen against the Bulls:

Jeremy Lamb is also destined to come out of nowhere every so often and have a major slam to bring the crowd to their feet.  And of course, last but not least, let us not forget who the king of step-backs is in this league: Kemba Walker.

Season Outlook

No, Charlotte won’t be a top 3 seed in the East, but there is enough change in this organization to become at least enticed with what the Hornets have to offer this season.  The group of players along with with the uptempo pace Borrego brings will at minimum be refreshing from the past few seasons and at most, a playoff run that goes further than the first round.

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