2017-2018 Charlotte Hornets Preview: It’s Playoffs Or Bust In A Weak East

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2016-17 Record: 36-46 (11th in The East)

Players Added: Dwight Howard (Trade With ATL), Malik Monk (Draft), Dwayne Bacon (Draft), Michael Carter-Williams (FA)

Players Lost: Marco Belenelli (Trade With ATL), Miles Plumlee (Trade with ATL), Briante Weber (FA), Ramon Sessions (FA), Christian Wood (FA)

Projected Team MVP: Kemba Walker

It’s not hard to predict that the Hornets season will only go as far as Kemba Walker takes them offensively. The spark plug to the Hornets offense had a career season averaging 23 points per game and shooting just a whisker under 40 percent from beyond the arc. Walker will have to replicate at least his proficient distance shooting to unclog the paint for new addition Dwight Howard, who will have a role similar to what Al Jefferson had two years ago in Charlotte.

Team X-Factor: The Second Unit

Two years ago when the Hornets won 48 games, they did it with not only a good starting five but they also had quality like Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin spearheading the attack off the bench. This unit did a great job in taking the scoring load off the starters, in particular Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. Last year, that wasn’t the case as the second unit struggled to provide quality minutes, especially when Cody Zeller was out and Frank Kaminsky was forced into a starting role.

This year’s version of the bench should pack a similar punch with Zeller anchoring the defense and hopefully rookie Malik Monk doing his best Lou Williams impression off of the bench. Kaminsky has shown flashes that he can be a competent scorer at the NBA level and create mismatches in the pick and roll, this bench could be strong offensively if things break right.

Best Case Scenario: If things go right for the Hornets, they could find themselves in the second round of the playoffs. The Hornets will need to get All-Star caliber play out of Walker once again, as well as seeing Zeller, Kaminsky, and others continue to develop. This scenario also includes everyone in the locker room getting along with Dwight Howard on top of getting at least 65 games out of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwight Howard, and Cody Zeller.

It also requires rookie Malik Monk to be an impact player from the get go by playing just enough team defense to maintain a presence on the floor to provide necessary distance shooting for the bench unit and this finally may be the year that Jeremy Lamb figures it all out (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). In a down year for a number of the normal middling Eastern Conference squads, it’s not out of the question to think this Charlotte team could find themselves with a middle seed in the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: It all comes down to health, and in the worst case scenario health is what will likely decimate this team. Starting with Malik Monk and his ankle injury in the summer putting him behind in the class room to where you won’t see him finally start to “get it” until late in the season if at all.

Cody Zeller missed 20 games last season and it dramatically killed whatever chances the Hornets had at making the playoffs, especially when the depth was a shallow as your average kiddie pool. Moreover, Kemba Walker is coming off some offseason cleanup on his knee for the third straight year. There are some red flags when it comes to the Charlotte Hornets and the issue of health.

But if health derails this team, and this team finishes with less than enough wins to make the playoffs. Expect changes in either the front office (GM Rich Cho is in the final year of his contract) and possibly the coaching staff as there is a mandate to make the playoffs in Charlotte. But the worst case scenario isn’t all bad, if things go to pot quickly, the internet will find a way to rehash all the Crying Jordan meme’s and that’s never a bad thing.