It was supposed to be a long season in Charlotte and it still might be. The Hornets were projected as the NBA’s worst team by many (including the good folks in Las Vegas) and, with Kemba Walker out the door, the franchise is certainly in a transition phase. Making matters uglier, Charlotte isn’t exactly set up for the traditional rebuild from a financial perspective and the team made a controversial move when investing nearly $60 million in Terry Rozier as the replacement of a franchise icon.
After six games, though, things haven’t been as hideous as advertised and the Hornets are actually sporting a 3-3 record. Charlotte is still near the bottom of the league in net rating (-7.1 points per 100 possessions) but, after a pair of road wins, there is some level of optimism surrounding the team.
Beating the short-handed Warriors doesn’t inspire much wonder but Charlotte’s wins over Chicago and Sacramento were a bit more encouraging. Rookie P.J. Washington is off to a strong start, producing with efficiency and operating well on both ends, and Rozier has played fairly well, albeit in an overstated role. Elsewhere, Devonte’ Graham is playing the best basketball of his career and, top to bottom, it isn’t as if the Hornets don’t have some competent role players to plug in.
Of course, the real problem in Charlotte is a stark lack of high-end talent and, unfortunately, nothing about the opening weeks of the season will dissuade anyone from that concern. Still, there is reason to believe that the Hornets won’t be terrible defensively and, if the offense can simply maintain its level from the early going, they can avoid being the disaster so many expected them to be this year.
Where do the Hornets stack up in this week’s DIME power rankings? Let’s explore.
1. LA Clippers (5-2, Last week — 1st)
The Clippers did lose this week but the defeat came without Kawhi Leonard on the floor. Then, L.A. quickly avenged that loss by topping the Jazz at home and, for me, keeping them at No. 1 is a relatively easy decision.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (5-1, Last week — 5th)
Friday’s overtime win over Dallas wasn’t easy but it ended in positive fashion for the Lakers. That leads LeBron and company to the No. 2 spot this week, with five straight victories since the season-opening loss to the Clippers. Isn’t it fitting that these two would be sitting at the top?
3. Milwaukee Bucks (5-2, Last week — 2nd)
I’m not exactly sure what happened in the second half in Boston on Wednesday. That was a weird result, with the Bucks absolutely imploding on the way to a double-digit loss. If we toss that out the window, Milwaukee looks like Milwaukee. Let’s ere on that side of things.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (5-1, Last week — 4th)
The Sixers were only a few possessions away from the No. 1 spot this week, but the NBA’s final undefeated went down in Phoenix. Joel Embiid was suspended for the game but Al Horford (32 points!) went crazy and Philly almost won anyway. This is a good basketball team.