The 2020 – 2021 NBA season had a lot of teams that can be considered as “surprising,” maybe even “disappointing.” When as NBA fans look at teams this season who exceeded expectations, look no further than the Charlotte Hornets. A team who in the preseason, nobody thought that the Hornets would even smell the playoffs, possibly a high lottery pick similar to the situation last year. The Charlotte Hornets were widely considered as one of this season’s surprising NBA teams.
The Charlotte Hornets finished the season 33-39, an 11-win increase from the 2019-20 season and made an appearance in the NBA play-in tournament. There is a bright future in Buzz City and this season could be the starting point to future success. Here are the three reasons why the 2020 – 2021 Charlotte Hornets went from Unwatchable to Must-See TV.
Reason 1: Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball
The Golden State Warriors are probably thinking, how did they mess up by passing up on LaMelo Ball? The old saying works with this situation “One man’s loss is another man’s gain”. LaMelo was drafted 3rd overall by Charlotte and the rest was history.
The front-runner for Rookie of the Year was the spark plug that ignited the Hornets this season. Ever since his debut on December 23rd, LaMelo has been a breath of fresh air for this Charlotte team. Ball’s highlight reel plays and high basketball IQ have been pieces of brilliance for Charlotte and he has enjoyed some success along the way. Among rookies, LaMelo Ball is 3rd in points per game, 1st in assists and steals per game, and 2nd in total rebounds per game. With the Charlotte Hornets, LaMelo is 3rd on the team in points per game (15.7), lead the team in assists (6.1) and steals (1.6). With LaMelo in the lineup, the Hornets were 23 – 28, and 10 – 11 without him.
Reason 2: The Play of Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier
On November 20th, the Charlotte Hornets acquired former Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade. NBA Experts said even before he made his first appearance with the Hornets, were calling it one of the “worst free agency signings in NBA history”. When Hayward was healthy, he exceeded all expectations and became that veteran presence, averaging 19.6 ppg and increasing his 3pt percentage from 38.3 to 41.5.
Another player who made a difference for the Charlotte Hornets this season was G Terry Rozier. The former Louisville standout made his second year in Charlotte worth it. Rozier had career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals, also with players like LaMelo, Gordon, Malik Monk, and PJ Washington spending time on the injury report, Rozier stepped up his game to a new level in keeping the Hornets afloat in the Eastern Conference.
Reason 3: Role Players Putting in Work
This season, the Charlotte Hornets were fortunate enough to have several players breakout and increase their roles on the team. Miles Bridges, the resident dunker on the team improved his field goal, three-point and free throw percentages while giving out highlight reel dunks on a nightly basis. Malik Monk, who was in trade talks as the season went on, went on to improve his points per game average from 10.3 to 11.7 and had several games, especially against Miami where he dropped 40 points or more.
Devonte’ Graham also had another decent season, picking up where he left off from last season, even though his role changed, he played a critical role off the bench alongside PJ Washington. Players like Jalen McDaniels, Caleb and Cody Martin, and Brad Wanamaker were other players that came off the bench at key points of the season and made an impact.
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