The opening round of the play-in games saw some great, competitive games, but one of those was not between the Hawks and the Hornets. Atlanta smoked LaMelo Ball and the young group, winning 132-103.
This marks the second straight year Charlotte lost in the play-in game in blowout fashion, losing by 27 in 2021. LaMelo Ball, the team’s star player, looked awful in both matchups, shooting under 30% from the court and a combined -48 +/-.
So the question is asked: can this Hornets team become a real threat in the eastern conference? With this current roster, certainly not. But what does this franchise have to do to rise back into relevancy?
LaMelo Ball is Fine
No player had more disappointing play-in games than LaMelo Ball the past two seasons. Both times the stage was too bright for the 2020 rookie of the year, and the team suffered because of this.
Ball shot 7/25 in Charlotte’s loss on Tuesday, with many of his points accumulated in garbage time. Despite these inexcusable, embarrassing statlines, there is no need to worry about this Ball brother.
Ball is still developing as a scorer, but already is proven to be a top-tier playmaker. His passing is a major reason why the Hornets have a top-half offense in the NBA, but he can only do so much. The role players on Charlotte have not stepped up in important games, especially on the defensive end. Key supporting pieces such as Gordon Hayward can not stay healthy, and the ones who are available remain inconsistent.
Do Not Re-Sign Miles Bridges
It was a contract year for one of the brightest young stars in Charlotte, and Miles Bridges made a case to receive maximum dollars this offseason. It was reported that Bridges is looking for a 170 million dollar contract after averaging 20 points per game in 2021.
Despite Bridges’ potentially bright future, I do not believe this is an effective long-term investment for the Hornets. If Charlotte commits to the near all-star, they will not be able to build many more pieces around franchise guard LaMelo Ball. Bridges will never develop to the level of a second-best player on a championship team, and the Hornets have gone nowhere fast with him in that role to this point.
Recruit Zion Williamson
If the addition of any available player can turn the trajectory of this franchise around, it is 2019 first overall pick Zion Williamson. The human highlight reel missed the entire 2021 season due to nagging injuries, and there are reports of the star wanting to get out of New Orleans.
While Charlotte is not exactly the big-market city that would best best for building Zion’s brand, there are plenty of aspects to this team that makes him a perfect fit. I fill with excitement just imagining LaMelo-to-Zion alley oop plays in transition, as the two are a match made in heaven on the hardwood.
Williamson also already has a deal with the Jordan brand, so joining the team the G.O.A.T. owns can be a beneficial business decision. Pairing two young, media-magnet superstars is the exact thing that can put Charlotte on the NBA map and takeover televisions across America.
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