Before the 2020-21 NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets were an afterthought in the Eastern Conference. Now, thanks to strong play from LaMelo Ball and others, the Hornets are pushing into the Eastern Conference playoff chase. How are they doing it?
LaMelo Ball Has Lived Up to the Hype
The Charlotte Hornets broke news, and the internet, when they drafted LaMelo Ball with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. But Ball has lived up to the hype so far. The sixth man for the Hornets is averaging over 12ppg. He has also demonstrated the patented flashy passes the Ball family is known for:
Ball is also the youngest player to record a triple-double in NBA history, but who’s counting?
He has solidified an already solid backcourt for the Hornets. They have been starting Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham, who are proving their breakout years with the Hornets were not flukes.
Gordon Hayward has been an extremely quiet contributor for the Hornets this season. Hayward is up for career-highs in points per game and shooting from the field and three-point line.
Same Guy, New Game For Malik Monk
Perhaps the most underrated player on the Hornets this year has been Malik Monk. He has struggled with COVID-19 in more ways than one. Monk’s grandmother passed away the same day Monk tested positive. Despite his grieving and lack of consistent availability, Monk continues to give the Hornets an added layer of complexity to their offensive attack.
Despite playing nearly five fewer minutes per game, Monk is averaging nearly as many points per game as he did last season, with 10. The real emergence in Monk’s game has come from his lethal shooting from behind the three-point line. The sample size may be small (eight games) but Monk’s 54.5% from three-point range is nothing to gloss over. The shooting percentage may be unsustainable, but Monk provides another shooter who can spread the floor for the Hornets off the bench.