The rejuvenated 2017-18 Hornets look to open the first week of real basketball off right. After missing out on the playoffs in the 2016-17 campaign, the Hornets re-tooled this offseason in hopes of bringing post-season basketball to Charlotte.
Rich Cho made decisions this offseason to help correct the downfalls that plagued this team. Late-game execution, lack of shooting, and perimeter defense were all atop the list of needs in Buzz City. Charlotte hopes that by adding Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, and Michael Carter-Williams this offseason, that these issues can be shored up.
Howard, still at his age, can protect the rim and alter shots. Now, having him out there in crunch-time will be hard to fathom with his free-throw liability, but he will certainly help the perimeter defense. He will allow individual defenders to feel more comfortable with a true rim-protector behind them. In theory, there should also be less “help” situations needed with a player like him in the paint — leading to less open looks from behind the arc. Monk fell to Hornets at the 11th spot in the draft, and the debate couldn’t have been a long one. Monk, one of the best pure shooters in this year’s draft class, fills a void that is greatly needed. He will open a lot of new avenues on the offensive end of the court and we should see new looks when he’s on the court. Carter-Williams is a solid back-up point who, despite his injury concerns, will be an upgrade from Sessions.
Considering the tight cap situation, this offseason couldn’t have worked out much better. We are all now looking forward to a successful season and the Hornets very well could get off to a 2-0 start, even in the absence of Batum.
@ Detroit, 7:00 pm ET — Wednesday, October 18
Matchup: Charlotte opens the season against a team that they should be battling for a 5-8 seed in the East.
The Detroit Pistons and Hornets share plenty commonalities — makes sense with the Clifford and Van Gundy connection. Both teams pride themselves on defense and making smart, calculated moves on offense — both were top 3 in turnovers per game.
As cliché as it sounds, this game will come down to which team executes and makes the least amount of costly errors. This is likely to be a grind-it-out game that could come down to the last 5 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see who is on the court for those crunch-time minutes — I suspect Monk will be one of the five.
(Listen below to the latest Buzz Beat. Among other things, we preview the Detroit game)
Key Stat: Three Point Defense. The one issue that Charlotte had against these Pistons, and really most teams, last season, was defending the three-point line. Pistons struggled to shoot the ball from behind the arc last season. Detroit attempted 23 three-pointers per game and converted only 33% — bottom 5 in the NBA. We saw, in Detroit’s three wins over Charlotte last season, both of those numbers go up. In one Detroit win, they attempted a season-high 37 three-pointers and converted 41%.
For a team that scored a NBA’s best, 64% of their points from inside the arc, Charlotte sure allowed them to get loose from deep. If that happens again, it should spell doom for the road team on opening night.
vs. Atlanta, 7:00 pm ET — Friday, October 20
Matchup: The Atlanta Hawks have gone from a playoff team in 2016-17 to a team that is looking to rebuild for the future. It’s games like these that the Hornets should comfortably win but often find themselves in a dog-fight. You can’t overlook the Hawks, but if Charlotte comes out with the right mindset, this team will be overmatched.
The Hawks weren’t world-beaters when it came to scoring the basketball last season, and that was with players like Millsap and Howard. Now, the onus is on Schroder and Bazemore to come out and produce while being surrounded by lesser talent. Though teams in Atlanta’s situation can come out playing looser than their opponents, the lack of experience will ultimately do them in more often than not.
Key Stat: Turnovers. You have to make the most of your opportunities when turning the opposition over. Atlanta was in the bottom-five in protecting the ball last season and Schroder was Atlanta’s biggest culprit. With more eyes on the 4th-year point guard this season, you can expect Charlotte to force his hand.
On the other end, Charlotte, if they play Clifford-ball, will treasure the basketball. For the most part, the Hornets did a great job of doing this and will go a long way in keeping this team successful. Charlotte is coming off a preseason finale vs. the Mavericks in which they turned the ball over 21 times. Plain and simple, you can’t give a team that is outclassed more opportunities than you — a recipe for a close game.