Through four games, the Charlotte Hornets are averaging 108.7 points per game, with six players averaging double-figures.
Four games into the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Hornets are 1-3 and in the midst of what many see as a rebuilding phase. Charlotte opened the season with an exciting win at home against the Chicago Bulls, but the team has fallen flat in the second halves of each of the past three contests. Early results haven’t been all bad, however, as six Hornets are averaging double-figures, with each averaging 12.5 points or better.
The youth movement is in full effect for James Borrego’s squad.
Entering the season, head coach James Borrego made it clear that this year will be all about developing the team’s young players. So far he’s been true to his word. Of the Hornets’ regular starting lineup, Cody Zeller is the old man of the group at just 27 years old, and no other player is older than 25. Of the six players averaging double-figures, the average age is 23.7.
Perhaps the most exciting young development through the Hornets’ first four games is that of rookie forward PJ Washington. Following the draft, there was talk that he could actually spend some time in the G-League this year. Not only did Washington avoid a G-League assignment to begin the season, he also earned a spot in the Opening Night starting lineup, and broke the NBA record for most threes in a player’s debut, as well as set the franchise record for most points in a player’s debut. Up to this point, Washington is averaging a solid 14.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The more he plays, the more it looks like Charlotte may have gotten a steal with the 12th pick.
Other youngsters that have been big contributors thus far include Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham. There were high expectations for Bridges in his second year, however, Graham’s success has been a bit of a pleasant surprise for Charlotte. Bridges ranks third on the team in points per game with 14.0, but consistency has been his problem through the first four games. He has twice scored 17+ points, but in the other two games, he has failed to score more than 8.
Graham on the other hand, has possibly been the Hornets’ most impressive player so far. He leads the team with 17.5 points per game while shooting 43.8% from the field and a stellar 53.6% from deep. Graham has also proven to be a skilled passer as well, leading the team with 7.2 assists per game. To make those numbers stand out even more, he has garnered that type of production in less than 30 minutes per game.
Charlotte has replaced Kemba Walker’s scoring by committee.
As mentioned earlier, there are six Hornets who are currently averaging double-digit point totals. Charlotte had four last season, and hasn’t had six since the 2016-2017 season–Walker’s first All-Star campaign. This isn’t to suggest that Walker was taking up too many shots–he was Charlotte’s best player–however, it became clear that he was the team’s only consistent, high-volume scoring option. Losing him certainly hurts the franchise, yet the explosion of youth has already been positive. Washington has emerged as a ROTY candidate, Graham has earned a chance to shine, and players like Bridges and Dwayne Bacon have gotten opportunities to grow and develop.
The eighth-seed once seemed unattainable for the Hornets, and still may be unlikely, however, as the schedule lightens and the youngsters continue to improve, who knows, there may just be a playoff push in Charlotte come April.