• The Charlotte Hornets were an up-and-coming young team that made the Play-In game the last two years but finished 22-23 with the fourth-worst record in the league. What happened? With the offseason turmoil of last year’s leading scorer, Miles Bridges, and superstar guard LaMelo Ball dealing with ankle issues all season, the Hornets kept their focus on the future and will have the fourth-best odds of landing Victor Wembanyama in this year’s draft. General Manager Mitch Kupchak has already stated that the Hornets won’t go “big game hunting” in the offseason even though they’re top-10 in the league in terms of available spending money, signaling that they’re keeping cash to re-sign some of their current players. But will they want to stay? The Hornets took one large step back in their team’s development but will need to take two bigger steps forward in 2023-24 if they want to keep LaMelo on the team beyond his rookie contract and fans happy with the direction of the squad.

    How’d It Go?

    After a tumultuous offseason, the Hornets were conveniently complacent in their mediocrity this season. In some ways, Steve Clifford was given a free year to develop his young players, break bad habits on defense and stay out of the hot seat because expectations were so low. Like many teams this year, some coaching and personnel decisions appeared to undermine any chance of winning basketball games. So given all the context and the guaranteed top-8 lottery pick this year, I guess we can say mission accomplished?

    Once the season started, the only drama that the Hornets dealt with were the injuries that plagued them all year. Collectively, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre sat out 131 games out of a possible 328. In a normal year in which the Hornets had a chance to compete, maybe some of these guys would have been able to come back sooner, but it was tough to be a Hornets fan this season. Even at the trade deadline, the front office was only able to bring back two second-round picks and a couple of role players from playoff teams in exchange for Jalen McDaniels and Mason Plumlee, who both had career years. Given the second-round pick inflation this season, this just wasn’t enough for Hornets fans who wanted something to cheer for.

    In the regular season, the Hornets were in the bottom five for points scored, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage. They were one of the most inefficient offensive teams in the league and it’s hard to find many positives to take from those numbers other than the fact that they weren’t full strength and are still a young team. On the defensive side of the ball, they did make strides in the second half of the season. By the end of March, the Hornets had the best defensive rating since the All-Star break. Mark Williams became an impactful rim protector once he started to get playing time and Dennis Smith Jr. became one of the best guard defenders in the NBA on a per-minute basis. For a defensive-minded coach, there was some positive growth for a young team towards the end of the season.


    Last offseason, the Hornets made the move to rehire Steve Clifford, the coach they fired four years prior. The hire happened on the heels of Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson abruptly turning down the job after accepting it due to family reasons. The front office turned to a familiar face in Clifford, who coached the Hornets for five seasons from 2013 to 2018, leading them to two playoff births and a 196-214 record.

    In any normal year, a first-year coach who tanks his team’s record by 16 wins would find themselves in the hot seat, but Clifford’s previous relationship with the Hornets and the team’s extenuating circumstances have kept his job secure for now. Just days after getting rehired, news broke that then-leading scorer, Miles Bridges, was arrested in LA for felony domestic violence and he didn’t play a single game all year. Injuries also plagued this team all season, so Clifford is not completely to blame for the Hornets being one of the most inefficient offensive teams in the league. Still, Clifford’s leadership on the defensive side of the ball was supposed to be a stabilizing force, yet they were in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency.

    Were the Hornets dialing it in all season in hopes of landing a high lottery pick? The fact that Kupchak has no intention of making a head coach change would indicate as much. But if Michael Jordan were to sell a portion of his stake with the team, there “remains potential for a new ownership structure to oversee staffing changes, and Clifford’s short-term contract would present little obstacle for fresh Hornets leadership to pick a new play caller of its choosing,” according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

    We’ll likely see Clifford at the helm next year, but it’s a make-or-break moment for the franchise. Will they re-sign Miles Bridges? Who will they draft with their top-8 guaranteed lottery pick? Can they put the pieces together next year to finally get out of the first round of the playoffs, a feat that Clifford has never accomplished? Only time will tell.

    The Players

    LaMelo Ball
    PG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 36 36 35.2 8.2 20.0 41.1 2.8 3.4 83.6 4.0 10.6 37.6 23.3 6.4 8.4 1.3 0.3 3.6
    21-22 CHA 75 75 32.2 7.2 16.7 42.9 2.8 3.2 87.2 2.9 7.5 38.9 20.1 6.7 7.6 1.6 0.4 3.3
    20-21 CHA 51 31 28.8 5.7 13.2 43.6 2.5 3.2 75.8 1.8 5.1 35.2 15.7 5.9 6.1 1.6 0.4 2.8

    ADP: 9/12 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 21/32 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 154/177 (8/9-cat)

    LaMelo Ball’s performance this past year is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of fantasy managers’ mouths, mine included. Expectations were sky-high on draft day as Melo got drafted ahead of the likes of Damian Lillard, Tyrese Haliburton and Anthony Davis, to name a few. But even before opening night, Ball’s year was derailed by ankle injuries that lingered all season. He missed his team’s first 13 games, only to come back for three games before injuring his ankle again and taking a seat on the bench for another 11 games, putting H2H owners in a deep hole. Then for the teams lucky enough to overcome his injury and make it to the fantasy playoffs, Ball got hurt again at the beginning of March to stick it to any manager who hoped to have him for a championship run. He’s going to start getting labeled as injury-prone after this year, which is understandable from an emotional perspective. But he is still just 21 years old, and do we not remember when a young Steph Curry had ankle problems at the beginning of his career? At least we’re not talking older-brother-Lonzo-knee-problems.

    Despite the injuries, there were some encouraging developments in Ball’s fantasy game when he played. The biggest statistical jump that he had this season was his 3-pointers made, going from 2.9 a season ago to 4.0 this season. Ball took 3.1 more 3-point attempts per game and only suffered a slight dip in his 3-point percentage, from an amazing 39% previous season to a still-great 38% clip this year. Melo also increased his assist rate from 7.6 to 8.4 assists per game, an encouraging sign from a young point guard in his third year. This is especially impressive given the step back in talent this Hornets team had on the court versus the previous season. Last but not least, he increased his scoring from 20.1 to 23.3 points per game due to a larger mandate for Ball to shoot the rock.

    For anyone drafting Ball next year, he’s unfortunately still going to have a sky-high draft cost though it should dip a little from this past season. The question will be whether or not he can stay healthy and increase his shooting efficiency for 2-pointers next year. Ball only shot 45% from inside the arc last year, and his 41% overall field goal percentage on 20 attempts per game made him one of the worst impact FG% players in the league. With better health and talent around him, the youngster should have plenty of opportunity to grow this facet of his game and take his next step closer to superstardom. Ball will be a restricted free agent in 2024, and despite his down year, the Hornets would be wise to lock him up for a long time as soon as possible.

    Terry Rozier
    PG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 63 63 35.3 7.8 18.9 41.5 2.8 3.5 80.9 2.6 8.0 32.7 21.1 4.1 5.1 1.2 0.3 2.1
    21-22 CHA 73 73 33.7 7.1 16.0 44.4 2.1 2.4 85.2 3.0 8.1 37.4 19.3 4.3 4.5 1.3 0.3 1.3
    20-21 CHA 69 69 34.5 7.4 16.4 45.0 2.4 2.9 81.7 3.2 8.3 38.9 20.4 4.4 4.2 1.3 0.4 1.9

    ADP: 57/48 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 78/97 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 93/104 (8/9-cat)

    After getting paid in the offseason, Rozier did his best to anchor this backcourt in a tough year. He was asked to take on more responsibility shooting and distributing the ball, leading to career-highs of 21.1 points and 5.1 assists per game. But it did come at the price of his efficiency, with Rozier posting his worst field goal percentage as a Hornet at 41%. Rozier’s 3-point shooting, in particular, took a nosedive to 33% on the year compared to 37% last season, largely due to the increase in attempts. With his volume of shooting, he was one of the worst impact FG% players in the league when he was out there.

    Rozier never really had much to play for this year so in a lot of ways this season could have been much worse. While he missed 19 games, he was shut down for the last eight games to really finalize the Hornets’ season tank. At age 29, he’s still in his prime and should be healthy to start next season with a more complete roster of teammates and some fresh new draft talent. If ever there were a season for a recently-paid NBA player to coast, this was the year, but Rozier was professional and brought energy to every game he played. He’s too much of a competitor to not bring his best to the court and with more at stake and higher expectations next season, “Scary Terry” could have his most frightful season yet.

    P.J. Washington
    PF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 73 73 32.6 5.9 13.4 44.4 1.7 2.4 73.0 2.0 5.9 34.8 15.7 4.9 2.4 0.9 1.1 1.5
    21-22 CHA 65 28 27.2 3.8 8.2 47.0 0.9 1.2 71.6 1.7 4.6 36.5 10.3 5.2 2.3 0.9 0.9 1.3
    20-21 CHA 64 61 30.5 4.7 10.7 44.0 1.7 2.3 74.5 1.8 4.5 38.6 12.9 6.5 2.5 1.1 1.2 2.0

    ADP: 113/98 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 108/98 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 81/76 (8/9-cat)

    As one of the few bright spots for the Hornets this year, Washington ended the season as the most valuable fantasy player on the roster, which isn’t necessarily saying much. Miles Bridges’ absence and the constant barrage of injuries elsewhere thrust P.J. into the starting lineup every night, and he was asked to take on an offensive load that last year, no one expected him to. He ended up posting a career-high 15.7 points and 2.0 threes in 32.6 minutes per game. Out of necessity for the team, Washington handled the ball and took more shots in isolation as one of the primary offensive options on the team. But when the team gets healthy and younger faces join the roster, will he still be called on offensively moving forward?

    Washington’s fantasy stat profile has always been appealing because of his ability to contribute across the board, but his fourth-year mini-breakout still left a lot to be desired. He only shot 44% from the field and 35% from deep compared to 47% and 37% last year. He also posted a career-low in rebounds despite playing more minutes than ever before. Those numbers are hard to stomach from your PF/C position.

    Washington is a restricted free agent in the offseason, so he’s likely to come back to the Hornets next year. He’s still an above-average defensive player that Steve Clifford values. While he’s almost definitely not going to have the same offensive usage as this past season, he’ll likely regain some efficiency shooting the ball to balance out his fantasy value overall. What happens with Bridges could have a major impact here as well.

    Kelly Oubre Jr.
    SF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 48 40 32.3 7.4 17.1 43.1 3.3 4.3 76.0 2.3 7.1 31.9 20.3 5.2 1.1 1.4 0.4 1.3
    21-22 CHA 76 12 26.3 5.4 12.3 44.0 1.7 2.5 66.7 2.5 7.3 34.5 15.0 4.0 1.1 1.0 0.4 0.9
    20-21 GS 55 50 30.7 5.8 13.2 43.9 2.2 3.2 69.5 1.6 5.2 31.6 15.4 6.0 1.3 1.0 0.8 1.3

    ADP: 140/160 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 129/146 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 139/165 (8/9-cat)

    In his second year as a Hornet, Oubre took on a bigger role in the offense when he was on the court. Oubre started the season on fire, putting up top-40 totals value and top-70 per game value for 9-cat in the first two months of the season. Much of this was buoyed by averaging 1.7 steals per game, his generally low turnover rate and increased usage on the offensive end. On the season, Oubre posted a career-high 20.3 points per game, and his free throws came back to a respectable 76% compared to 69.5% and 67% the previous two seasons. There was a lot to love about Oubre’s fantasy game this season, as he took full advantage of the opportunities presented to him by absences from Bridges, Ball and Gordon Hayward.

    But like many of his teammates, Oubre was sidelined at the end of December with a left hand injury and then at the end of the season with a shoulder injury, playing only 48 games on the year. It’s hard to know how conservative the team was with injury rehab in an obvious tank year but Oubre’s health will be a crucial factor in his free-agent negotiations over the summer. The arguments for bringing Oubre back next year are that the Hornets don’t have much depth of talent and Oubre has become a great veteran presence on a young team. But Oubre has never been a very efficient shooter, especially from deep, and he’s going to want to get paid after one of his best seasons. If the Hornets elect not to re-sign Miles Bridges, Oubre would need to be brought back because he’s shown his value on this team in Bridges’ absence, so we’ll see how this saga unfolds.

    Gordon Hayward
    SF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 50 50 31.5 5.5 11.6 47.5 2.6 3.2 81.1 1.0 3.2 32.5 14.7 4.3 4.1 0.8 0.2 2.0
    21-22 CHA 49 48 31.9 5.8 12.6 45.9 2.6 3.0 84.6 1.8 4.5 39.1 15.9 4.6 3.6 1.0 0.4 1.7
    20-21 CHA 44 44 34.0 7.1 15.0 47.3 3.5 4.2 84.3 1.9 4.7 41.5 19.6 5.9 4.1 1.2 0.3 2.1

    ADP: 121/111 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 132/155 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 188/208 (8/9-cat)

    The Hornets can’t wait to get out of this Hayward contract. After signing with the Hornets for $120 million in 2020, Hayward has averaged only 48 games played in three seasons and is turning 34 next year. This year was more of the same from Charlotte’s ‘superstar’ player when he posted his lowest average in points as a Hornet (14.7) and saw his 3-point accuracy drop from around 40% to 33% this season. His rebounding also continues to slide each year. You do have to question whether or not Hayward can even continue to play 30 minutes a game if they want to keep him healthy for a full season, making it hard to see Hayward drafted anywhere near the early rounds of fantasy drafts ever again.

    Hayward is by no means a bad player – he’s still got great vision and gets his own shot when he needs to. But because of how expensive and injury-prone he’s become at this stage in his career, he’s just not worth the cost in real-life or fantasy basketball leagues.

    Mark Williams
    C, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 44 17 18.8 3.6 5.7 63.7 1.5 2.2 69.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 8.8 6.9 0.4 0.6 1.0 0.9

    ADP: 140/140 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 151/127 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 241/225 (8/9-cat)

    Williams was drafted 15th overall as one of the most NBA-ready big men in the draft. So it was surprising to see him benched and sent to the Greensboro Swarm in favor of Nick Richards to start the season. But after torching the G League to the tune of 22.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 65% from the field in 28 minutes per game, the Hornets had no choice but to play this man.

    After getting the call in late December, Williams never looked back, posting an impressive 16.8 points,13.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes on 64% shooting. The rookie absolutely has a lot to clean up on the defensive end as he acclimates to the NBA, especially with his pick-and-roll defense. But he’s shown an ability to defend on the perimeter that traditional big men often lack, which Steve Clifford loves. In the last 18 games he played, starting in 17 of them, Williams averaged 11.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks on 63% shooting in 26.6 minutes per game. While his free throws will hurt your future fantasy teams, his low volume makes it possible to overcome if accounted for. His path to minutes should be cleared with the departure of Mason Plumlee unless Victor Wembanyama is drafted, which would create a logjam in the frontcourt. Still, Williams was one of the few bright spots for the Hornets in a tough season.

    Nick Richards
    C, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 65 9 18.7 3.0 4.8 62.9 2.1 2.8 74.9 0.0 0.0 100.0 8.2 6.4 0.6 0.2 1.1 0.9
    21-22 CHA 49 5 7.5 1.2 1.8 66.7 0.6 0.9 69.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.1 1.8 0.3 0.2 0.4 0.5
    20-21 CHA 18 3.5 0.2 0.5 44.4 0.4 0.6 63.6 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.8 0.6 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.2

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 207/197 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 195/189 (8/9-cat)

    Richards had a career year and looked poised to break out at the beginning of the season. While Mark Williams was in the G League for November and most of December, Richards served as Mason Plumlee’s primary backup and held his own with his physical style of play. His per 36-minute stats on the season were similar to Williams’ at 15.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 0.3 steals on 63% shooting. But he was better from the line, shooting 75%. The Jamaican big man just signed a three-year, $15 million contract extension in March, indicating that he’s in the team’s long-term plans. However, he’ll have to compete with a younger and more gifted Mark Williams for the starting center job, a battle that we’re betting Williams wins.

    Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 54 15 25.7 3.4 8.4 41.2 1.4 2.0 73.6 0.4 2.1 21.6 8.8 3.1 4.8 1.4 0.5 1.5
    21-22 POR 37 4 17.2 2.1 5.1 41.8 1.1 1.7 65.6 0.2 0.7 22.2 5.6 2.4 3.6 1.2 0.3 1.4
    20-21 DET 23 9 18.3 2.5 6.3 40.0 0.8 1.1 73.1 0.8 2.5 32.8 6.7 2.4 3.3 1.0 0.6 1.1

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 157/158 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 189/195 (8/9-cat)

    Smith was brought onto the team in the offseason along with Theo Maledon to backup LaMelo Ball, a move that ended up adding crucial depth in an injury-laden season for the Hornets. Smith was largely labeled a bust after failing to make an impact in Madison Square Garden and then failing to beat out journeyman Cory Joseph on a rebuilding Pistons team. Ending with Portland last year, Smith only played in 37 games and averaged a career-low 5.6 points per game. The Hornets decided to take a chance on the still-just 25-year-old, and they’re happy they did.

    Smith found himself thrust into a starting role early in the season when Ball and Terry Rozier went down with injuries and responded by posting 10.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.9 steals in 30.8 minutes per game on 44% shooting from the field. He also made a tangible impact with his perimeter defense and was a stabilizing presence for a team with one of the most tumultuous offseasons in recent memory. Did we mention that he’s still just 25 years old? The Hornets would be well served to bring him back next year to back up the oft-injured LaMelo.

    JT Thor
    PF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 70 8 13.9 1.4 3.4 39.9 0.5 0.7 70.2 0.6 1.8 31.7 3.7 2.2 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.6
    21-22 CHA 32 8.2 0.8 1.7 43.6 0.4 0.6 60.0 0.2 0.8 25.9 2.1 1.3 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.3

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 423/429 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 324/328 (8/9-cat)

    Thor has had anything but a smooth start to his NBA career. After getting traded on draft day, he spent much of the beginning of his rookie season in the G League, where he polished his game until getting called up to play a minor role off the bench for James Borrego. Then Borrego got fired and Thor had to start from the beginning again with a new head coach. But by the end of the season, the second-round pick impressed the defensive-minded Clifford with his consistent defensive effort. For fantasy purposes though, Thor’s counting stats didn’t really jump forward enough to put him on managers’ radars. While he played six more minutes per game, he averaged the same number of steals (0.2) and blocks (0.3) per game. He also took a step back in his field goal percentage, a dismal 40% from the field at the power forward position. The big man still has an uphill climb to earn meaningful rotation minutes in a deep Hornets frontcourt, but his work ethic and growth on the defensive end of the floor should endear him with coach Clifford and earn him a role with the team next year.

    Théo Maledon
    PG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 44 7 19.4 2.3 5.8 40.2 1.4 1.7 85.1 0.6 2.2 29.5 6.7 2.8 3.5 0.8 0.3 1.3
    21-22 OKC 51 7 17.8 2.3 6.2 37.5 1.5 2.0 79.0 0.9 2.9 29.3 7.1 2.6 2.2 0.6 0.2 1.3
    20-21 OKC 64 48 27.6 3.5 9.5 36.8 1.6 2.1 74.8 1.6 4.8 33.5 10.2 3.3 3.5 0.9 0.2 2.2

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 238/254 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 277/288 (8/9-cat)

    Maledon found himself with a bigger role this season than expected for a third-string point guard. He played in 35 of Charlotte’s first 37 games before getting phased out of the rotation shortly after LaMelo Ball returned to the lineup and then was thrust into a starting role for the last six games of the season where he averaged 14.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks on 41% field goal and 25% shooting from downtown. While the games didn’t count for much towards the end of the season, the Hornets were playing the Bulls, Raptors and Thunder, who were fighting for a Play-In tournament spot at the time. Still, the poor shooting efficiency and the revival of Dennis Smith Jr. do make Maledon more expendable this offseason, and I would not be surprised to see him on another roster next year.

    Bryce McGowens
    SG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 46 7 17.1 1.7 4.4 39.6 1.3 1.7 75.0 0.6 1.7 32.5 5.3 2.0 1.2 0.3 0.1 0.9

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 429/460 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 370/388 (8/9-cat)

    For a second-round pick, McGowens was able to work his way into the rotation pretty quickly. The rookie played only four games in the G League all season and started seven games, six towards the end of the season when veterans were shut down. In those six starts down the stretch, McGowens was aggressive, scoring 14.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 48% field goal and 36% from downtown. Those efficient scoring numbers are impressive for any rookie playing at the NBA level, even more so for a second-round pick. In the offseason, McGowens will have to improve on his outside shooting to help unlock the Hornets’ offense and establish himself as one of the first players off the bench. Given Charlotte’s lack of success this past year finding consistent scoring off their bench, McGowens may have been a steal at pick 40 and should remain a part of Charlotte’s future for the next few years.

    Kai Jones
    C, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 46 0 12.0 1.5 2.6 55.8 0.4 0.6 73.1 0.1 0.4 21.1 3.4 2.7 0.3 0.4 0.7 0.7
    21-22 CHA 21 3.0 0.4 0.7 64.3 0.1 0.4 37.5 0.0 0.1 50.0 1.0 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.3

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 357/358 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 335/334 (8/9-cat)

    Jones was always seen as a long-term player project, but given the position he plays, do the Hornets have time to wait for his development? After drafting Mark Williams and Nick Richards last year, the Hornets find themselves with a plethora of options at the center position, and Jones finds himself on the outside looking in. To complicate things, if the Hornets were to get the first overall pick in this year’s draft, they almost certainly will draft Victor Wembanyama and push Kai Jones to fourth on the depth chart. While Jones puts the energy in when given playing time and makes a difference as a rim protector, averaging 0.7 blocks per game in just 12 minutes per game, his inability to shoot threes and lack of offensive consistency simply make him an inferior option when compared to the other young talent in the frontcourt. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones get moved next season, as the Hornets don’t have time to wait for his development and have better options ahead of him that will get fed playing time first.

    James Bouknight
    SG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 34 0 15.1 2.0 5.7 35.8 0.6 0.9 66.7 1.0 3.2 30.3 5.6 2.1 1.2 0.4 0.1 0.9
    21-22 CHA 31 1 9.8 1.6 4.5 34.8 0.9 1.0 87.1 0.5 1.6 34.7 4.6 1.7 0.8 0.2 0.0 0.5

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 415/446 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 392/401 (8/9-cat)

    The former first-round pick never took the second-year leap forward that was expected of him. Instead, he added to the off-the-court issues for the Hornets just days before the start of the regular season when he was arrested for a DWI after being found intoxicated and unconscious at the wheel of his vehicle with a gun in hand. He was never punished by the team and played in the Hornets’ first 17 games. But he never showed Steve Clifford enough to make him a mainstay in the rotation. Bouknight did show some signs of life at the end of the season, scoring 22 and 21 points on consecutive nights, but his shot selection and 36% field goal percentage on the season had him end the campaign as 5th on the depth chart for point guard behind Theo Maledon and Kobi Simmons. The Hornets front office surely wants to blame Bouknight’s stunted development on former head coach James Borrego, but there are larger issues afoot here. Bouknight ended the season on a much more positive note than he started it, but he’ll need to prove that the off-court issues are behind him and develop more offensive consistency to get anywhere near the potential he represented on draft day.

    Svi Mykhailiuk
    SF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 32 8 14.6 2.4 5.4 44.5 0.8 1.2 66.7 1.3 3.1 42.4 6.9 1.7 1.7 0.5 0.1 0.8
    21-22 TOR 55 5 12.9 1.6 4.1 39.0 0.6 0.7 86.5 0.7 2.3 30.2 4.5 1.7 0.8 0.5 0.1 0.6
    20-21 OKC 66 14 20.1 3.2 7.7 41.1 0.6 0.8 76.0 1.6 4.8 33.4 8.5 2.5 1.7 0.8 0.2 1.3

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 348/355 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 366/366 (8/9-cat)

    The Ukrainian wing languished on the Knicks bench until he was traded to the Hornets in mid-February. There, he was used sparingly until Charlotte decided to full-on tank, giving Svi eight consecutive starts to end the season. In this stretch, he averaged 17.3 points, 44% FG, 79% FT, 2.9 triples, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals in 34 minutes per game, numbers valuable to just about any fantasy team. But did she show enough in limited starts to earn another contract with the Hornets? His stats suggest that he’s probably worth a look, but he’s unlikely to be anywhere near the starting lineup of an NBA team at the start of next season.

    Cody Martin
    SF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 7 0 19.1 2.0 5.1 38.9 0.6 1.0 57.1 0.4 2.0 21.4 5.0 3.4 1.6 0.6 0.1 0.3
    21-22 CHA 71 11 26.3 2.9 6.0 48.2 1.1 1.5 70.1 0.9 2.2 38.4 7.7 4.0 2.5 1.2 0.5 0.9
    20-21 CHA 52 10 16.3 1.6 3.6 44.1 0.5 0.8 58.1 0.3 1.1 27.6 4.0 3.1 1.7 0.7 0.2 0.8

    ADP: 141/160 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 385/360 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 472/469 (8/9-cat)

    Martin’s season was marred by injuries to his left quad and knee, limiting him to just seven games played in January. The other Martin brother was a valuable rotation player in 21-22 on his way to posting career-highs in pretty much every category, but just like his team, 22-23 was a big step back. Even though he’s already had a procedure on his left knee this year, he’s still without a timetable to return to the lineup. Knee injuries are hard to predict, even for young players like Martin. Just ask Lonzo Ball, who’s two years younger than him. Martin’s health is going to be the most important factor going into his 23-24 campaign though even if he’s fully healthy, he’s unlikely to be on many fantasy radars next year.

    Kobi Simmons
    PG, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 5 0 5.6 0.2 1.2 16.7 0.4 0.4 100.0 0.2 1.0 20.0 1.0 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.4 0.2
    19-20 CHA 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
    18-19 CLE 1 0 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 499/495 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 508/508 (8/9-cat)

    Simmons is the all-time points leader for the Hornets’ G League affiliate, where he’s averaged 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals across 98 contests. The former McDonald’s All-American was recently signed to a multiyear contract, signifying that the Hornets see potential in the undrafted point guard. Should the Hornets refuse to bring back Dennis Smith Jr. or Theo Maledon this offseason, there could be a path to rotation minutes behind LaMelo Ball next season. Still, Simmons only played in five games at the tail-end of this year, his first NBA action since 2018-19, and he has yet to show that he’s anything but a G League player thus far.

    Xavier Sneed
    SF, Charlotte Hornets
    22-23 CHA 4 0 12.0 1.3 2.5 50.0 1.0 1.0 100.0 0.8 1.5 50.0 4.3 1.3 1.3 0.0 0.3 0.8
    21-22 UTA 8 4.4 0.3 1.3 20.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.0 12.5 0.6 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

    ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Per-Game Value: 404/411 (8/9-cat) | Total Value: 496/494 (8/9-cat)

    Sneed has bounced in and out of the Hornets organization for the better part of three years, most recently signing a two-way contract with the Hornets on April 7th. This season, he averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 31.2 minutes per game in 32 starts for the Greensboro Swarm, middling numbers that don’t necessarily scream “NBA starter” anytime soon. With two first-round picks in this year’s draft, the Hornets will be adding talent at multiple positions, making it hard to imagine that Sneed remains on the Hornets roster for long.

    Fantasy Star

    While the answer here is always LaMelo Ball on a per-game basis, injuries prevented him from playing enough games to be a star for fantasy teams that invested heavily in the young guard on draft day. There’s no question that Ball is the most talented and impactful fantasy player on this roster currently, but just like the changes made to MVP voting, there should be a minimum number of games played to be considered for Fantasy Star of the Hornets.

    So for me, the best Charlotte fantasy player this year was P.J. Washington. On a 9-cat per-game basis, Washington ranked 98th, just behind teammates Terry Rozier (97th) and Kelly Oubre (95th). But unlike Rozier, Washington was drafted in the later rounds and played 10 more games, making him a much better return on draft capital and value in totals on the season. And while Oubre was also drafted late, he only played in 48 games compared to Washington’s 73.

    P.J.’s numbers look almost identical to his previous year’s in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and turnovers, even though he averaged five minutes more per game. But he was able to take a step forward in his scoring, jumping from 10.3 to 15.7 points per game. His renaissance year was largely made possible by Miles’ Bridges absence, so his draft value next season will be dependent on whether or not the team brings back the embattled Bridges before next year.

    Fantasy Letdown

    There are so many options for the biggest letdown on this Hornets team, but I have to give it to LaMelo Ball, who couldn’t keep his ankles healthy all season. Like many fantasy owners this year, I placed a ton of confidence in my home league team’s chances for a championship because I had the best Ball brother. I even got to keep him from last season on a discount for our auction draft. But even before the season began, Ball had trouble staying healthy. When he returned in the middle of November, he only made it through three games before getting injured again.

    Then after finally getting healthy and stringing together around 30 games played, Ball injured his ankle again right before the fantasy playoffs, ending his season. I do wonder how conservative the Hornets were with his rehab timelines because they never had any reason to win games this season. But ironically enough, at the end of the season with Ball out, the Hornets played some of their best defense all year. While Ball’s offensive ingenuity would never keep him off the court, there are questions about his impact on the defensive side of the ball that could prevent this team from really competing for a championship run. Ball is still one of the best young players in the league and is likely still a top-10 player for most dynasty rankings, but he’ll need to stay healthy to reach the lofty draft capital needed to draft him next season.

    One to Watch

    Given the talent of this year’s incoming draft class, you can also make an argument for whichever rookie the Hornets draft with their lottery pick. But the player currently rostered by the Hornets to watch is Mark Williams. The big man from Duke showed flashes of offensive prowess and oftentimes made the right decision when the ball was in his hands. His mid-range shot was consistent, and he’ll look to expand his offensive arsenal with a 3-point shot over the offseason. While he likely won’t be a volume shooter from deep anytime soon, if he’s able to develop there at all, it will only open up this offense even further.

    On the defensive end, Williams was a solid rim protector and should only get better as he develops under Steve Clifford. He also has above-average mobility to switch coverages and great instincts on both sides of the ball. Given the praise that Clifford has given him at the end of the season, Williams is likely to get a ton of minutes next year and the sky’s the limit for his fantasy potential.

    One Burning Question

    The contract situation with Miles Bridges has to be the biggest question mark for the Hornets this offseason. It feels icky to even talk about his return to an NBA team, and I’m sure that Mitch Kupchak and other NBA GMs around the league feel similar when weighing the option to sign him to a contract next year. Unfortunately for the Hornets, this year’s lack of success does put pressure on them to re-sign last year’s leading scorer, and they’ve telegraphed a likelihood that they’ll offer Bridges a deal soon after resolving his legal troubles. This gives other NBA teams the opportunity to drive up Bridges’ price, as the Hornets might need to look past the off-the-court issues for the sake of getting back to winning.

    If the Hornets don’t get a top-5 pick in the draft, they’ll likely feel even more pressure to sign Bridges. While there is so much depth in this year’s draft class, Victor Wembanyama and to a lesser extent, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller and the Thompson twins, have the potential to become cornerstone pieces to NBA teams for years to come. Cam Whitmore could also be a great fit for this team, but outside of those names, it’s hard to have confidence that a rookie will turn this franchise’s fortunes around without help. Will the Hornets prioritize their principles as an organization or the financial rewards reaped from winning basketball? The decision to bring back Bridges will have lasting ramifications for a franchise that doesn’t have much room for error to stay relevant.

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