Charlotte Hornets

2018-19 NBA Season Preview: What to expect from the Charlotte Hornets

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Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker (NBA Getty Images)

With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.

Up next, we're taking a look at the Southeast Division. After starting with the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards and Miami Heat, here's what to expect from the Charlotte Hornets this season.

2017-18 season record

36-46 (10th in Eastern Conference)

Projected 2018-19 season record

35.5 wins (9th in Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

James Borrego (head coach)

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Bismack Biyombo (trade)

Miles Bridges (draft)

Devonte' Graham (draft)

Tony Parker (free agency)

Notable departures

Dwight Howard (trade)

Michael Carter-Williams (free agency)

3 key storylines

Adjusting to James Borrego's new system

With newly-hired head coach James Borrego at the helm, expect a much different Hornets team than that of years past.

Last season, the team was 24th in the league in assists and 26th in total passes. With emphasis on ball movement and an increased pace, change is afoot for Charlotte.

Ahead of training camp, Hornets second-year guard Malik Monk told Steve Reed of the Associated Press that Borrego has had the team play with 12-second shot clocks to play more of an uptempo style.

Look for a fun, fast-paced Hornets team this season.

Kemba Walker as the franchise cornerstone

Walker, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, is the heart and soul of the Hornets. Despite his impending free agency, Walker has maintained that he doesn't want to play anywhere else and that he wants to build something special in Charlotte.

Last season, the 28-year-old earned his second-consecutive All-Star selection by averaging 22.1 points and 5.6 assists per contest - both team bests. With an improved roster around him, a similar campaign from the Hornets point guard could propel the team to the postseason.

Upgrades to the second unit

Depth was a major issue for Charlotte throughout the 2017-18 season. With a net rating of -3.6, the Hornets' bench was a bottom-10 unit in the NBA.

Signing Tony Parker and drafting Miles Bridges bolsters a bench unit that will also feature second-year guard Malik Monk, big men Frank Kaminsky, Willy Hernangómez and Bismack Biyombo, as well as Dwayne Bacon. 2012 No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist came off the bench in the team's preseason opener, and Borrego could elect to keep Jeremy Lamb in the starting unit to boost the team's offense.

Realistically, the Hornets could have a rotation that features 11 or 12 players, setting them apart from a number of the teams in playoff contention.

5 games to watch

Oct. 17 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

This year, the Hornets are celebrating 30 seasons of basketball in the city of Charlotte.

For the first time in four years, Charlotte will play its season opener at home. In the team's last home opener, it came back from a 24-point deficit to defeat Milwaukee in overtime.

What made opening night in 2014 even more special was that it was the first game played since the team regained the "Hornets" nickname.

Opening the season against the Bucks is sure to elicit memories and be a positive omen for the season ahead.

Dec. 29 vs. Washington Wizards

Dwight Howard, who averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds in his lone season as a member of the Hornets in 2017-18, faces his former team for the first time when Washington hosts Charlotte.

As Howard spent just one season with the team, what will likely be the most intriguing aspect of this game will be the point guard battle between All-Stars Kemba Walker and John Wall. The Hornets won three out of four games over the Wizards last season and will look to get off to a good start in the first of four meetings between their division foes.

Jan. 14 vs. San Antonio Spurs

After spending the first 17 seasons of his career as a member of the Spurs, Tony Parker shocked the basketball world by signing with the Hornets as a free agent over the offseason. Parker will make his first appearance as a visitor at the AT&T Center when Charlotte travels to San Antonio in mid January.

Parker, who won four titles as a Spur and was named 2007 Finals MVP, is sure to have an emotional homecoming.

Feb. 25 vs. Golden State Warriors

Charlotte's own Stephen Curry makes his lone visit (outside of All-Star Weekend) to the city to take on the Hornets on Feb. 25.

Curry, who missed both games against the Hornets last season, always rises to the occasion of facing his hometown team, averaging 28.1 points in 14 career games against the franchise - his second highest average against any team.

The Hornets managed to split last year's season series with the Warriors and will look to at least duplicate the same in 2018-19.

April 7 vs. Detroit Pistons

The Hornets' projected win total of 35.5 would land them right outside of the playoffs, with the Pistons, who are projected to win 37.5 games, sneaking in at 8th.

Should the race for 8th place between the two teams be highly contested during the stretch run of the 2018-19 season, Game 80 of the Hornets' season could have high stakes.

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