Charlotte Hornets

Three reasons the Hornets' historic start is sustainable

It took less than a week of the 2021-22 season for the Charlotte Hornets to rewrite the franchise's record books.

With an impressive 16-point road win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Charlotte franchise advanced to 3-0 for the first time in a history that spans back to the 1988-89 NBA season.

Of course, we know the Hornets won't go 82-0 over the gruelling course of the marathon-like NBA season, but their undefeated start to the 2021-22 campaign is showing just what this team is made of and proving exactly why they will be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference, this season and beyond.

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Three reasons, in particular, stand out as why the Hornets' success is very sustainable.

1. LaMelo Ball's leap

In a star-driven league, it's going to start with your rising star.

Ball, the reigning Rookie of the Year, established himself as a burgeoning star in this league last season but has the opportunity to build upon that in Year 2 to emerge into All-Star territory. Sure, the vaunted sophomore slump may seem like it's looming, but here's your reminder that while Ball might be a sophomore in the NBA, he entered the league with professional experience under his belt.

In finishing with 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while shooting 7-for-9 from 3 in the season opener, Ball showcased his growth as a player and increased poise in a comeback victory for Charlotte.

In the road win over the Nets, Ball showcased his growth and maturity as a leader, imploring head coach James Borrego to keep veteran guard Ishmael Smith on the floor as the Hornets sealed the victory without Ball seeing any action during the fourth quarter ( per Sam Perley of ).

At 20, Ball enters the season as one of Charlotte's three best players but the ways in which he is showcasing the total package early on would suggest that he can emerge as their clear-cut top guy by season's end.

His growth - and invaluable experience during last year's Play-In Tournament - will have Ball primed to be a leader in a potential postseason series.

2. Depth at all positions

It's easy to lose sight of the fact that the Hornets were primed for a solid playoff spot last season before the injury bug bit hard. This past offseason, they addressed the prospect of that happening again by bolstering the roster in a number of areas.

Look no further than the team's 3-0 start to see its depth on full display, as it was without Terry Rozier for two of the first three contests. Not only is Rozier half of the team's starting backcourt, but he was also the team's leading scorer last season and a large part of the franchise's future after inking a maximum contract extension over the offseason.

The signing of Kelly Oubre Jr. has already paid dividends and will continue to pay dividends as he can fill in the starting lineup as an off-ball guard or at the small forward position, which could prove to be crucial given starting forward Gordon Hayward's issues with durability in years past.

Also acquired in free agency was a veteran in Smith, who is a consummate professional and the definition of a perfect backup point guard, as put on display in Brooklyn. When the team is at full strength, Smith can spell one of Ball or Rozier and if either of the two guards is hurt, he can step up and play extended minutes as a floor general.

Acquiring Mason Plumlee on draft night addressed a big need for a center and behind him are four young bigs that could grow into being contributors

3. The winning balance of youth and experience

This is where the short- and long-term success comes into play.

With respect to the Hornets' three top players in Ball, Hayward and Rozier, three different generations are represented. Ball turned 20 just months before the season began, Rozier is 27 and Hayward will turn 32 before the season ends.

That balance accurately represents the age distribution of the entire team.

Of rotational mainstays, Ball, along with Miles Bridges (23), P.J. Washington (23) and Jalen McDaniels (23) are all under 25 years old. From there, you have Oubre (25), Cody Martin (26) and Rozier (27) that represent the 25-to-30 range.

Hayward (31), Plumlee (31) and Smith (33), the team's three veteran contributors, have appeared in a combined 108 playoff games in their respective careers.

With that balance, you can expect the players under 25 to make big leaps and continue to grow in their games, which is what Bridges has displayed to start the season with multiple 30-point games out the gate.

The likes of Oubre, Martin and Rozier might not make major leaps but are still adding wrinkles to their game to perfect the ways in which they can star in their respective roles.

You know what you're going to get from the vets, but a part of that expected consistency allows the team to remain even-keeled in tense situations, which is a critical component for large-scale success in the league.

With that in mind, the biggest thing to take away from Charlotte's hot start is that it is only just the beginning.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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