);
Charlotte Hornets

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Can Terry Rozier keep the Charlotte Hornets competitive?

terry-rozier-092819-ftr-hornets
Terry Rozier (@Hornets)

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Charlotte Hornets.

2018-19 season record

39-43 (9th in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

23-59 (15th in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Caleb Martin (rookie - free agency)

Cody Martin (draft)

Josh Perkins (rookie - free agency)

Terry Rozier (trade)

PJ Washington (free agency)

Thomas Welsh (free agency)

Notable departures

Frank Kaminsky (free agency)

Jeremy Lamb (free agency)

Tony Parker (retired)

Kemba Walker (trade)

Depth chart

Starters 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Terry Rozier Devonte Graham Cody Martin
SG Dwayne Bacon Malik Monk Caleb Martin
SF Miles Bridges Nicolas Batum PJ Washington
PF Marvin Williams Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
C Cody Zeller Bismack Biyombo Willy Hernangomez Thomas Welsh

3 key storylines

Playing through Terry Rozier

In replacing Kemba Walker, Terry Rozier has some big shoes to fill right away.

The Hornets handed Rozier the keys to the franchise, offering him a three-year, $58 million deal. After a frustrating season with the Boston Celtics last season - being forced to take a back seat after leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals - Rozier will be more than ready to prove he was worth his money.

It's a small sample size, but in 14 games as a starter for the Celtics last season Rozier posted averages of 13.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Perhaps even more crucial than proving he's capable of greater production with more opportunity is that Rozier's shooting percentages of 42.9% from the field and 40.5% from long range - two numbers that are significantly better than his career averages in those categories.

MORE: Will Terry Rozier become an All-Star this season?

Walker leaves behind 20.5 field goal attempts per game and you'll have to assume the majority of those go to Rozier.

This is Scary Terry's team and we'll find out fast if he's built to lead.

Emergence of young talent

The Hornets have plenty of young talent on this roster and it's extremely important that they use this year to develop those players.

In particular, 2017 draft picks Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, 2018 first-round pick Miles Bridges and 2019 first-round pick PJ Washington.

Monk is still just 21 years old. The former lottery pick has flashed bright spots offensively but struggles with consistency and defence. Monk shot 38.7% from the field last season, which was actually an improvement on his 36.0% from his rookie season. As an offensive-minded player, it's vital that Monk polishes that area of his game before working on his weaknesses.

Bacon didn't get much of an opportunity last year until the end of the season and he succeeded when called upon. He appeared in the Hornets' last 18 games of the season and averaged 11.4 points shooting 45.1% from the field and 40.3% from beyond the arc, including a stretch of three consecutive 20-point games. He'll likely take over the starting shooting guard role this season, so this is his chance to prove that he can have that type of production for 82 games.

Bridges is another work-in-progress who was solid in his rookie season. He has the athleticism and body to be elite at this level but needs to work on his offensive game. He scored 7.4 points per game last season shooting 32.5% from 3-point range. He's more of a slasher, but tidying up that 3-point percentage would go a long way in making the game easier for himself. That and some expected improvements to his defence and rebounding would make Bridges the prospect the Hornets drafted him to be.

It's unclear what type of opportunity Washington will get in his rookie season backed behind Bridges and a few of Charlotte's veterans with big contracts, but as a lottery pick, you'd have to expect head coach James Borrego has him in the rotation. Washington was a proven scorer and rebounder at Kentucky and this team will need all the help it can get on offence.

Contracts, contracts, contracts

The Hornets have been handcuffed by unfavourable contracts for quite some time now. Fortunately for them, the majority of those large contracts will be off the books after this season.

Charlotte will pay Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Marvin Williams over $70 million combined this season. For Kidd-Gilchrist, Biyombo and Williams, this will be the final year of their massive deals. For Batum, he still has a player option in 2020 worth $27.1 million that he will likely exercise.

Once these contracts are gone, the Hornets will finally have some money to play with in the upcoming summers ahead.

5 games to watch

Nov. 7 vs. Boston Celtics

This will be Kemba Walker's first game back in Charlotte. This contest will be an emotional one for arguably the greatest player in franchise history playing at the Spectrum Center for the first time as the vistor. Walker spent his first eight seasons of his NBA career with the Hornets.

Nov. 18 at Toronto Raptors

The Hornets had no issues against the reigning NBA champions last season, defeating the Raptors by way of two buzzer-beating shots from Jeremy Lamb. Lamb is no longer on the roster, but the Hornets will look to keep their magic against the Raptors alive in this first meeting.

Nov. 20 at Brooklyn Nets

Terry Rozier was forced to return to his role as the Celtics backup point guard last season once Kyrie Irving was fully healthy. You can imagine Rozier has this game circled on his calendar as a chance to prove himself against his former teammate that took his spot.

Dec. 8 vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are an in-division rival who are driven by their team's young talent. If the Hornets need a blueprint to follow, the Hawks are a solid model and as a young team looking to prove itself, beating another up-and-coming team in their division would be a good sign.

Dec. 22 at Boston Celtics

This will be Rozier's first game back in Boston and Walker's second game against his former club. Scary Terry was beloved in Boston, so the TD Garden will be rocking for its former point guard.

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

More from NBA.com

#Carmelo #Giannis
Follow live: Blazers at Bucks
NBA.com Staff
nikola-vucevic-112119-ftr-getty.jpg
Report: Vucevic (ankle) out four weeks
Scott Rafferty
#Fournier
Fantasy Basketball waiver wire adds
Kyle Irving
#SmartD
It's early but Smart is the DPOY
Carlan Gay
terence-davis-112119-ftr-getty.jpg
Raptors didn't see this coming from Davis
Scott Rafferty
serge-ibaka-112119-ftr-getty.jpg
Nurse: Ibaka nearing return
Scott Rafferty
More News