A Look Back at the 2021 Charlotte Hornets

July 10th, 2021

By Alan Lu

This past year, the Charlotte Hornets had a surprisingly solid season under head coach, James Borrego.  They got off to a great start, and rookie point guard, LaMelo Ball played much better than expected, as he ended up winning the Rookie of the Year award.  Their young players continued to improve for the most part, and Gordon Hayward played at an All-Star caliber level.

Injuries started to hit their team, and they slid down from being a mid-tier playoff level team with LaMelo and Hayward out.  When LaMelo Ball returned, he wasn’t able to shoot nearly as well as he did before, but the Hornets were barely able to cling on to get a spot in the play-in tournament.  The Hornets played poorly against the Pacers in the play-in tournament, so they got knocked out and eliminated, but they had a much better than anticipated season overall.  In answering whether or not if they can get their young players to continue to progress and develop and be a better team than they were last year, the Hornets passed those tests with flying colors.

Charlotte Hornets’ star forward, Gordon Hayward played very well when healthy, as he averaged roughly 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, and he also made 41% of his threes to help lead his team to the play-in tournament this year.
(Photo:
Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

F Gordon Hayward
2021 (CHO): 44 GP, 19.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.1 APG, 47 FG%, 41 3PT%, 84 FT%, 58 TS%, 17.6 PER, 3.5 WS, .114 WS48

Hayward played well to help get his team to the play-in tournament.  He especially excelled on offense, as his strong shooting, scoring, and playmaking skills helped his team win far more games than anticipated.  He did get hurt and missed some time, and struggled a bit on the defensive end, but Hayward had a sizable impact on his team this year.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting small forward on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars

Charlotte Hornets’ rookie point guard, LaMelo Ball played very well this past season, and he was named the 2020-21 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year this year.
(Photo:
Nell Redmond/Associated Press, via KRQE)

G LaMelo Ball
2021 (CHO): 51 GP, 15.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 44 FG%, 35 3PT%, 76 FT%, 17.5 PER, 54 TS%, 2.8 WS, .093 WS48

LaMelo Ball had a very good rookie season, as he had a strong first half, and he looked to be the clear Rookie of the Year favorite before getting hurt midway through.  He showed off a much-improved shot selection as he excelled as a shooter and scorer, as well as strong playmaking and rebounding skills. 

When he returned from injury, he wasn’t quite the same, as he struggled with his outside shot in the second half of the year, and he didn’t play well at all in his team’s play-in tournament game loss to the Pacers.  Still, Ball played well enough to win the Rookie of the Year award honors, and he looks to be a key centerpiece for his team’s future.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting guard on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (4.0 stars potential)

Charlotte Hornets’ second-year forward, P.j. Washington had a solid, all-around season with his team this past season.
(Photo:
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images, via SB Nation’s At The Hive)

F P.J. Washington
2021 (CHO): 64 GP, 12.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 44 FG%, 39 3PT%, 74 FT%, 13.4 PER, 55 TS%, 2.7 WS, .066 WS48

Washington had a solid second year with the Hornets, as he showed a solid set of all-around skills to help his team get to the play-in tournament this year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting power forward on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Charlotte Hornets’ guard, Terry Rozier averaged roughly 20 points per game, as he helped lead them to get to the play-in tournament this year.
(Photo:
Tim Warner/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Swarm and Sting)

G Terry Rozier
2021 (CHO): 69 GP, 20.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, 45 FG%, 39 3PT%, 82 FT%, 17.1 PER, 58 TS%, 5.2 WS, .105 WS48

Rozier had a solid season, as he especially did a good job from an offensive standpoint.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer, and he also rebounded the ball well for a player his size. 

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

C Bismack Biyombo
2021 (CHO): 66 GP, 5.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 BPG, 59 FG%, 11.7 PER, 57 TS%, 2.3 WS, .081 WS48

Biyombo has his ups and downs this past season for the Hornets.  He excelled as a finisher around the basket and as a shot blocker, but he didn’t quite rebound nearly as well as expected, and he played about average defense this past year. 

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Biyombo will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges turned in a good season for his team, as he helped lead them to get to the play-in tournament this year.
(Photo:
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Swarm and Sting)

F Miles Bridges
2021 (CHO): 66 GP, 12.7 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 50 FG%, 40 3PT%, 87 FT%, 14.7 PER, 14.7 PER, 63 TS%, 4.2 WS, .105 WS48

Bridges played very well for the Hornets this past season, and he showed off a good set of all-around skills, as he fared very well for them in a sixth man role this year.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Charlotte Hornets’ guard, Devonte’ Graham turned in another solid season this year for his team.
(Photo:
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images, via Forbes)

G Devonte’ Graham
2021 (CHO): 55 GP, 14.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 38 FG%, 38 3PT%, 84 FT%, 14.6 PER, 55 TS%, 3.4 WS, .099 WS48

After having a surprisingly successful second season in the NBA, Graham turned another fairly solid year for the Hornets.  He was effective as a three-point shooter and facilitator, though he struggled to score consistently from inside the arc, and will need to continue to improve his defense.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Graham will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Charlotte Hornets’ sharpshooting guard, Malik Monk had a strong bounce back season, as he played very well for his team this past year.
(Photo:
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press, via KAIT-TV)

G Malik Monk
2021 (CHO): 42 GP, 11.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 43 FG%, 40 3PT%, 82 FT%, 13.6 PER, 57 TS%, 1.0 WS, .054 WS48

Monk really rebounded to have a solid season this past year.  He shot the ball much better as he finally showed the sharpshooting prowess this past season for Charlotte that he had put on full display when he was in college at Kentucky.  He’ll still need to improve his defense, but that he was able to really excel as a shooter and scorer off the bench really bodes well for his NBA future.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Monk will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

C Cody Zeller
2021 (CHO): 48 GP, 9.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 56 FG%, 18.2 PER, 60 TS%, 3.3 WS, .156 WS48

He played fairly well this year, as he excelled as an inside scorer, rebounder, and passer, but he was around average defensively this past season.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F Jalen McDaniels
2021 (CHO): 47 GP, 7.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 47 FG%, 33 3PT%, 70 FT%, 11.4 PER, 55 TS%, 1.2 WS, .062 WS48

Given that he played very well in limited minutes as a rookie, McDaniels appeared to be due for more minutes in his second year in the NBA.  He had his ups and downs, as he didn’t quite shoot or defend as well as expected, but he was able to make some shots, pass, and rebound the basketball.  It’s unclear if he’ll have done enough to be a regular rotation player on the Hornets next year, but he seems to have the skills to be able to land that role next season.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

McDaniels’ contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

G-F Cody Martin
2021 (CHO): 52 GP, 4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 44 FG%, 28 3PT%, 58 FT%, 10.6 PER, 50 TS%, 1.1 WS, .061 WS48

Though he hasn’t shot the ball very well, he’s done other things fairly well, as he’s helped his team as a facilitator, rebounder, and defender in his bench role for the Charlotte Hornets.  Martin will still need to improve his outside shot and scoring skills, but he’s really endeared himself to his team, and he will likely compete for a rotation spot on his team once again next season.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Cody Martin’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

G-F Caleb Martin
2021 (CHO): 53 GP, 5 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 38 FG%, 25 3PT%, 64 FT%, 9.5 PER, 46 TS%, 0.5 WS, .030 WS48

Caleb Martin had shot the ball very well as a rookie last season for the Hornets.  He appeared to be due for a substantial increase in minutes.

However, he ended up having a disappointing second season in the NBA.  Though he passed and rebounded well, he really struggled to shoot or score the basketball.  He will have to shoot the ball much better to make more of an impact for his team next season.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Caleb Martin’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

C Vernon Carey Jr.
2021 (CHO): 19 GP, 2.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 50 FG%, 14 3PT%, 82 FT%, 11.7 PER, 56 TS%, 0.2 WS, .066 WS48
2021 (G-League): 14 GP, 16 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 APG, 49 FG%, 17 3PT%, 63 FT%, 19.9 PER, 55 TS%, 0.4 WS, .053 WS48

Carey saw some playing time both in the NBA and in the G-League, but he didn’t make enough of an impression to get much playing time at the NBA level as a rookie.  He didn’t quite shoot as well as expected, and he didn’t rebound nor defend quite as well in the NBA, either.  He didn’t show much of an outside shot or defensive skills, and he generally struggled as a rookie this past season.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

G Grant Riller (Two-Way)
2021 (CHO): 7 GP, 2.6 PPG, 67 FG%, 50 3PT%, 23.6 PER, 75 TS%, 0.1 WS, .177 WS48
2021 (G-League): 11 GP, 13.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 49 FG%, 46 3PT%, 87 FT%, 15.5 PER, 66 TS%, 0.4 WS, .059 WS48

As he shuttled back and forth between the NBA and the G-League, Riller showed that he can shoot and score the basketball.  There weren’t many minutes to go around for him in the NBA, but he’s shown that he can certainly compete for a rotation spot on the Hornets next season.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

C Nick Richards
2021 (CHO): 18 GP, 0.8 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 44 FG%, 5.5 PER, 54 TS%, 0.0 WS, .026 WS48
2021 (G-League): 9 GP, 17 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3 BPG, 52 FG%, 50 3PT%, 80 FT%, 24.3 PER, 66 TS%, 0.5 WS, .103 WS48

Nick Richards barely played in the NBA, but he played very well in the G-League, as he excelled as a scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker, and he even showed some floor spacing potential.  If only if he can get extended playing time in the NBA, Richards then might be able to show that he can hold down a rotation spot for his team.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

G Brad Wanamaker
2021 (CHO): 61 GP, 5.5 PPG, 2.9 APG, 1.7 RPG, 38 FG%, 19 3PT%, 89 FT%, 9.5 PER, 49 TS%, 0.9 WS, .039 WS48

Wanamaker came into the season, expecting to bring shooting, playmaking, and some defense to the Warriors.  However, he could really not shoot or score for them, and he ended up getting traded to the Hornets for next to nothing.  Wanamaker didn’t fare much better, if at all, and while he passed the ball well and proved to be a capable defender, his shooting woes persisted and he ended up having a very disappointing season this year.

2021 Season Grade: D- (D- w/GSW and CHO)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G Nate Darling (Two-Way)
2021 (CHO): 7 GP, 1.3 PPG, 29 FG%, 29 3PT%, 8.2 PER, 54 TS%, 0 WS, .038 WS48
2021 (G-League): 13 GP, 8.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 34 FG%, 33 3PT%, 90 FT%, 6.4 PER, 53 TS%, -0.3 WS, -.038 WS48

Darling is an agile, skilled combo guard that projected to be a sharpshooter, but he really didn’t shoot nor play well at either the NBA or the G-League level.  It was surprising that the Hornets held on to him this year, considering that Darling did not even shoot the ball well in the G-League this year.

2021 Season Grade: F+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
(or rotation player in the G-League)

Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (1.5 stars potential)

Head Coach:
James Borrego
2021 (CHO): 33-39, lost in the play-in tournament to the Pacers, did not make the playoffs
Coaching Career: 105-144, 0-0 in his playoff career

Charlotte Hornets’ head coach, James Borrego led his team further than expected, and while they fell just short of the playoffs, he was able to lead his team to get to the play-in tournament, and he also got great production out of his rookie star point guard, LaMelo Ball.
(Photo:
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Swarm and Sting)

Borrego had a very good season, as he led his team to far more wins than expected, and he even managed to get his team to the play-in tournament this year.  He helped LaMelo Ball turn in a strong rookie season that netted him the Rookie of the Year award.  His only hiccup was his team got pummeled by the Pacers in a play-in tournament game loss. That aside, and Borrego looks like a solid coach that will be with the Hornets for the long haul.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Charlotte Hornets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets’ Season:

They played very well in the first half, but when injuries hit them, the Hornets started to slide in the standings, and they weren’t quite as good even when LaMelo Ball returned from injury, as he couldn’t quite find his stride that enabled him to be so good earlier in the year.  Still, the Hornets fared much better than expected, and that they made it to the play-in tournament is an achievement for them in itself.

The 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets’ Season Grade: B

The Charlotte Hornets’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
F P.J. Washington
F Miles Bridges
F Gordon Hayward
G LaMelo Ball
G Terry Rozier

Key Reserves:
G Devonte’ Graham
The 11th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
G Malik Monk
F Jalen McDaniels

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
C Vernon Carey Jr.
G-F Cody Martin
F Caleb Martin
C Nick Richards
G Grant Riller

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
The 56th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Others:
The 57th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft – Likely a Stash Pick, or a Player that ends up on a Two-Way Contract

Impending Restricted Free Agents:
Devonte’ Graham – Expected Back
Malik Monk – Expected Back

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
Cody Zeller – Not Expected Back
Bismack Biyombo – Not Expected Back

Projected Players Cut From Next Season’s Roster:
G Nate Darling

Projected Offseason Plan for the Charlotte Hornets:
They may have a lot of cap space, so they could use it to sign big men or to retain Cody Zeller and/or Bismack Biyombo if they wanted to.  They also could use it to sign more wing players and combo forwards to improve the versatility of their team.  In the draft, they will probably look to get a big man or a wing player, as they will look to get someone that can play off of both LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward in the meantime.

The 2022 Charlotte Hornets’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and Projected Season Finish:
35-47, 12th in the Eastern Conference

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
The Charlotte Hornets could likely end up in the play-in tournament once again in 2022, unless if they regress, with the chance of ending up being a 7th or 8th seed in the East.

I primarily used Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and No Trade Clause for research purposes. Hope you had fun reading my grades and reviews of players and their head coach that were on the 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets. To read up on my rating scale of players and coaches, you can read about it here. Thanks for reading.

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