The team that I find most intriguing in the Southeast this season is the Charlotte Hornets. The 2015-2016 season was the best year in franchise history (New Hornets History) and their season ended in a tough seven games series loss to their division rival Miami Heat. Many of the other teams in the Southeast have gotten demonstrably worse since the start of the offseason. Dwayne Wade left the Heat, Jeff Teague and Al Horford left Atlanta and the Wizards highest paid player is now Bradley Beal. Meanwhile the Hornets resigned their key players and let Al Jefferson leave for Indiana after the team moved away from featuring him last year. Defensive ace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will return to the court and provide the team with another dimension defensively, even if the Roy Hibbert experiment fails. With MKG, Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams the Hornets throw exotic perimeter defensive schemes at other teams and adequately hide Kemba Walker, allowing him to save himself to burden the load on the offensive end.
It is not all roses in Charlotte though, there are areas of concern. Just how much will they miss Al Jefferson? Is Kemba Walker ready to take a step into the next echelon of NBA guards or has he maximized his game? Is the 2015-2016 Marvin Williams here for good? The Hornets sure paid him like he is. But the thing I find most interesting about the Hornets is the Roy Hibbert experience. Roy hasn’t been the same player as he was during his time as an Indiana Pacer but Michael Jordan and the Hornets may have an ace up their sleeve to help Roy find his game. Patrick Ewing is an assistant with the Hornets and has the personal and professional connections to help Roy get find his game. Both Ewing and Hibbert are former Georgetown Hoya’s and that connection has given the two a long standing relationship that should serve Roy well during his time as a part of the Hive. Ewing also once famously had his talent stolen by basketball loving aliens so if anyone can help Roy get his groove back Ewing seems like the ideal coach to see the project through.
If everything goes right for the Hornets they could win the Southeast for the first time since their return to Charlotte. They have stable management and an identity, something that can take you far in today’s NBA and they’re a team that the Cavaliers could reasonably draw in the second round of the playoffs this year.