Just two wins separated the Charlotte Hornets from a first run to the NBA postseason in six years. That was an agonizing margin for Mitch Kupchak and his team to have to mourn, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the North Carolina outfit will already be planning to bridge the gap in the 2021/22 season.
There will be plenty of time to focus on the positives and the negatives of the prior campaign, and while it would be easy to get bogged down in disappointment, there were plenty of plus points. Speaking of points, Terry Rozier contributed 1407 of them in a stellar campaign – only 44 behind the likes of Joel Embiid and Kyrie Irving. LaMelo Ball won the NBA Rookie of the Year award for his sterling efforts – the 19-year-old really does have the world at his sizable feet, and who knows what heights Charlotte would have reached if he hadn’t have broken his wrist. Elsewhere, the likes of Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, Devonte Graham and P.J. Washington all had solid seasons, and with three of those aged 26 and under the future appears very bright indeed. This is a very young Charlotte Hornets team, and it’s one that it’s easy to forget were considered no-hopers prior to the 2020/21 season. So much so, they were priced at +20000 in the outright winner NBA betting on bet365 odds, which essentially translates as having no chance of winning the Championship. But another year older and another wiser, and it will be interesting to see how the Hornets fare next season. Fans of basketball in Halifax will be keenly aware that the region has an NBA star of its own in Nate Darling, and he will be looking to make his breakthrough into the Charlotte first team during the new term. Making a Move At 22, Darling is still very much learning the ropes of professional basketball. His two-way contract enables him to spend some much-needed time on the court with the Greensboro Swarm but, clearly, his ambitions will be making a more concerted break into the main roster at the Hornets. The Nova Scotian played his college basketball at the University of Alabama before switching to the University of Delaware, and he excelled at both – subsequently declaring his intention to enter the 2020 NBA Draft. He signed papers with the Hornets and made seven appearances last season, albeit for a very limited number of minutes, and the shooting guard opened his scoring account in a flurry of outings that could best be described as ‘encouraging’.
If the Hornets can hang onto Graham, who can enter free agency this offseason, keep the rest of their young stars and give them more court time, there is every chance that they can kick on in 2022 and force their way into the playoff system they were so unlucky to miss out on this term. Darling will be hoping that he can stick around to enjoy his big break on the NBA stage too – that would make him the first Nova Scotian to appear in the playoffs, should the Hornets be successful.