The Hornets offically begin training camp today in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the historic Dean Smith Center. The Hornets will need to discover their identity, and new faces will look to carry this team after the departure of Kemba Walker. As training camp begins, the roster is set and full of competitive guys looking to elevate their careers and game on a team with endless opportunities.
Second year head coach James Borrego says he “knows what to expect” heading into camp this year. “After you’ve done it one year, you know what to expect. I feel much more comfortable right now as we head into camp, ready to roll, ready to learn again this season. I couldn’t be more excited with this group.”
At the Hornets media day Monday, Borrego echoed repeatedly that training camp was going to be very competitive. “Open positions, open minutes… open roster spots. The last I checked we had two open spots… Young guys, veterans, all looking to compete.” With a balanced roster split between veterans and young players, Charlotte’s head coach says that he is not showing favor to either the young guys or the vets. It was made very clear that performance on the defensive end of the floor would directly impact playing time as defense will be an integral part of the Hornets’ identity this year.
With all of Charlotte’s key players healthy – including Cody Zeller, Nicolas Batum, and Hornets first round pick P.J. Washington, who all have been sidelined with injuries this past year – minutes and roster spots are up for grabs and they are all ready to lay it all on the line this week at camp.
James Borrego said he had no idea who would be starting for the Hornets this year when asked at media day Monday. Barring injury, this will likely be the starting five on opening night against the Bulls October 23rd: Terry Rozier, Nicolas Batum, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, and Cody Zeller.
Nic Batum in all likelyhood is going to start for the majority of the year, but Malik Monk will look to compete for some of his minutes. Borrego praised Batum at lengths on Monday saying he was one of the team’s best two-way players and wants him to shoot threes at a higher clip and be more aggressive overall offensively.
Malik Monk is the biggest threat to take some of Batum’s minutes, but it is very likely he stays at the sixth man spot this season, providing scoring and shot creating off the bench. Monk’s playing time has been cut short during his first two years due to his defenisve shortcomings. Monk stated yesterday that he has improved on that end of the floor thanks to gaining 23 pounds and watching a lot of film. He says there is a false narrative about him being a sub-par defender and that he just needs more minutes and opportunities to learn on the floor. Borrego wants Monk to show improvement on the defensive end along with his shot-creating – which Monk said the extra 23 pounds has helped him finish through contact better at the rim- at training camp, and if he does so, he will start the year with more minutes.
The backup forward spots have free minutes to give, and several players are looking to compete for those minutes in training camp including Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and rookies P.J. Washington and Cody Martin. MKG is likely out of the rotation to start the year, just as he was at the end of last season. Marvin Williams will get his time on the floor every game due to his ability to stretch the floor and his veteran leadership. P.J. said he is fully healthy and ready to compete. He spoke at media day about being open to playing the small ball center. Borrego said he would like P.J. to “stay with us all year and play significant minutes.” Cody Martin will likely bounce back and forth between Greensboro this year, but the 2019 2nd round pick is a two-way player which Borrego loves. That could result in Cody seeing the floor more early in his career if he plays well in Chapel Hill.
Lastly, Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez are going to be fighting for the backup center minutes. Both players bring unique skillsets to the team, but they are fighting for the same position and the same minutes this week.
The two open roster spots
The Hornets currently have 13 guaranteed contracts and two remaining roster spots on their regular season roster. Those roster spots can be filled by players on Exhibit-10 deals, Two-Way deals, or a free agent. The Hornets are not recquired to fill all 15 spots, but James Borrego has repeatedly declared player development as being one of the Hornets’ main priorities, so there is a good chance one or two of those players can get on the regular season roster. Kobi Simmons, Joe Chealey, and Jalen McDaniels are the most likely candidates for those two roster spots.
The Swarm acquired Kobi Simmons from the Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers G-League affiliate) on September 12th. This will be Kobi’s third NBA season and the Arizona product has put up solid numbers in the G-League. The Hornets only have two point guards under guaranteed contracts – Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham – so they will be looking to sign another point guard.
Jalen McDaniels still has not signed his rookie tender that the Hornets offered him a few weeks ago, but James Borrego said that he expects the Hornets second round pick to “be with them at some point this preseason.” If McDaniels was signed, then it would recquire the Hornets to cut one of their E-10 players or one of their Two-Way guys.
Joe Chealey is on an Exhibit-10 deal and spent last season with the Greensboro Swarm, including one game with the Hornets. Chealey is a shot-creating point guard that already is a familiar face within the Hornets organization, so he would have a quick transition onto the Hornets roster – already having played with Dwayne Bacon and Devonte’ Graham. Chealey is held in high regard in the Swarm organization, and that has helped carry over to the Hornets.
The remaing players at Hornets training camp competing for those open roster spots are Ahmed Hill and Robert Franks – who are currently on Two-Way Contracts – and Caleb Martin, Josh Perkins, and Thomas Welsh who signed Exhibit-10 deals. Expect every one of these guys to play at their best with maximum effort throughout this week at camp as they fight for their chance to make it to the big leagues.