Why everyone should root for Hornets to make 2021 NBA Playoffs

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets are nobody’s pick to win it all, but they’re a team that everybody should want to see in the playoffs.

First things first: The Charlotte Hornets are, by all accounts, simply average. They currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference with a win percentage of .485, and they may soon be overtaken by a red-hot Washington Wizards team. Even if they do weasel their way past the play-in tournament, they probably won’t make it beyond the first round of playoffs.

The Hornets don’t overwhelm opponents with talent or size. They don’t have any big-name stars, except for maybe Gordon Hayward, whose monster $120 million contract had a lot of people scratching their heads at the start of the season. And their administration has a history of making quizzical decisions, especially in the NBA Draft.

Now that that’s out of the way, however, the Hornets might just be the most fun team to watch this upcoming play-in round and postseason. Don’t expect them to blow any teams out of the water, but what you can expect from this beautiful, teal-clad group of happy-go-lucky hoopers is that they will play entertaining basketball.

The Hornets are the NBA’s second-youngest team this season, with an average age of 24.2 years. Barring the more experienced sages on the team that include the likes of Hayward and centers Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo, so much of the team’s success is driven by youthful talent and charisma. LaMelo Ball, a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, has injected new life into Charlotte and is well on his way to becoming the star of the franchise.

The 19-year-old is averaging 16.0 points, 6.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game this season and is the league’s youngest ever player to triple-double, but beyond the raw numbers, he is one hell of a point guard. With 360-degree court vision and a handle that his brother wishes he had, Ball’s creative play-making abilities make the Hornets one of the most entertaining teams to watch. He’s got a knack for turning even the most mundane rebound into a fast break opportunity; don’t blink, or else you’ll miss a behind-the-back or no-look pass, which Ball executes as smoothly as John Travolta slicking pomade through his towel-dried hair.

The Charlotte Hornets may be the most fun team to watch in the NBA

Ball’s passing game has, in turn, upped Charlotte’s game. The Hornets are tied with two other teams, the Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets, for the league’s third-most assists per game (26.9). On top of that, they’re also ranked third for their effective field goal percentage of 63.5 percent, no doubt because of their fast-break offense and pace. Watch any Charlotte game and no matter who they’re playing, the ball rarely stays with one player. While Ball is their bonafide playmaker, he’s more than happy to share with his teammates and is the kind of hero that the city needs and deserves.

Of course, Charlotte’s very own Batman needs a Robin, and Ball’s chemistry with teammate Miles Bridges is truly out of this world. Name a dunk – any dunk – and Bridges will do at least one in a game. Alley-oops, posters, windmills, tomahawks – Bridges is the underrated king of slamming it down, and during his three seasons in the league, he’s accumulated a ridiculous number of nasty throwdowns that add an edge of adrenaline and pure, unadulterated awe to any game.

Ball needs only to float the ball toward the rim, and out of nowhere, Bridges will soar from his invisible trampoline and throw it down for another featured dunk on sports highlight reels that week. Hornets fans have even dubbed the duo as “Airbnb,” which has a nice, silky ring to it.

Charlotte’s commentators alone make basketball worth watching too. There’s franchise legend Dell Curry, who offers his own wise and on-point analysis, and then there’s Eric Collins, the man of the hour for any Charlotte game on television. Collins has been the lead play-by-play announcer for the Hornets since 2015, but his more recent commentary on the acrobatic heroics of Ball and Bridges has catapulted him into social media stardom.

Collins infuses the game with a certain child-like glee that makes the experience of watching basketball that much wilder and more entertaining. It’s enough to make you want to say “HUM DIDDLY DEE,” even if it just sounds like nonsense. Whether the Hornets sink a critical bucket or just scored a beautiful shot, Collins is always ready to lose his mind over this team. And when Collins goes off, he really goes off.

Though the Hornets may not be competing for a legitimate shot at the NBA championship, they’re playing for the league’s respect. Sure, other teams rank above them and will probably do better in the playoffs, but don’t sleep on the Hornets squad. They’re a fun one, and everyone should be rooting for them to make it out of the play-in tournament.

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