Hornets projected lineup and rotations heading into 2023-24 season

The Charlotte Hornets will pair LaMelo Ball with No. 2 pick Brandon Miller next season. Here's how the rotation looks for Steve Clifford's squad.
LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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Charlotte Hornets starting power forward: Miles Bridges

Miles Bridges is suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season as punishment for his involvement in a domestic violence case. That's a sorry excuse for a "punishment" and the Hornets shouldn't feel great about welcoming Bridges back with open arms, but here we are. Such is the nature of the NBA business mechanism when a player can impact winning on the court.

The last time we saw Bridges, he was an emergent All-Star and Charlotte's second franchise pillar next to LaMelo. Over the summer, the two sides failed to agree to terms on a long-term extension and Bridges accepted the one-year qualifying offer worth $7.9 million. That is an unavoidable factor as Steve Clifford determines the rotation, not to mention the rust from a year away from the game.

Charlotte is prepared to overlook the off-court concerns, however, which means production will win out here. Bridges averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on .491/.331/.802 splits in the 2021-22 season. Once he's back from his suspension and fully up to speed, Bridges' aggressive slashing and above-the-rim finishing — not to mention his effortless synergy with LaMelo — will probably earn him the starting gig.

Bridges will provide essential rim pressure for a Charlotte team reliant on playmakers like Ball, Miller, and Hayward who can struggle to finish in the painted area. Bridges would benefit from a more efficient 3-point stroke, but he's a good enough shooter to draw the defense out. From there, he's too explosive downhill for most traditional fours. Rolling out of screens or running out in transition, Bridges is a favorite target for LaMelo, who is maybe the best lob tosser in the sport. Bridges can climb the proverbial ladder for dunks easier than 99 percent of the league.

Primary backup power forward: P.J. Washington

The Hornets finally agreed to terms with P.J. Washington on a three-year, $48 million contract. With Bridges' future in doubt, it's smart for the front office to hitch its wagon to Washington. He's a capable starter in his own right and there's a strong argument to give him the nod over Bridges. Either way, expect Washington to be a regular in the Hornets' frontcourt.

Last season was the most productive of Washington's career. He started all 73 appearances for Charlotte, averaging 15.7 points and 4.9 rebounds on .444/.348/.730 splits in 32.6 minutes. Washington would benefit from a more refined shot profile and a more consistent 3-point stroke, but he's a burgeoning mid-range artist with the strength to bully smaller defenders in the post and the speed to torch slower bigs on the perimeter.

Where Washington's primary value lies, however, is the defensive end. He's a highly versatile weapon at 6-foot-7, often deployed as a small-ball center. He's probably not a true five-position defender, but he's damn close with a physicality and edge that Steve Clifford can appreciate. Bridges isn't on Washington's level defensively and the Hornets will face matchups where Washington's two-way prowess is essential.

Other players who could receive minutes at power forward: Gordon Hayward, Brandon Miller, Kai Jones, JT Thor