Charlotte Hornets

Hornets roster breakdown: Lots of youth, lots of new faces, lots of G-League trips

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak summed up the 2019-20 roster well Monday:

There is no player on this roster who automatically demands playing time.

Obviously, that was different last season with a multi-time All-Star in point guard Kemba Walker dominating the ball. Walker’s departure for the Boston Celtics means a rebuild. Coach James Borrego will pivot playing time toward youth without completely freezing out the veterans.

Here’s a player-by-player look at the 17 guys who make up the opening-night roster:

Dwayne Bacon

Position: Guard

NBA experience: Two seasons.

How acquired: Trade for his draft rights, after he was chosen 40th overall in 2017.

Prospects: The Hornets expect big things from Bacon, based on how he played the last dozen games last season. He looks like a starter at shooting guard. He improved his perimeter shooting last season. He has the tools to be a strong defender, though he hasn’t yet hit that level. He needs to be a much better decision-maker/passer, since the ball will be in his hands a lot.

Nic Batum

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Eleven seasons.

How acquired: Trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in 2015.

Prospects: Batum takes a lot of criticism from fans for not playing up to his $120 million contract. However, whether he starts or comes off the bench, Batum has the widest skill set on this roster. They need his ball-movement with Walker and Tony Parker gone, and they need his perimeter defense.

Bismack Biyombo

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Eight seasons.

How acquired: Trade from the Orlando Magic in 2018.

Prospects: Biyombo is in the final season of a contract paying him $17 million this season. He might not play much due to the youth movement, but he’s a defender on a team hurting for rim-protection. Would he want a buyout later this season to sign elsewhere?

Miles Bridges

Position: Forward

NBA experience: One season.

How acquired: Drafted 12th overall in 2018.

Prospects: You’d expect he’ll be a starter most, if not all, games this season based on his progress late last season and the youth movement. Bridges will play small and power forward; there is not a huge difference, but he probably will have better success as an undersized power forward than trying to guard sleeker players as a small forward.

Robert Franks

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Rookie.

How acquired: Signed to a two-way contract after going unselected in June’s draft

Prospects: One of four players on this roster sure to spend most of the season with the G-League Greensboro Swarm. A 6-foot-9 forward who is very much a project.

Devonte Graham

Position: Guard

NBA experience: One season.

How acquired: Second-round pick in the 2018 draft.

Prospects: Will get plenty of minutes as Terry Rozier’s backup at point guard. Seems confident and mature; ready to settle in as an NBA player. Got stronger over the summer, which is making him more effective finishing in the lane.

Willy Hernangomez

Position: Center

NBA experience: Three seasons.

How acquired: Trade in 2018 from the New York Knicks.

Prospects: Hernangomez has scoring and rebounding abilities that keep him in the mix for rotation minutes. But his defense is erratic, which knocked him out of the starting lineup last season when Cody Zeller was hurt. This is an important final season on his contract.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Seven seasons.

How acquired: Second overall pick of the 2012 draft

Prospects: Dim, as far as playing time. The pivot to playing youth might affect Kidd-Gilchrist as much as any veteran. Would be a logical player to request a buyout of his contract to be released to sign elsewhere.

Caleb Martin

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Rookie.

How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent.

Prospects: He played a lot in the Hornets’ preseason, and made enough of an impression — particularly as a scorer — to not only make the roster but get a partially guaranteed multi-year contract. Greensboro-bound.

Cody Martin.

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Rookie.

How acquired: Second-round pick (36th overall) in the 2019 draft.

Prospects: An ankle injury limited his playing time in the preseason. He has some point guard-type skills, but struggled some in summer league in that role.

Jalen McDaniels

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Rookie.

How acquired: Second of two second-round picks (52nd overall) in 2019.

Prospects: Has good length, but needs to get far stronger to be an NBA forward. Decent offensive player. Will spend most, if not all, of this season in Greensboro.

Malik Monk

Position: Guard

NBA experience: Two seasons.

How acquired: Eleventh pick of the 2017 draft.

Prospects: As general manager Mitch Kupchak said Monday, a player isn’t a “young prospect” forever. Monk might be the Hornets’ best athlete, but his unreliable defense has kept him from starting a single game. He is playing behind Bacon, the second-round pick in the same draft. Feels like a make-or-break season.

Terry Rozier

Position: Guard

NBA experience: Four seasons.

How acquired: Sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics in July.

Prospects: Rozier has craved the opportunity to be a long-term starter after backing up Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving with the Boston Celtics. He’s not Kemba Walker, and is the first to say so. But he’s good defender, and could end up this team’s leading scorer.

Kobi Simmons

Position: Guard

NBA experience: Two seasons.

How acquired: Signed to a two-way contract.

Prospects: Turned pro after a single college season, and wasn’t ready. Will have to work his way up through G-League process in Greensboro.

PJ Washington

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Rookie.

How acquired: Twelfth pick in 2019 draft.

Prospects: Had a head-turning preseason when he didn’t look at all flustered by NBA size and speed. More skilled than he showed at Kentucky, particularly as a 3-point shooter. Can guard multiple positions. Might start, should definitely play a lot as a rookie.

Marvin Williams

Position: Forward

NBA experience: Fourteen seasons.

How acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2014.

Prospects: Will play power forward and center, probably off the bench. A terrific mentor for young players on being an NBA player. Low-maintenance and long past the stage when he cares whether he starts.

Cody Zeller

Position: Center

NBA experience: Six seasons

How acquired: Fourth overall pick in 2013

Prospects: The only real question with Zeller is keeping him healthy; he has been available for only half the Hornets’ games the past two seasons. The Hornets plan to sit him out of some practices to try to minimize wear-and-tear.

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
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