- Books are bullish on the Hornets, who now have the shortest odds to win the Southeast Division
- Can Kemba Walker continue his sensational play all season long?
- Will the Wizards eventually bounce back?
The Hornets officially have their sting back.
Charlotte has emerged with the shortest odds to win the NBA’s Southeast Division for the first time all season. Michael Jordan’s club presently sits at +170 after beginning the year as far back as +1200.
Odds to Win the Southeast Division in 2018-19
We’ve been following Charlotte’s meteoric rise closely and have come up with four reasons why their odds are suddenly so short.
1. Kemba Walker Has Been Unstoppable
Let’s be perfectly honest: the Hornets would likely be neck-and-neck with the Hawks were it not for the sensational play of Kemba Walker, who looks like he’s being controlled by a 12-year-old with a joystick. The two-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 28.8 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game, and roasted the Sixers for a cool 60 points earlier this season.
Kemba Walker scored a franchise-high 60 points pic.twitter.com/4NNMBMashP
— NBA Tweets Live (@NBA_Tweets_Live) November 18, 2018
Much of the credit goes to new head coach James Borrego, who has introduced more motion to Charlotte’s traditionally static offense, and has encouraged Walker to let it fly from the deep. The 28-year-old, who has never really needed any encouragement to shoot, is now taking a career-high 10 threes per game and is nailing nearly 40% of his shoots from deep. Walker has always been an explosive scorer, but his added range now makes him a threat the moment he crosses half court.
2. The Wizards Have Lost their Magic
As is often the case, Charlotte’s vastly improved odds have come at the expense of another team. In this case, that team is the Wizards, who began the season as the odds-on favorites to win the Southeast Division before turning into an outright dumpster fire.
Dwight Howard: “My Hall of Fame resume speaks for itself”
— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) November 7, 2018
Washington ranks 19th in offensive rating, 28th in defensive rating, and has had to endure more in-fighting than a Hatfield-MyCoy family reunion. Who knew that adding Dwight Howard to your locker room wouldn’t suddenly improve team chemistry?
3. Charlotte’s Bench Has Been Big
The Hornets have received a huge boost from their second unit, which ranks fourth in the NBA in bench scoring at 46.8 points per game. Leading the charge is Malik Monk, who is third on the team in scoring, and has emerged as a legit mini microwave. Charlotte has also gotten big contributions from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has developed into one of the league’s best defensive stoppers, and first round draft pick Miles Bridges, who has become a viral sensation with his thunderous slams and swats.
Miles Bridges pin alert ? pic.twitter.com/YN5QKh5T5J
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) November 22, 2018
4. The Hornets Have Been Protecting the Rock
Walker gets lots of love for his flashy forays to the hoop, but he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the way he protects the ball. The UConn alum is averaging just 2.5 turnovers per game, which is phenomenal when you consider his insanely high usage rate of 30.6%. The Hornets, by consequence, rank second in the NBA in fewest turnovers per game, and have gotten significantly better at limiting mental errors and not beating themselves.
Are the Hornets Your Best Bet?
Coming into the 2018-19 season it seemed unfathomable the Wizards would lose their death grip on the Southeast Division, and yet here we are. Scott Brooks’ seat has become a fire hazard, players are routinely throwing one another under the bus, and franchise cornerstones John Wall and Bradley Beal are both being actively shopped.
The Wizards could turn things around, but it feel far more likely that they’ll blow things up and start looking towards next year instead.
The Hornets, on the other hand, genuinely seem to like one another. The players understand the team’s pecking order, play hard from night to night, and have bought into Borrego’s decidedly more modern offense. Charlotte is far from a perfect team, as loses to Chicago and Cleveland have illustrated, but they remain a safer bet than the Wizards, Heat, Magic and Hawks. Snap ’em up at +170 while you still can.
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