The Hornets were unable to build on the success of the 2015-16 season, failing to reach the playoffs while finishing 11th in the East. Injuries were a factor in their struggles as Spencer Hawes was the only player in the regular rotation not miss at least one game due to injury. Veterans Cody Zeller and Ramon Sessions were the primary culprits, missing a combined 41 games due to an assortment of ailments. Furthermore, All-Star guard Kemba Walker limped into the offseason and ultimately underwent knee surgery, his third procedure over the last four years. Despite the numerous setbacks, head athletic trainer Steve Stricker and the rest of the Hornets medical team still managed to get the team’s final injury total below the league average.
While Walker is healthy entering the new season, injuries questions continue to surround the team. Nicolas Batum is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. Newly acquired point guard Michael Carter-Williams will also be unavailable after undergoing PRP injections in both his knees. Stricker and the team will also be challenged with preserving the health of center Dwight Howard. Howard, a former Defensive Player of the Year, has put together back-to-back healthy campaigns after missing 41 games with knee issues during the 2014-15 season.
The Hornets will hope a rejuvenated Howard and a good start from rookie Malik Monk will be enough to keep the team competitive until Batum and Carter-Williams are ready to return. If they can, Charlotte has the talent to return to the postseason in a seemingly wide open Eastern Conference.