Many NBA analysts and reporters believe that the Charlotte Hornets will come back strong this coming 2017-18 NBA season. The Hornets were even projected to barge into the NBA Playoffs after a woeful campaign last season.

Bleacher Report predicted the Hornets to win 43 games with a 65 percent playoff probability which could land them the seventh spot in the East. ESPN listed them at No. 5 with 44.1 projected wins.

A lot of reasons contribute to the Hornets’ cause. For one, the team’s nucleus is intact which means more fluidity this time. Second, they added Dwight Howard, giving them higher ceiling, better defense, and rebounding prowess.

Finally, they drafted prized-rookie Malik Monk who is likely to become the second scoring option behind Kemba Walker.

Rebuilding the Hornets

The Hornets sent Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick (Tyler Dorsey) to Atlanta for Dwight Howard two days before the 2017 NBA Draft. Then, they waived Brianté Weber; free agents Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Christian Wood signed with other teams. Finally, the Hornets signed Michael Carter-Williams in the free agency.

The Hornets also retained its starting lineup: Walker (point guard), Nic Batum (shooting guard), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (small forward), Marvin Williams (power forward) and Cody Zeller (center). But according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Howard will take over as the starting center as per Hornets head coach Steve Clifford’s plan for the coming training camp.

“Dwight is still an elite defender,” Clifford said of team’s newest addition. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around.” While Howard registered his lowest block average per game last season, he remains one of the top rebounders in the league, grabbing 12.7 rebounds per game last season -- his highest rebounding average during the last five years.

Zeller is expected to pile up quality minutes coming off the bench along with another 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky, who could play a stretch five. Backing up Walker and Batum is the 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and prized-rookie Malik Monk who has yet to recover from injury.

Prized rookie

Malik Monk is one of the most-awaited rookies this season.

A native of Jonesboro, AR, Monk was the recipient of multiple basketball recognitions during his only year with the Kentucky Wildcats -- Jerry West Award, SEC Player of the Year – AP, Consensus second-team All-American, First-team All-SEC, SEC Freshman of the Year, and SEC All-Freshman Team. In fact, Monk was regarded as the best scorer of the 2017 NBA Draft. However, the 19-year old shooting guard rookie has yet to fully recover from ankle injury.

Some NBA analysts believe that once Monk has fully recovered from his injury, he will become the starting shooting guard for the Charlotte Hornets.

Batum will slide to small forward position while Kidd-Gilchrist will be coming off the bench. According to some analysts, Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive limitation is seen as the reason for this move.

Hornets Coach Clifford denied these rumors suggesting that they need his defense, competitiveness, and talent. But with the arrival of Dwight Howard, their defense is expected to become tougher down the baseline. This would also mean the Charlotte Hornets may look for another way to explore offense which is Malik Monk’s forte.