Steve Mitchell, USA Today Sports

Charlotte Hornets travel to Miami for divisional matchup against Heat in season opener

The Charlotte Hornets open its season Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Miami against the Heat

In the season opener for both teams, Charlotte travels to face the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena with tip set for 7:30 p.m.

Miami's last matchup versus Charlotte
- April 7, 2015 at Miami (L, 100-105)
- Miami Heat 2014-15 record: 37-45

Charlotte ended last season on a six-game losing streak to finish the campaign at 33-49. The Hornets stood at 28-33 overall and riding a five-game winning streak on March 9 before a lopsided loss at home to Washington sent them spiraling downward toward a 5-16 finish that left the club out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

The Hornets opened the preseason with seven straight victories before falling to Indiana in their exhibition finale. A stark contrast from last season thus far has been three-point shooting. Charlotte averaged only 6.1 shots made from behind the arc in the 2014-15 campaign but increased the total to 9.3 trifectas per contest in the preseason. The 74 made threes were the fifth-most in the league during exhibition play. 

Tyler Hansbrough joined the Hornets from Toronto and has been a key reserve off the bench during the preseason with an average of 10 rebounds per game. Jeremy Lin, who also signed during the off-season, led Charlotte in scoring with 15.3 per contest and will be a key bridge between the point and shooting guard spots--particularly with Troy Daniels and Jeremy Lamb nursing injuries.

Charlotte Projected Starters (preseason stats)

Position Player Height PPG APG
PG Kemba Walker 6-1 13.4 3.3
SG Nicolas Batum 6-8 13.0 6.0
SF P.J. Hairston 6-6 6.2 2.0
PF Marvin Williams 6-9 6.1 4.7
C Al Jefferson 6-10 11.2 5.7

Miami returned to Earth last season after the departure of LeBron James via free agency. The Heat had reached the NBA Finals in each of the past four seasons, with back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013, but missed the postseason last year for the first time since 2008.

A player to watch for Miami could be Hassan Whiteside. The seven-footer was terrific in limited action in the preseason and his presence allows Chris Bosh to play the four-position that he is better suited for. With a healthy and productive Whiteside in 2015-16, the Heat has a chance to surprise.

Goran Dragic is another pivotal player for Miami. The point guard insisted on the move to South Florida from Phoenix and now has a full season to prove his worth. Dragic, who will earn about $15 million this season, averaged 16.6 points per game in 26 contests with the Heat after joining the club in a three-way trade on February 19. 

Miami Projected Starters (preseason stats)

Position Player Height PPG APG
PG Goran Dragic 6-3 6.7 3.7
SG Dwyane Wade 6-4 10.1 3.3
SF Luol Deng 6-9 8.0 3.5
PF Chris Bosh 6-11 13.7 5.3
C Hassan Whiteside 7-0 10.7 5.7

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