No one was talking about the Hornets in the offseason. They didn’t sign any major free agents or make any big trades. They spent most of their time retrenching, trying to bring as much of their team back as possible. The Hornets made a big bet on continuity, spending a combined $230.5 million on new contracts for Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams during the offseason and an extension on Cody Zeller days into the season. It has paid off so far, as they have gotten off to a 7–3 start, including narrow losses to the Raptors and the Cavs over the weekend in games where they more than held their own. The Hornets know who they are, and everyone in the starting lineup has a clearly defined role on both sides of the ball. In a league where so much changes from year to year, that type of stability can be a huge advantage.

Everything in Charlotte starts with Kemba Walker, who has taken a big step forward in his sixth season in the NBA. Kemba has gotten better every season he has been in the league, and the Hornets have reaped the benefits of growing with him. A lot like DeMar DeRozan, Walker came into the league as a fairly limited player, and he was asked to play over his head on a team that didn’t have a lot of other options on offense. The Hornets fed him possession after possession over the years, and he has gotten better by sheer force of repetition. He knows exactly where on the floor he has to go to get his shot off, and he knows every move the defense can make to stop him, as well as every possible countermove. Nothing surprises him anymore, and the game has slowed to a crawl.

Kemba has been playing like a miniature version of Charlotte’s native son, Steph Curry. Walker is knocking down 3-pointers off the dribble as if they were layups, and pulling up with confidence from anywhere on the floor. He is averaging 25.8 points and 5.5 assists a game on 49.1 percent shooting, and shooting 47.8 percent from 3 on almost seven attempts a game from beyond the arc. Steph is the only player who has had a season like that in NBA history. Walker’s shooting numbers will certainly go down as the season goes on, but a huge part of playing like Steph is operating in an environment similar to the one Steph has in Golden State, and the Hornets have turned themselves into a streamlined version of the Warriors. They don’t have nearly the same amount of individual talent, but the Hornets play better than the sum of their parts would indicate because their key players fit into roles that get the most out of their abilities.