What’s the Plan? is a weekly series where we look at the long-term outlooks for teams that aren’t immediately contending for a championship. This week, we examine a team that’s stuck in the middle of NBA purgatory, and might be okay with it: The Charlotte Hornets.
I’m going to come out and say it: the Hornets aren’t trying to win a championship. Well, they’re not trying to win championships now or in the foreseeable future. Every move Charlotte has made this offseason points to a team trying to be “okay” instead of moving towards being great.
So far in the offseason, the Hornets have let Bismack Biyombo leave in free agency for less than $3 million per year, signed Jeremy Lin and Tyler Hansbrough, traded Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh (a year after taking him ninth overall) for Nicolas Batum (who could leave next summer), and shipped off Lance Stephenson to ultimately end up with Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lamb.
They drafted Frank Kaminsky over Justise Winslow (and turned down a massive offer from the Celtics in order to take Kaminsky), presumably because they needed to replace Vonleh and because they didn’t want Winslow to interfere with the development of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The fact that Kaminsky was a four-year college player and Winslow was a one-and-done was also a factor in the decision, which was questionable at best.
All of these moves, with the exception of picking up Lamb, appear more focused on the short-term success of the team than trying to acquire young players with the potential to get this team out of the quicksand that’s the middle of the NBA. Stephenson clearly wasn’t working out for them, so it made sense for them to move on and get whatever they could for him.
However, I feel they were hasty in shipping off Vonleh and not making a competitive offer for Biyombo. Neither player was that great for the Hornets, but Vonleh had little time to prove himself and Biyombo provided solid rim protection, which the team is lacking.
Lin, Hansbrough, Hawes and Batum are all fairly young, but at this point, don’t we know what each of these players are? They’ll make the team a little bit better, but likely not by enough that it makes Charlotte a legitimate contender. Even if they manage to slip into the playoffs, they’re not even close to winning multiple playoff series. They just don’t have the elite type of player you need to seriously compete in the NBA, and the more games they win, the further they get from landing that player.
If the Hornets wanted to win a championship, they’d trade their players away for assets and go the Philly route. It won’t happen, because Michael Jordan is in charge of the hirings and firings in Charlotte, but tanking is the best chance this team has at landing a superstar. Charlotte is hardly a sexy destination in free agency, and the roster doesn’t exactly scream “fun to play with.”
Maybe things will change when we see this team take the court next season, but as far as I see it, the Hornets’ best chance at landing the kind of player who can catapult them to the top of the league is through the draft, and it’s more likely that they’ll land that player in the first few picks than in the middle of the first round.