It is often said of a franchise that after the draft, trading season, and free agency, they have high hopes for the upcoming season.
Well, bust out the dankest weed you got, Charlotte Hornets fans, because if you think this team’s got any hope, you must be high.
It’s bad enough that the Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball (whom I covered in an earlier draft preview when the rumor mill said he was going to go first overall to the Timberwolves and I pointed out that no good would come of Minnesota drafting him.)
Turns out Ball has a chance to make NBA history, because the worst third-overall pick in NBA history was drafted by this same dumpster fire of a franchise; Adam Morrison went third to the then-Bobcats in the 2006 draft and proceeded to barf out 1.4 fewer career Win Shares than me and anyone else who never played in the NBA who reads this combined.
LaMelo had to take the long road through barnstorming in Lithuania and showing off a hitchy jump shot that would make Markelle Fultz cringe while playing antipodean basketball Down Under. His defense is suspect, his fundamentals trained into him by his idiot hustler of a father, his ceiling no better than his older brother Lonzo Ball, and his floor…who knows. Emmanuel Mudiay? Adam Morrison? The mind boggles at just how bad he has the potential to become when he plays with the big boys.
And then, just to add a cherry to the poop sundae that Charlotte’s serving their fans this year, not only did they give Gordon Hayward—the fourth option on the Celtics and a guy who hasn’t been able to stay consistently healthy since he still played in Utah—four years and $120 million while simultaneously using the stretch provision to rack up $9 million in dead cap on Nicolas Batum.
Celtics fans are complaining that Danny Ainge let Hayward walk for nothing, but if we assume that Hayward had some inkling that Charlotte was going to throw a mint at him, what was Ainge supposed to do? Nothing that could’ve come back in a sign-and-trade would’ve been worth keeping (Batum’s contract probably would have been involved), and Charlotte probably would’ve lottery-protected any picks they sent. Was Ainge supposed to call up Sam Presti and see those Hornets picks conveyed to Oklahoma City in exchange for…Chris Paul? Steven Adams? A bunch of worthless stock in Chesapeake Energy that’s trading for three bucks a share as a combination of COVID and the collapse in fossil fuel prices killed its market?
Charlotte was going to throw a huge bag of money at Hayward. They poisoned the trade market then bid against themselves, because nobody else was throwing that kind of money at a guy who lives in the same untradeable contract world as John Wall.
And again, they’re paying Nicolas Batum more money not to play basketball for them as a midlevel exception and a veteran minimum guy combined on a good team get paid to be key role players for deep playoff runs.
This is the same Hornets team that flipped Kemba Walker for Terry Rozier, a guy who on the one hand posted career highs in both usage rate and true shooting percentage and who on the other hand barfed out exactly three win shares on a team with a prorated 82-game record of 29-53.
Rozier regressed after a surprisingly good 2018 season and the Celtics still got value for him like he was the Scary Terry who got them to the Eastern Conference Finals without Hayward or Kyrie Irving in the lineup.
This is the same Charlotte team that, lacking any sense of good taste, let Tony Parker limp through a downright depressing farewell season in 2018-19 backing up Walker and posting his third straight negative-VORP season to close out his career.
Did they expect to get the guy who was consistently a candidate for All-Defensive in San Antonio (but who surprisingly never got named such despite four All-NBA nods)?
They drafted Cody Martin in the second round out of Nevada in 2019 then added his twin brother Caleb in hopes of…you tell me. Were they expecting the Sedin brothers from the NHL? Because that’s not what they got. They got a couple of mid-major guys who were good when feasting upon lesser college competition and dear gods that explains LaMelo, doesn’t it?
Do the Hornets even have a scouting department?
The more layers of this onion you peel back, the more you both (a) want to cry and (b) start to think that writing about the Hornets is like writing for the satirical publication named after that particular vegetable.
Devonte’ Graham was their leading scorer last year. He shot 38.2 percent from the field.
Malik Monk is entering his fourth season and has zero positive-VORP seasons and exactly one Win Share in 3,281 minutes (a pathetic .015 WS/48). He got himself suspended from the league thanks to the league’s substance abuse program—the NBA won’t say what it was he got into, but they don’t dish out indefinite suspensions for the devil’s lettuce. Monk did some of the hard stuff.
Monk is back this year, making over $5 million as the Hornets stupidly picked up the fourth-year team option on a guy they should’ve cut bait with when it was obvious after Year 2 that he had no discernible NBA talent whatsoever.
And even though the Hornets finally cut bait on him in February, can we give some kind of lifetime achievement award to Marvin Williams, who built a 16-year career while never at any point being remotely considered good except for one glorious contract year in 2016 when he put up 2.7 VORP and got rewarded with a Salary Cap Sweepstakes deal worth $54.5 million?
But $54.5 million is a hell of a consolation prize.
You can’t write about the Charlotte Hornets without sinking into existential despair at the futility of a franchise that isn’t even entertainingly terrible the way a team like the Knicks are. Even Sam Hinkie’s atrocious Sixers teams had comedy value if nothing else.
The Hornets? They’re just locked in mediocrity hell, finishing ninth or tenth every year, never good enough to make the playoffs and never bad enough to blow it up and start over.
The saddest part of all of this is that the best-case scenario for Hornets fans is Hayward rupturing his Achilles in Game 1 of the new season. At least then Charlotte might get a chance to draft someone who’s…
…wait, they picked third and picked LaMelo Ball.
Man, where’s Donald Sterling when you need him? What would they have to catch Michael Jordan saying on a hot mic to make him sell his stake in the team? White dude drops the N-word, it’s an easy case. Black dude drops an N-bomb, it’s casual conversation. Can’t ban him for life for that.
Y’all got it bad, Hornets fans. Heck, I’m sitting here in Seattle and I don’t even want the NBA to move your team here. Good luck with 2021. You’ll need it.