Where do we start?
It’s been a whacky offseason for the Charlotte Hornets, plain and simple. They fired a coach who had improved the team’s win total by 10 or more in back-to-back seasons, becoming the first-ever coach in NBA history to lose his job after having done so. The two performances in the Play-In tournament were one of the main reasons James Borrego was relieved of his duties as GM Mitch Kupchak stated that it was time for the organization to “take the next step”.
Unfortunately, that next step has been backward, not forward.
Kupchak and company thought they had the “voice” they were looking for in Kenny Atkinson before he reconsidered things and ultimately chose to stay on as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. So, what did the Hornets do? They hired Steve Clifford. You know, the guy they fired to hire James Borrego who was then fired four years later for the guy he replaced.
Clifford is a great defensive mind and knows what it takes to win in Charlotte. I don’t question his ability to coach whatsoever. It’s more so the logic of the front office. But as we all know, it’s the players that win and lose games at this level.
Speaking of the roster, it’s been one unfortunate event after the other. Montrezl Harrell, who is an unrestricted free agent, is facing felony drug charges from a traffic stop in May. There haven’t been any updates regarding his situation and even if he gets everything resolved, there’s no guarantee that he will return to Charlotte.
Arguably the main priority for the Hornets heading into the offseason was to retain Miles Bridges by offering him a max contract, or something close to it. Kupchak stated on a couple of occasions that they would like to have him remain a part of the future. However, that was all put to bed when news broke that Bridges had turned himself into the Los Angeles Police Department after a warrant for his arrest was issued after a reported domestic violence case.
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The Hornets have yet to rescind the qualifying offer to Bridges, who has a short date scheduled for Wednesday, July 20th.
One would think with the ongoing situation the team would begin to make other roster moves to help give this group a chance to take the next step Kupchak wants them to take. Even if the Bridges situation never occurred, the Hornets should have been active in free agency and in the trade market. Their only move so far? Re-signing Cody Martin to a four-year, $32 million deal.
In the draft, the Hornets had an opportunity to package their two picks and move up in the draft order or potentially unload them for an established player like a Myles Turner. Instead, they chose to trade one pick and draft Mark Williams (Duke) with the other. Williams has the skills to turn into a very good player for the Hornets down the road, but he isn’t a player that’s going to immediately move the needle.
There is still plenty of time to do so, but the Hornets have failed to upgrade the backup point guard position with many of the top free agents now off the board. They also missed out on an opportunity to unload the contracts of Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, which would have afforded them more flexibility in the first wave of free agency. Again, trading one or both of them is still possible but it doesn’t help them as much now as it would have a month ago.
Rolling into the 2022-23 season with essentially the same roster minus a couple of pieces doesn’t give you the feel of this being a playoff team. With the way the roster is currently constructed, I’m not sure they can make it out of the Play-In tournament again unless LaMelo Ball just carries this team which is a huge ask for a soon-to-be 21-year-old .
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