Bringing Back the Buzz

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Matson Montilla

The Hornets’ developing young talent has started to shine and the future could be a bright one for the Hornets (Photo courtesy of Matson Montilla).

During the offseason, the Hornets were projected to be one of the worst teams in the National Basketball League (NBA) after losing their best player, Kemba Walker. Most analysts saw the Hornets’ roster as one without stars and filled with developing young talent and old veterans on big contracts. The season looked to be a lost one for the Hornets. But, the Hornets have been a surprising team this year because of the emergence of Devonte Graham and good performances from P.J. Washington and Terry Rozier. Before the season, the Hornets looked like one of the worst teams in the NBA, but they are turning into a young, developing team.

“By and large, we’re talking about building something through the draft and savvy trades. Hopefully make good decisions and not get in a spot where we’re capped-out or have no youth and too many players who might be good enough to get you into the playoffs, but not advance,” said Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak as reported by the Charlotte Observer.

While the scoring and efficiency for the Hornets has dipped, the goal for them should remain that they need to continue to develop their young talent. The Hornets have a decent young core with Graham, Miles Bridges, and PJ Washington. Graham has been the breakout star for the Hornets. Last season, he hardly saw any game time, but this year, he is in the running for the Most Improved Award. Many have pegged Graham as Kemba’s successor in Charlotte and he has given hope to Hornets fans. Washington has exceeded all expectations for this season. Coming into the season, many expected Washington to be a project player, but he is currently starting for the Hornets. Miles Bridges has had a good sophomore season so far but there is still room for improvement.

“I’m not going to coach a team based on contracts, what you’re making, where you were drafted, if you were drafted. To me, that’s not my job. My job is to get the most out of them, whether they were drafted or not drafted,” said Hornets head coach James Borrego in the same article.

With all of the playing time going to the younger players, many of the older players are riding the bench with less playing time than last season. Many of these players have expensive contracts that will be expiring within the next couple seasons. This is pretty common with teams like the Hornets who are trying to make a transition. When the money clears, the team can use it to sign star players in free agency or resign players who have developed in Charlotte. But, the veterans in Charlotte have responded differently. Many of them have supported the younger players. Coach Borrego has praised the veterans and he has acknowledged that they are professionals. They aren’t worried about minutes but the overall success of the team even though they may not be there to see it. 

“I don’t think any vets feel like they’ve been isolated out. If anything, guys like Marv and Nic are the ones telling me, ‘You’ve got to go get the ball and make a play. We have guys who give up themselves for the team,” said Devonte Graham to a reporter from the Charlotte Observer in another article.

While the Hornets are doing well developing their talent, their record does not reflect that. As of January 29th, the Hornets are 16 – 31 and they have the fifth worst record in the league. But while this may seem bad, it actually sets up the Hornets well for the offseason. Many of their veterans’ big contracts will expire and they could have a top pick in the NBA Draft. While there aren’t many big free agents for the 2020 Free Agent class, Kupchak has said the Hornets wouldn’t build through big signings. The cap room could be used to bring in role players, or maybe the Hornets could try and sign Andre Drummond. The Hornets have been linked to Drummond in trade rumors, but it makes more sense to recruit him in free agency. 

“I think that the Hornets should have been tanking this season and this offseason the draft needs to be a priority. The bad contracts like Nic Batum are weighing the Hornets down which could make free agency difficult but we could sign some role players. It’s difficult because Charlotte is a small market team,” said senior Donovan Springle.

The Hornets have started the rebuild. They key is to make moves that make sense. Charlotte is a small market town, which makes it harder to have success. Players don’t want to go there as much as a big city like Los Angeles or New York City. Kupchak and Borrego need to continue to develop the young talent, make good trades, and draft players that make sense. They need to avoid the same old mistakes that the team has been making since the Hornets returned. The front office and coaching staff will need to be as busy as bees in order to bring back the buzz to Charlotte.