*Update 12-17-2017

The Charlotte Hornets have are now 10-19 on the season and losers of 3 in a row.  Two at home to depleted Miami and an average Trailblazer team. Original article below.

The Charlotte Hornets continue to struggle in the 2017-18 season losing at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, December 11th giving up 56 points in the paint and allowing 28 fast break points. That loss was made even tougher due to the loss to the Chicago Bulls the previous night in overtime. In no universe should the Chicago Bulls beat the Hornets at home.  However, this marked Chicago’s second win over the Hornets this season. Chicago is 4-2o on the season with 2 of those victories coming at Charlotte’s expense.

   On the court

So what gives? Why is the team that on paper has decent talent performing so poorly? The guys over at Buzz Beat have a great podcast covering the Hornets. You can listen to their podcast here. They made a decent point that while Dwight Howard has been put up a good box score, he has been a major liability. He does not play good pick and roll defense and is a turnover machine when he takes two or more dribbles in the post. He is shooting 70% when he just turns and shoots in the post versus the mid 40’s when he takes two or more dribbles. To make matters worse, the turnovers lead to transition baskets on the other end.

 

  Lack of talent

The Hornets best player is Kemba Walker, a true warrior. He is doing all he can to carry the team. However, at 6,1 and 184 pounds he simply should not be the lone playmaker on any team. The decline of Nick Batum has made matters worse. During the 2015-16 season, Batum played great but has not looked as good after receiving the huge contract. He is still owed roughly $80 million dollars. It is impossible to see any other team taking that contract, a 5yr/120mm deal with a player option for $27 million in 20/21.  So far  Batum has missed half the season and is out again tonight with an elbow injury.

Marvin Williams a great locker room guy by all accounts. I know teams need that veteran presence but Williams is paid well for his role and production on this team. Currently, in his 13th season, Williams has averaged 10.6 points per game during his career. He is in the second year of a 4yr/$54.5 deal and also has a player option for 15 million player option for the 2019/20 season.

Jeremy Lamb- a great offensive player can provide a spark off the bench and spot starting. I would prefer Lamb starting at the shooting guard and Batum coming off the bench but Batum’s contract screams starter.

Cody Zeller- a solid role player for the team. Really good screener and gets other players involve. Plays better pick and roll defense than Howard,

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- allegedly plays good defense. Offensive liability. Does not stretch the defense at all.  Currently averages .01 three-point attempts per game on the season. Adios.

Bad draft luck?

While others teams have built through the draft, the Charlotte Hornets seem snake bitten. Kemba is the only all-star level draft pick currently on the roster. Cody Zeller as previously stated is a good fit. Frank Kaminsky appears to have regressed a good bit. The jury is still out on Malik Monk as he is in his first year and is just averaging 16 minutes per game. The draft has not been kind, to say the least.

Blow it up and rebuild?

I don’t quite understand how blowing this team up will do any good. The Hornets best player, Kemba Walker, is just 27 and makes just $12 million per year. Any rebuilding effort should include retaining Kemba. The Hornets now and in their previous incarnation had a very difficult time attracting top free agents. It has been baffling. The previous version of the Hornets had the same problem. Only we could actually draft back then, but contract and other issues led to trading Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson.

 

Coaching and the Front Office

First, let me start by wishing Coach Clifford a speedy recovery. Clifford has done miracles with what he has to work with but in the NBA there is no substitute for talent. While the front office brought in the likes of Courtney Lee and Jeremy Linn, they could not convince them to stay. The front office has not in recent history had not any success drafting a player that is a future all-star.  I am not sure what the answer is short of improving our ability to draft better and hoping they decide to re-sign with the Hornets. Until then the Charlotte faithful will continue to be disappointed.