Dear Hornets’ fans,
Thought I’d start off 2020 with just a quick little blurb about the Hornets heading into the new year and new decade. Despite a losing record, six-game losing streak, and Kemba departing for Boston, there is still much to look forward to. My goal as I started on the beat has been rooted in trying to get you fans behind this team’s young talent. Whether that’s the assignment guys/two-way players in Greensboro or any of the Hornets’ young talent. Basically, balancing a bright outlook with healthy criticism when warranted. There’s no bias, just taking what I perceive and reporting, tweeting, writing, and dispersing it out into the public as I see fit.
In a perfect world, you would love to close out the decade on a high note. Instead, the Hornets closed out 2019 with a 17-point loss to the Boston Celtics – not ideal, especially on Star Wars night. I mean come on, what’s a better combination than NBA basketball and Star Wars? I will not listen to any counter-arguments because there are none. Despite a tough loss against Kemba Walker’s new team to close out the year, the Hornets still have much to be optimistic about.
The Hornets have an opportunity to start fresh at the dawn of this new decade. They can leave their franchise’s disappointing past in the dust. They have an opportunity to re-brand themselves and continue to re-invent their organization from the bottom up. At the start of the season, it was clear that without Kemba Walker, this franchise was heading in a new direction.
Through the team’s first 36-games, we got a glimpse into what this team will look like for the foreseeable future. From the astronomical outbreak of Devonte’ Graham, P.J. Washington far surpassing all expectations he opened the season with, along the rest of the young Hornets looking to potentially be long-term supporting pieces, there is hope for the Charlotte Hornets. It’s far from slim. They have a good man running the show in James Borrego, at the forefront of the restructure guiding this team into the future.
James Borrego has established his four pillars. Through thick and thin, he has not changed his message to the team. Through five-game losing streaks or five-game winning streaks, his philosophy does not waiver. He has cemented a culture into this young Charlotte Hornets team for the long run that eventually will lead this team to sustainable success. The players are fully bought into the goals and ideals of the coaching staff and the front office – and despite what their record indicates, they are on the ascension. Slowly, but surely. Progression is not linear. You have to have the proper preparation before you see your elevation. Losses come along the way – that’s inevitable as a bi-product of the holistic growth process.
Entering the Summer of 2020, the Hornets finally have some cap flexibility. Something that has not been the case in a handful of years. Charlotte’s cap space is projected at $26.2 million per Early Bird Rights with Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming off the books. Hornets’ general manager and president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has been adamant about the team not being big spenders in free agency.
As mentioned back in October, the team will not be buyers at the trade deadline either, but potential sellers of veterans – i.e. Marvin Williams or potentially Bismack Biyombo, along with Malik Monk also sparking interest. They would do so to acquire draft picks and young assets to build around to support their rebuild. The team could be a potential salary dump destination to additionally acquire more assets. The earliest the team can extend Devonte’ Graham is July, so the money coming off the books will eventually go to Graham, if not this summer then sometime next season.
In addition to cap space, the Hornets will also have three draft picks in this summer’s draft. They own their own first-round pick and also have second-round picks from Cleveland and Boston per Real GM. As it sits now the Hornets have the ninth highest odds in the lottery, but according to FiveThirtyEight, they are projected to have a 25-57 record which would give them the third-highest lottery odds. I’m saying this not to depress or to refute anything previously said, but to reinforce the fact that this team will lose games this year. You have to run before you can fly.
Like I continue to say, progression is not linear. The team will look to land on more draft picks this summer (hopefully a big) as Kupchak did successfully last year. These young players are in new elevated roles, so patience is 100 percent vital. You need to have the longest view in the room. It will come in due time.
The Longest View
As you look at the team’s current roster heading into the future, there is hope. Devonte’ Graham is averaging 18.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 7.7 assists this season. An outburst no one saw coming. Terry Rozier is doing what the team brought him in to do – provide perimeter scoring, ball handling, and playmaking on a nightly basis. He has not been as consistent as you’d like, but in the same breath, not an utter disappointment.
P.J. Washington is one of the five best rookies in the NBA this season. He has proven to be a versatile forward on both ends of the floor, stretching the floor from three (42.2 percent this season), scoring from the post as he did at Kentucky, along with being a capable roll man to the rim. Defensively, he has shown NBA-level instincts, blocking shots and rotating well for a rookie. Cody Martin is a bright spot, taking over Nic Batum’s spot in the rotation. He is averaging north of 20 minutes per game since his return from a five-game G-League stint with the Swarm. His jumper will improve as we have already seen this season. The list goes on.
There is hope for the Hornets. Have the longest view in the room. That’s how you effectively watch a team in the state of the Hornets. Don’t look strictly at the wins and losses but the steady improvement of young talent. A prime example is Cody Martin’s confidence boost and overall comfort on the offensive end. It also wouldn’t hurt to get familiar with some 2020 NBA Draft prospects. Trust me, it’s a ton of fun.
Let’s jump into 2020. #AllFly