Opinions vary on how many changes the Charlotte Hornets need to make in the offseason. But nearly everyone who follows the team agrees that some changes are definitely needed. The group of guys that went to battle this past season simply weren’t capable of getting the job done.
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Injuries played a part in the team’s failures, but it’s still clear that the current roster doesn’t have the talent needed to contend in the Eastern Conference.
Argument For Major Changes
The Hornets’ attempt at a major splash in free agency last summer came up short. Lance Stephenson’s struggles have been well documented at this point, but they also played in a major role in the team’s step back.
Getting rid of Stephenson is an option that should be on the table. The problem is finding a taker for his $9 million salary next season. He’s massively overpaid at this point and coming off his worst season since 2011-12. Being a key role player seems to be the ceiling for the 24-year-old moving forward.
Al Jefferson is another major name on the Hornets who may come up in trade talks at some point this offseason or 2016. Jefferson is 30 years old, going into the final year of his contract and coming off his worst season in nearly a decade, all of which make him an intriguing trade option if the right offer or target comes along.
Big Al says he has unfinished business in Charlotte, which is what you want to hear if you’re a fan, but he could also very easily end up on the “business” side of things before it’s all said and done.
If making major changes is the direction management goes in, Stephenson and Jefferson are two of the biggest names that could and should be involved.
Argument For Retooling
If you’re on the “retooling” side of the fence, you likely feel that injuries played a major role in the Hornets’ failures last season. There’s no doubt that Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson missing major chunks of time contributed to the team’s struggles in the win column. Although it’s also arguable how far the Hornets can actually go with 100-percent versions of Walker and Jefferson.
However, there’s no doubt that fully healthy stars will lead to greener pastures for Michael Jordan’s team.
Jefferson is not yet over the hill, with at least a couple of good seasons left in the tank. There’s no reason to abandon ship on his contract at the point, unless things go off the track before the deadline next season.
Adding more quality pieces around the core of a healthy Jefferson and Walker should equal another playoff berth in 2015-16. The group that surrounded them in 2013-14 on their way to the No. 7 seed was a less-talented and less-experienced group than the one that should be on the court next season.
But for a return to the postseason to happen, Charlotte must knock it out of the park in this year’s draft. Both selections have to be candidates who can contribute something right out of the gate.
At the same time, free agency must be more successful than it was a year ago. More analysis of the player’s fit within the Hornets’ system must go on, because Stephenson’s role was definitely miscalculated. The last thing the team can afford is another big swing and a miss.
Swarm and Sting
It’s too early to give up on this core of players and to commence a rebuilding process. MJ and the Horents are thinking big picture. To get the most out of long-term planning, you must let players develop. The Hornets roster is full of young guys who 20 years ago would have just now have been entering the league.
But because of the one-and-done culture in college basketball today, players don’t come into the league nearly as developed as they used to.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is 21-years old for crying out loud. Noah Vonleh is still over a year away from being legally able to purchase alcohol, and P.J. Hairston and Cody Zeller are both only 22-years of age, aka, how old players used to be when they came into the NBA.
The point is, this Hornets roster is full of youth with potential for growth. The best way to ensure growth is to give opportunity for it. In the game of basketball that comes in the form of minutes played.
If you’re a professional sports franchise in 2015 and you’re not developing talent and thinking big picture, then you’re just not doing it right. Fans are always going to want the moon. They’re always going to want results over night. But that’s just not realistic for the Charlotte Hornets. They’re going to get to the top with good old fashioned hard work and long-term planning.
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