So now Charlotte Hornets decide it’s time to go young

Charlotte Hornets Marvin Williams Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Marvin Williams Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After spending nearly 7 years on the mediocrity express, it seems that now the Charlotte Hornets are embracing a youth movement. But will the timing work?

The idea that timing is everything goes back almost 3,000 years, to the Greek poet Hesiod. But for Charlotte Hornets president of basketball operations/general manager Mitch Kupchak, it appears his latest moves are coming more from a standpoint of there being no better time than the present.

After the franchise has mostly treaded water for the last six years, reaching the playoffs twice and being mostly stuck in the dreaded middle of the pack — not good enough to contend, not bad enough to maximize its draft position — the Hornets are going young for the rest of this season, per a report from Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

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In Tuesday’s loss to the Houston Rockets, the Hornets did not play veterans Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Marvin Williams and by Saturday, both Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist had been bought out and waived.

According to reports, Williams will be signed by the Milwaukee Bucks once he clears waivers, while the Dallas Mavericks are said to have interest in Kidd-Gilchrist.

Williams, in his age 33-season and in his 15th year, was averaging a career-low 19.7 minutes per game this season. Kidd-Gilchrist, who along with original Charlotte Bobcats draft pick Emeka Okafor shared the distinction of being the highest draft pick by the club since its 2004 reboot. He has become a forgotten man in coach James Borrego’s rotation, playing in just 12 games.

Both players were on expiring contracts, making their buyouts a bit easier for owner Michael Jordan to stomach. Biyombo might find himself the next to go — the 27-year-old is in his ninth NBA season and his $17 million salary for this season is the last year of the four-year, $70 million deal he got from the Orlando Magic in July 2016.

Batum, who turned 31 in December and is now in his 12th season, is more complicated. After signing a five-year, $120 million deal to remain with the Hornets as a free agent in July 2016 — the NBA’s infamous Summer of Cash, when the cap spiked due to the league’s new television deal — Batum has one year remaining at $27.13 million, a player option he is all but certain to exercise.

Borrego said the Hornets will be looking to throw the young guys to the fire for the remaining 30 games this season.

"“The goal right now is to get these young guys experience. And the more, the better.”"

But in Saturday’s 16-point loss to the Mavericks at Spectrum Center, Biyombo played 18 minutes off the bench, while Batum was inactive due to an illness. But 24-year-old guard Dwayne Bacon took a DNP-Coach’s Decision, as did 25-year-old center Willy Hernangomez.

The youth on the roster is comprised of rookie PJ Washington, a 21-year-old taken 12th overall in last June’s draft, as well as two other players in their age-21 seasons, second-year wing Miles Bridges and third-year guard Malik Monk.

Jalen McDaniels, a second-round pick last June, turned 22 in January and has played most of this season with the club’s G League affiliate in Greensboro, logging just 25 minutes with the Hornets. He is a 6’10”, 192 lbs big man who needs to add bulk before he’s playable outside of garbage-time situations.

Beyond that, no one on the roster is younger than 24, even rookies Caleb Martin and his twin brother Cody Martin.

Devonte’ Graham is having a breakout second season, but will be 25 later this month, and free agent acquisition Terry Rozier turns 26 in March.

So while Borrego talks about getting experience for the young players, there aren’t that many legitimately young guys on this roster.

At 16-36, the Hornets own the fourth-worst record in the NBA and at their current pace would have a 12.5 percent chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery, slightly less than the projected 14.0 percent chances of the three teams below the Charlotte Hornets in the standings — the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks.

However, Kupchak could be in line to have the franchise’s highest pick since taking Cody Zeller fourth overall in 2013 in a draft that is being panned by analysts as being a fairly weak class.

In addition to its own first-round pick, the Charlotte Hornets hold second-round picks belonging to the Cavaliers (currently projected to be No. 32) and the Boston Celtics (top-53 protected, currently projected to be No. 57). Their own pick is owed to the New York Knicks from the February 2018 deadline deal that brought Hernangomez to Buzz City.

So the timing may not be great there in terms of landing an impact draft prospect.

Per Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights, the Charlotte Hornets also project to have more cap space this summer — $42.21 million — than any team other than the Hawks ($49.21 million). But that could be available space for a free-agent class that may end up having Serge Ibaka as its No. 1 option.

Oh, there are other players who could become free agents this summer — Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan all hold player options for 2020-21, while Mike Conley has an early-termination option — but none of those are sure things.

The unexpected rise of Devonte' Graham. light. more hornets

And, hey, if you think Anthony Davis is going to leave a cushy gig playing with LeBron James in Los Angeles to come to Charlotte, I have some beachfront property outside of Bismarck I would just love to show you.

So on one hand, it’s good Kupchak and the Hornets are belatedly realizing that teaming up Zeller, Williams, Kidd-Gilchrist, Batum and Kemba Walker wasn’t going to lead to a championship run, but on the other hand, the decision to now blow it up seems to be ill-timed.

Then again, Kupchak was the general manager for four NBA championship winners with the Lakers during his long tenure from August 2000 to February 2017. So it’s possible he knows something the rest of us don’t.

On the other hand, he’s also the guy who committed $128 million for eight years of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng the summer before he was fired in L.A., so it’s also possible this is a road to more of the same for the Charlotte Hornets.

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