When it comes to team-building, Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets have a particular preferred type of player.
Some like them long, as long as they’re strong. Some like them short unless they won’t have enough support. Old is very risky but young can be too frisky. But the Charlotte Hornets’ type is undoubtedly raw, fast, and ripe.
We all have types in life but Michael Jordan has a very specific type of player that he likes to rely on when building the Charlotte Hornets roster.
One of their newest risks comes from signing Kelly Oubre Jr. to a two-year, $26 million contract that breeds more questions than it answers. For one, was Charlotte really that desperate they signed a potential live grenade to an already heated locker room? Well considering their only backup wing was Cody Martin, then yes… Oubre’s services will pair well alongside Gordon Hayward. But more importantly, where does Oubre fit in the James Borrego system? That’s a little more tricky.
Immediately we have a pick-and-roll threat. The LaMelo Ball to Oubre alley-oops will be on every game’s highlight reel. But these are the only certainties that come with signing Oubre. His shooting seems to be deteriorating after a down season with the Golden State Warriors and his PER of 13.3 and VORP of -0.1 indicate his a less than average player. But after reportedly receiving offers from Nets, Bucks, Nuggets, Blazers, and Lakers, it’s clear Oubre wants more than a free ticket to a ring. After being traded from Wizards and Suns for immediate playoff pushes and Warriors for an immediate Finals run, Oubre can settle into a team without immense expectations.
But Michael Jordan continued the gambles when shipping Devonte’ Graham for salary flexibility. Appointing a whole new level of dependability in the LaMelo Ball-Terry Rozier backcourt combo. This might be the rare occurrence of a win-win trade with the Pelicans, who only sent away a first-round pick. Especially since the newly drafted James Bouknight can create his own shot while playing secretly athletic, hopefully sliding right into the Graham-size gap.
The story on Bouknight is a risk in itself as everyone excused his poor shooting in college – a mediocre 29 percent from 3-point range – because he was asked to do too much. His reasonable free-throw shooting numbers (78 percent from the line) suggest that his 3-point shooting may come around over time, and he fits an archetype: Raw, fast and talented. Exactly the same for 19th pick Kai Jones, who is fast, always a lob threat but gets too easily lost on defense and is by no means a rim protector.
But much of the risk and eventual storyline of this upcoming season will follow head coach James Borrego who is in the final year of his contract. Compiling a 95-124 record, everyone seems to be pleased with the team’s turnaround since the Kemba Walker days, but how much of that is from the front office? There is no doubt a player by the name of LaMelo Ball has had a big impact on the change of culture. Plus you’re only as good as your last and Borrengo’s last was a humiliating 144-177 blowout loss to Indiana in a pivotal play-in game.
Finally, that brings the biggest risk of them all: LaMelo Ball. The fast, flashy, young playmaker seems to be the best of the family trio, but is he enough to be the franchise’s guy? The Hornets have made it clear they are not going backward after the four-year, $97 million contract thrown Terry Rozier’s way. Although I would never advocate denigrating to tanking when they definitely have a team to compete for a playoff spot, every decision seems to be built around the longevity and capitalization of LaMelo’s skill set.
Lob finishers, fast breakers, 3-point shooters are what the Hornets are prioritizing, based around a player who missed nearly a third of his rookie season due to injury. This is maybe less risk and more practicality for when a struggling team picks up a star but still, LaMelo is this team’s cornerstone for the future. That always entails risk.
The Hornets have come a long way since LaMelo’s first game in the NBA when he left scoreless. Departing from the longest tenure player in Cody Zeller, officially cutting off all ties from the horrific BobCats era. They have found a short-term point-guard mentor in Ish Smith who will play his eleventh year with Hornets, making it officially his twelfth team in the league. Someone like Kevin Love could be a suitable signing that won’t hold too much risk unless they overpay him. Then signing LiAngelo Ball would be swinging the opposite way on that radar.
Either way, nothing ventured means nothing gained. The Charlotte Hornets are one of the youngest teams heading into this season, so if they don’t take risks like how they have been, they will miss the best results. This won’t be the same team next season but if the cornerstone is happy, there are some new young faces to keep an eye for potential All-Star consideration and Gordon Hayward maybe does not break a leg in the first game – then just maybe they will be okay.