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The Charlotte Hornets need to change

The team isn’t good, the coaching is average and the ownership sucks. Please someone fix the Hornets.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Let’s talk about the Charlotte Hornets. The original Hornets were created in 1988 as an expansion team in Charlotte. The team relocated to New Orleans in 2002. The Charlotte Bobcats were created as another expansion team in Charlotte in 2004. The next year, 2005, the Bobcats went 18-64 and drafted Raymond Felton with the #5 overall pick. Chris Paul was drafted #4 by the New Orleans Hornets.

Ouch. Also, that’s one goddamner of a harbinger.

Here are Charlotte’s records since then:

  • 2005-06: 26-56
  • 2006-07: 33-49
  • 2007-08: 32-50
  • 2008-09: 35-47
  • 2009-10: 44-38 (made the playoffs, swept in the first round)
  • 2010-11: 34-48
  • 2011-12: 7-59 (shortened season)
  • 2012-13: 21-16
  • 2013-14: 43-39 (made the playoffs, swept in the first round)
  • 2014-15: 33-49
  • 2015-16: 48-34 (made the playoffs, lost 4-3 in the first round)
  • 2016-17: 36-46

Since Charlotte basketball returned in 2004, the team has had three above-500 seasons, and they’ve reached the playoffs each time they won more games than they lost. They have three postseason victories to show for 13 seasons of “professional” basketball, and they’re probably going to miss the playoffs again this year because they’re currently 19-26.

Charlotte has the 6th highest payroll in the NBA.

The 2005 draft famously sucked (outside of CP3, of course), so we can’t blame Charlotte too much, especially since Ray Felton is still playing in the NBA, which is a helluva lot more than you can say for Andrew Bynum, the #10 pick in that draft. So, let’s talk about Charlotte’s drafting history starting with the next draft class, 2006. With the third overall pick Charlotte selected: Adam Morrison.

Ouch, again.

Morrison is one of the biggest busts in NBA history. He played in 161 games total in his career. That’s less than two full seasons. His nickname was “The White Mamba.” Is there such a thing as a white mamba snake? No, there is not. Nor does there exist a basketball player with that name because Morrison hasn’t played an NBA game since 2010. He is, technically, an NBA champion because he was on the Black Mamba’s championship Lakers teams in 2009 and 2010. I wonder if the mambas got along, or if they were too similar to be friends?

Who were the other players in the 2006 draft that Charlotte could have drafted? Brandon Roy went 6th, although he too had a somewhat tragic career beset by injury; when healthy, though, he was incredible. I miss Brandon Roy! Rudy Gay went 8th, JJ Redick (White Mamba’s co-college player of the year that season) went 11th, Rajon Rondo went 21st, Kyle Lowry 24th, and Paul! Millsap! went 47th overall (!!!!!). Safe to say that Charlotte missed on this pick? I agree.

Here are the rest of their drafts:

2007

Charlotte selected Brandon Wright with the 8th pick; they traded him to Golden State for Jason Richardson and a 2nd round pick. They also drafted Jared Dudley with the 22nd overall pick.

Now, this is the Greg Oden over Kevin Durant draft, so it’s already known as completely guano bananas cray-cray. However, in between the 8th pick and the 22nd pick were Joakim Noah at 9th, Spencer Hawes 10th, Rodney Stuckey 15th, Nick Young 16th, and Marco Belinelli 18th, all of whom are better, or had better careers, than Brandon Wright. Oh, you know who went 48th overall? Marc MFing Gasol. NBA scouts and front offices are SMART AND GOOD AT THEIR JOBS.

2008

D.J. Augustin with the 9th overall pick. Brook Lopez went 10th, Roy Hibbert went 17th, Ryan Anderson 21st, Courtney Lee 22nd, SERGE! IBAKA! 24th (to the Seattle Supersonics; writing this made me sadsadsad), Nicolas Batum 25th (hahaha! They could’ve just drafted him, instead Charlotte paid him $120 million last season on a 5 year contract; he’s currently averaging 11 points, and is shooting 29% from three, wow, what a great contract), George Hill went 26th, DeAndre Jordan went 35th (SMH), Luc Mbah a Moute went 37th, and Goran Dragic went 45th (SMHx2). Safe to say that Charlotte missed some guys in this draft, Part II? I agree.

2009

Charlotte selected Gerald Henderson 12th overall. Players still available were Jrue Holiday at 17, Jeff Teague at 19 (I guess), and, Ancient Taj Gibson at 26. Other players available in this draft were Darren Collison, DeMarre Carroll, Wayne Ellington, Patrick Beverly, Danny Green, and Patty Mills. You’d rather have any of those guys than Henderson, in hindsight, but this is the draft where Memphis took Hasheem Thabeet #2 over James Harden at 3, Tyreke Evans at 4, Ricky Rubio at 5, Steph Curry at 7 (Minnesota took Jonny Flynn at 6, even though THEY HAD LITERALLY JUST DRAFTED A POINT GUARD WITH THE PRECEDING PICK AND THUS MISSED ON ONE OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS IN THE HISTORY OF THE NBA), and DeMar DeRozan (now DeChozan) at 9.

2010

Charlotte owed their first round pick to Minnesota in this draft, but they would have picked 16th. Minnesota drafted Luke Babbitt with the 16th overall pick. Goddamn, what a stupid franchise.

Not that they had a pick, but players drafted after, haha, Luke Babbitt are Eric Bledsoe at 18, Avery Bradley at 19, Hassan Whiteside at 33, Lance Stephenson at 40, and “Half-Keg” Tiny Gallon at 47.

2011

Kemba Walker with the 9th overall pick. SUCCESS! GOOD JOB, FRONT OFFICE!

(Klay Thompson went 11th.)

Charlotte also drafted Tobias Harris with the 19th pick. That’s a damn good draft!

(Later that night Charlotte traded Harris and Stephen “Captain Jack” Jackson to the goddamn Bucks in a three-teamer. They ended up with Corey Maggette and Bismack Biyombo, two clearly worse players. Good job, front office.)

So, after Kemba it went Jimmer Fredette at 10th (again, front offices know what they’re doing and they should be trusted), Hall of Famer Klay Thompson at 11th, Alec Burks 12th, the Morris Twins 13th and 14th (you’re adorable, NBA!), and someone named Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th (and, was immediately traded by the Pacers to the Spurs; GOOD JOB, FRONT OFFICE). Nikola Mirotic went 23rd, Reggie Jackson 24th (who cares), Jimmy Butler 30th (every front office was either blind drunk during this draft, actually blind, or they suck at their jobs), Chandler “White Male Stripper” Parsons went 38th, and Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in the draft. Unreal. Do folks in other industries get to be as bad at their job as NBA scouts and front offices? Or, is this just a pro sports thing?

2012

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #2 overall is a fine pick. There are other dudes in this draft, but I’m still a believer in Kid Christ, he’s still just 24 years old, and he’s having his second best scoring season (10.4 points per game on 49.7% shooting). I’m not quitting on Kid Christ just yet (he wouldn’t quit on me!).

HOWEVER. Bradley Beal went #3. Dame Lillard went #6. Andre Drummond went #9. You would rather have one of those players than MKG. Oh yeah, Draymond Green went 35th overall. Because, y’know, these GMs and Presidents of Operations and Owners know what they’re doing. (Khris Middleton went 39th, for what it’s worth.)

2013

Charlotte took Cody Zeller 4th overall.

Giannis went 15th.

What else is there to say?

(Just to rub it in, though: CJ McCollum went 10th, Steven Adams 12th, Dennis Schroder 17th, and RUDY GOBERT 27th.)

2014

Noah Vonleh 9th overall (from Detroit). Charlotte had just used the previous year’s first round pick on a power forward, and so they, a la the idiotic Minnesota Timberwolves, just drafted another guy at the exact same position. I guess, technically, they could both play PF and Center. But, also technically, neither of them can play any position, so why nitpick?

Zach “The Dentist” LaVine went 13th, TJ Warren 14th, Jusuf Nurkic 16th, Gary Harris 19th, Clint Capela 25th, Professor Spencer Dinwiddie 38th, Nikola Jokic 41st (!!!!!??!?!?!?!!!!!!), and Thanasis Antetokounmpo went 51st to the Knicks, JUST IN CASE.

2015

Frank Kaminsky, 9th overall. Another power forward/center. Three years in a row. 4th pick, 9th pick, 9th pick.

Frank the Tank is special because he was drafted in between Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow, two players who the NBA intelligentsia think will turn into dominant wings. Remember, Boston tried to send four draft picks, FOUR!, in order to draft Winslow. So far, Justise’s Wins are Low. (Thank you very much.) His defensive rating has gotten worse each season, as has his offensive rating. Awesome. Meanwhile, StanJohn’s shooting sub-40 FG%, and sub-30 3PT%. Siiiiiiigh.

Anyway, before I kill myself while wearing a teal Pistons jersey, here are the players drafted after Frank at #9: Myles Turner #11, Devin Booker #13, Kelly Oubre, Jr., #15, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #23, Rakeem Christmas #36, and Josh Richardson #40.

2016

Charlotte traded Malachi Richardson, their 22nd pick, to Sacramento for Marco Belinelli, a shooting guard. This will be important in just a moment.

It’s a little early to say whether Charlotte could have drafted value with the 22nd pick, but Malcolm Brogdon, the Rookie of the Year, was available until the 36th overall pick. Actually, it’s not early, at all: they passed on a Rookie of the Year, so YEAH, THEY COULDA HAD SOME MFING VALUE WITH THE #22 PICK.

2017

Before we get to this draft, I’d like to point out a few things:

  • November 2015, Jeremy Lamb, SG, signs a rookie extension with Charlotte.
  • July 7, 2016, Marco Belinelli, SG, is traded to Charlotte for their first round draft pick.
  • July 7, 2016, Nicolas Batum, SG, signs a 5 year, $120 million contract with Charlotte.
  • Two days before the 2017 draft, Charlotte trades Marco Belinelli, SG, to the Hawks for Dwight Howard, after drafting a front court player in three of the four previous drafts. The acquisition of Dwight, along with the contracts given to Batum and Marvin Williams (another front court player), make Charlotte top 10 in payroll (Dwight has the 23rd highest salary in the NBA, more than Kevin Love and Kyrie).
  • With the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Charlotte selects a SG, Malik Monk.

Before the 2017 draft Charlotte had a huge payroll, multiple shooting guards, and multiple (MULTIPLE) front court bigs, and one Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, their only serviceable small forward (arguably the most important position in the current NBA).

Rather than draft a high-upside wing to help MKG, Charlotte again drafted a position they had already (VERY, VERY recently) filled. Players chosen after Malik Monk (who looks completely lost in the NBA, by the way, and barely plays, at all) include Donovan Mitchell, OG Anunoby (who has the 6th best net rating in the entire NBA this season), and KYLE KUZMA.

This draft can’t yet be considered properly, we’ll need at least 5 years to seriously be able to analyze it, except NUH UH, CHARLOTTE COULDA HAD KUZMA!! There are a bunch of other bigs that Charlotte could have drafted, too, rather than their 95th mediocre guard, but since they already gorged on mediocre front court players in the previous 4 years, I decided to just ignore them (Bam Adebayo, John Collins, Jarrett Allen…).

Monk’s only 19 and folks thought he’d be the best shooter and scorer before the draft. Folks, especially front office folks and NBA scouts, have no goddamn idea what they’re talking about. Maybe MJ just loves SGs because that’s what he was? If that’s the case, then Great Job, Owner Michael Jordan.

But, maybe it’s not all about the players and the moronic, mediocre AT BEST, front office. What about their coaching?

Well, since their (re)birth in 2004 the Charlotte franchise has had six head coaches: Bernie Bickerstaff, Sam Vincent, Larry Brown (praise his name, Go Pistons forever), Paul Silas, Mike Dunlap, and Steve Clifford since 2013. Larry Brown is definitely the best coach on that list, but he never won a playoff game during his four years in Charlotte: they were swept the single time they made it to the playoffs under his leadership. Steve Clifford is 3-8 in the postseason with Charlotte; big whup.

Again, this team has the 6th highest payroll in the entire NBA. They’re 19-26 right now, a .422 winning percentage. If they end the season with that same ratio, that will be their sixth best “winning” percentage since the franchise began in 2004.

At this point, it’s not the players, and it’s not the coaches. It’s the ownership and the front office. Their GM, Rich Cho (also known as “Trader Cho,” UGH!), has been the GM since 2011. I have no idea if he’s in charge of personnel decisions, or if there’s a President above him that makes final decisions, but whoever’s in charge? They shouldn’t be.

The Charlotte Hornets are considering trading their best player, Kemba Walker, who is making less money than Cody Zeller this year. Charlotte is hoping that a desperate team will take Kemba AND take one of Charlotte’s ridiculous contracts. Will it be Dwight Howard? No. Will it be Nic Batum? No. Those are the two biggest salaries on this sorry excuse for an NBA team. Will they send Uncle Marv Williams or Kid Christ, both making $13 million, along with Kemba? If so, they’ll be trading their best point guard, their best front court player, and/or their best wing, who is both affordable and young. Thus, leaving Charlotte with: a plethora of mediocre shooting guards and PF/Cs. Again.

You know what this team needs to do? Keep Kemba. Shed Dwight and Batum: ideally in trades that don’t make you surrender 1st round draft picks. Otherwise, cut one of them (Batum; Dwight will be an expiring next year) and stretch out their contract. Trade Uncle Marv for a pick (NOT for a goddamn SHOOTING GUARD!), and then go into next season with Kemba, Kid Christ, young bigs, hopefully some picks, and some cash.

Michael Jordan says Charlotte will only trade Kemba for an All Star. Why would another team do that? “Here’s my best player for your best player?” FOH. Everyone else in the NBA knows how screwed Charlotte is; NONE of them want Dwight. NONE of them want Batum’s contract. And, honestly, point guards are better overall than they’ve been in a long time, and they’re all over the place. Plus, the New NBA means that teams have multiple distributors, with even bigs leading their teams in assists, so why shell out a bunch of cash or assets for a PG when you can apply those things to a less easily filled position?

A Kemba trade will only happen because the front office failed, miserably, over and over and over again. They’ll trade him to clear out cap mistakes. They’ll trade him to wash their whiteboard clean.

Charlotte’s going to trade their best player, maybe ever, for an eraser.

Great job, front office.