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NBA AM: Hornets Face Uphill Battle This Summer

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The Plight of the Charlotte Hornets

In four seasons as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, Steve Clifford has guided the franchise to two playoff berths. Prior to Clifford’s arrival, Charlotte had reached the postseason just once in the previous nine campaigns. Clifford’s favorable impact on Charlotte’s program is undeniable, however, the team had wide ranges of results during his tenure.

Clifford’s record by year in Charlotte

2013-14: 43-39 (made playoffs)
2014-15: 33-49
2015-16: 48-34 (made playoffs)
2016-17: 36-46

If the current trend holds, the 2017-18 campaign will mark a return to the playoffs for the franchise. But the question is, how will the team ultimately improve? There are three ways to improve in the NBA; the draft, free agency and trade markets. Let’s evaluate the Hornets in all three aspects.

2017 NBA Draft

As it stands currently, the Hornets are slated to own a late lottery pick – No. 11 overall. This year’s draft is loaded at the top, with a few seemingly can’t miss prospects.

The Hornets will likely miss out on this year’s pre-draft studs, but there figures to still be value on the board. According to Draft Express, prospects such as N.C. State’s Dennis Smith, Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Wake Forest’s John Collins are all figured to possibly still be on the board when the Hornets are on the clock.

Free Agency

As it stands currently, the Hornets are over the estimated salary cap of $102 million. Charlotte faces an uphill battle if general manager Rich Cho attempts to improve via this medium. The team is currently already on the hook for $102.1 million next season and would need to get creative to manufacture any sort of cap room.

The team’s top five highest paid players next season are Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Miles Plumlee and Kemba Walker.

Trade Market

Charlotte has plenty of trade assets to dangle in the market. Kidd-Gilchrist, Williams and Plumlee are all on deals that average less than $15 million per season. The team also owns a trade exception worth $1.7 million from the Troy Daniels deal. Charlotte must use this trade exception before mid-July.

Despite missing this year’s playoffs, Charlotte has a solid collection of talent and a capable head coach. The team’s front office doesn’t have much flexibility being up against the cap and trade-wise, the Hornets have more than a few assets – but at what cost?

2017 NBA Draft Order of Selection – Ties Broken

The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery will be held on May 16 and this year’s crop of incoming rookies, at least at the top, figures to be a strong group. But before we get to the annual ping pong balls, in order to set this year’s draft order, the NBA had to break multiple ties between teams that finished the regular season with identical records.

The tiebreaking proceedings were conducted by NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations Kiki Vandeweghe and broadcast live on NBA TV.  Here is a summary of the results:

The Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51) won a tiebreaker with the New York Knicks.

The Portland Trail Blazers (41-41) won a tiebreaker with the Chicago Bulls.

The Milwaukee Bucks (42-40) won a tiebreaker with the Indiana Pacers.

The Atlanta Hawks (43-39) won a tiebreaker with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) won a tiebreaker with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz. The subsequent second, third and fourth-place tiebreaker drawings went to Utah, Toronto and Cleveland, respectively.

The NBA Draft is set for June 22. Below is the final non-lottery draft order for this year’s festivities/

First Round (Non-Lottery)

  1. Portland: 41-41
  2. Chicago: 41-41
  3. Milwaukee: 42-40
  4. Indiana: 42-40
  5. Atlanta: 43-39
  6. Memphis (to Portland via Denver and Cleveland): 43-39
  7. Oklahoma City: 47-35
  8. Washington (to Brooklyn): 49-33
  9. Los Angeles Clippers (to Toronto via Milwaukee): 51-31
  10. Utah: 51-31
  11. Toronto (to Orlando): 51-31
  12. Cleveland (to Portland): 51-31
  13. Boston (to Brooklyn): 53-29
  14. Houston (to Los Angeles Lakers): 55-27
  15. San Antonio: 61-21
  16. Golden State (to Utah): 67-15

For those curious, here is the draft order for the second round:

  1. Brooklyn (to Atlanta)
  2. Phoenix
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Philadelphia (to Sacramento via New Orleans)
  5. Orlando
  6. New York (to Philadelphia via Utah and Toronto)
  7. Minnesota (to Boston via Phoenix)
  8. Sacramento
  9. Dallas (to Philadelphia)
  10. New Orleans
  11. Charlotte
  12. Detroit (to Utah)
  13. Denver (to Houston)
  14. Chicago (to New York)
  15. Portland (to Houston)
  16. Miami (to Philadelphia via Atlanta)
  17. Indiana
  18. Milwaukee
  19. Memphis (to Denver via Oklahoma City)
  20. Atlanta (to Philadelphia)
  21. Oklahoma City (to Denver)
  22. Washington
  23. Cleveland (to Boston)
  24. Toronto (to Phoenix)
  25. Utah
  26. Lose Angeles Clippers (to Boston)
  27. Boston (to Brooklyn)
  28. Houston (to New York)
  29. San Antonio
  30. Golden State (to Atlanta via Philadelphia and Utah)

Most scouts consider the 2017 NBA Draft to be one of the deepest we have seen in recent memory. Just as Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns have seemingly changed the future outlook for the New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively, scores of other NBA teams will be hoping to have the same type of luck.

We will find out who the victors are in short order.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons