Hornets coach Steve Clifford must win to keep LaMelo Ball interested

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Hornets coach Steve Clifford must win to keep Lamelo Ball interested

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford will have a small margin of error next season if he wants to retain LaMelo Ball, per sources. Charlotte has $39 million in salary cap space entering free agency. The Hornets also have a total of five draft picks for the 2023 NBA Draft, including two in the first round.

“He badly wants to win,” Clifford said of Ball. “When you’re at his level, there are certain expectations. You’re going to be compared to the other point guards his age that have had not incredible playoff success but have had some. It’s important to his career.”

According to a few NBA betting sites, while the Hornets missed the playoffs for the seventh-straight season, the Milwaukee Bucks remain the top favorite to win the championship.

On Monday, LaMelo Ball was asked about his long-term future with the Hornets. The All-Star guard said he “plays it by the day.” Staying healthy has to be on his mind. Back in February, Ball suffered a season-ending right ankle fracture.

Furthermore, in 36 starts with Charlotte this past regular season, the guard averaged career highs of 23.3 points, 8.4 assists, and 35.2 minutes per game. Along with logging 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals, Ball shot 41.1% from the field and 37.6% beyond the arc.

“I love it here,” added Ball. “I can’t really tell the future. We’ll just see how it goes and go from there. … For sure. The main thing is winning. Life is better when you win.”

Hornets coach Steve Clifford must win to keep LaMelo Ball, offseason moves may impact final decision

More importantly, Clifford’s job could be at stake if owner Michael Jordan sells the majority of the Hornets. “Obviously, I hope nothing happens because I want to coach again next year,” Clifford said. “But I’ve also been around this league long enough to know to not ever be surprised by anything that happens. That’s pro sports.”

Since the Hornets (27-55) finished with the league’s fourth-worst record, the team has a 12.5% chance of receiving the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery. The Detroit Pistons (17-65), Houston Rockets (22-60) and San Antonio Spurs (22-60) all have a 14% chance of winning the top pick.

“The top of the draft this year is potentially game-changing, whether it’s one year, two years, whatever,” mentioned Clifford. “At the very least, I think those guys at the top would either start or provide good depth right away.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Hornets can still move up in the draft to select Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson. This depends entirely on next month’s draft lottery. The top 14 picks in the draft will be determined at the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery.

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