We continue this week with our “Grading the Offseason” series here at Basketball Insiders. We’re taking a look at each team in the NBA’s offseason to this point and what their roster might look like as the offseason begins to slow down.
Up next in the series is the Charlotte Hornets, a team that certainly has had some major change to its roster. Here’s a look at what they’ve done so far and what that might mean for the franchise moving forward.
Since being introduced to the NBA as the then-Charlotte Bobcats for the 2004-05 season, the franchise has posted only three winning seasons in the past 16 years. They’ve never been out of the first round of the playoffs. And, despite the years of futility, they really don’t have anything to show for it.
They drafted one All-Star in that time frame, Kemba Walker, whom they inexplicably allowed to leave as a free agent this summer. Walker had poured his heart and soul into that franchise since being drafted, and the team reportedly wasn’t willing to offer him the Supermax contract he was eligible to sign.
He ended up signing with the Boston Celtics on a shorter deal than what Charlotte offered for ultimately less money. If the franchise was committed to winning – which it seems like that’s the direction they want to take as there hasn’t been much chatter about them possibly moving any of their high-priced veterans in favor of a full rebuild – then keeping the only All-Star that’s ever been fully committed to your team should’ve been a no-brainer.
With the Hornets, Walker blossomed into one of the best point guards in the NBA, and he’s currently in the prime of his career. They barely missed the playoffs this past season. With some minor tweaks here and there, they could’ve been right back in the mix this coming season. Losing him is an incredible blow.
On the bright side for the Hornets, they do have some intriguing young talent on the roster that should get a chance to play this year. Miles Bridges has already become one of the most electrifying and exciting young wings in the league. If he can improve his three-point shooting, he could thrive at either forward position as either a wing or a stretch big man.
Last season’s second-round pick, Devonte’ Graham, also looks like he can develop into a promising point guard. Towards the end of last season when he was given more playing time, including some games as a starter, he was solid. He continued to display that potential at summer league.
Dwayne Bacon, entering his third year in the NBA, also looks primed to have a breakout season. It’s not at all farfetched to imagine him as the possible starting shooting guard when the season begins. He made a huge leap from his rookie year to this past one, especially offensively. He improved his shooting from 37.5 percent from the field and 25.6 percent from three to 47.5 percent and 43.7 percent respectively.
And then there’s still the curious case of Malik Monk. Monk has been rather inconsistent in his two years in the NBA, but he is still only 21 years old. With the departure of Jeremy Lamb, it appears that the opportunity is there for Monk. He’s showed flashes of being a good NBA player but hasn’t quite been able to maintain consistency. This is going to be a crucial season for him.
The Hornets’ offseason got off to a poor start with the aforementioned departure of Walker. Even with Walker gone, the Hornets weren’t really in a situation where they could make any major moves in free agency. They’ve got several high priced veterans on the roster taking up cap space.
They did manage to make one move thus far, and that was to acquire Terry Rozier in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics involving Walker. The contract they gave Rozier may be a little bit of a head-scratcher, but they’re banking on Rozier being able to replicate his play from when he was a starter when Kyrie Irving was injured.
In the draft, the Hornets had three picks, one (No.21) in the first round and two (No. 36 and 52) in the second round. With their first-round pick, they selected Kentucky’s P.J. Washington, and with their second-round picks, they selected Nevada’s Cody Martin and San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels.
Washington was unavailable for summer league due to an injury, but he projects as a power forward in the NBA who might also see some time at small-ball center. Martin is in the mold of a big wing who has good court vision and can act as another ball-handler and playmaker. McDaniels is an intriguing talent who is very versatile and plays both ends of the floor. All three will likely see a lot of time in the G League with the Greensboro Swarm.
The only other move the Hornets have made so far was signing Washington State’s Robert Franks to a two-way contract. Franks tested the NBA Draft waters a year ago before deciding to return for his senior year. He went undrafted this summer but looks like he could ultimately be a good three-point marksman in the NBA.
PLAYERS IN: Terry Rozier, Robert Franks (two-way), P.J. Washington, Cody Martin, Jalen McDaniels
PLAYERS OUT: Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb, Shelvin Mack, J.P. Macura, Joe Chealey
Unless all of the Hornets young players take an incredible collective leap of growth, it’s very hard to envision this team in the playoff picture this upcoming season. But with quite a bit of veterans still owed major money on the team, it’s difficult to say how much of an opportunity the young guys will get.
It’s pretty clear that with Walker out of town, the Hornets’ main focus should be that of a rebuild and to see what the young players are capable of. It will be interesting to see if the Hornets look to move any of their remaining veterans, or what type of market there would be for them if any at all.
In all, keeping Walker should’ve probably been a higher priority than it seemingly was. A talent like that doesn’t just fall off of trees. Although, it’s probably fair to say that we really can’t completely judge the Hornets offseason fully until we see what Rozier does as a full-time starting point guard.
OFFSEASON GRADE: D+
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