The Charlotte Hornets have been one of the worst teams in the NBA for much of this millennium, making the playoffs just three times in the 20 years since their franchise reboot and never managing to make it out of the first round.
The club changed hands this past summer when longtime owner, Chicago Bulls legend and North Carolina native Michael Jordan sold his majority stake in the franchise, leading to hopes that brighter days could be on the horizon… but it’s incredibly difficult to complete the rebuilding process in the top heavy NBA, which is why you don’t see anywhere near as many worst-to-first success stories like one does in other sports leagues.
Here’s a look at what plagues the Hornets, as well as reasons for hope as the team tries to turn their luck around and become a betting Cinderella story.
Moving On From Michael Jordan
No one can deny Michael Jordan’s legacy, not only as a basketball player but as a movie star and shrewd investor who turned his talent on the court into a multi-billion dollar shoe deal.
With that being said, sometimes the best players don’t make good coaches or executives: because the game came to them so naturally during their playing days, they can have a hard time communicating with and relating to their players.
Similarly, that hard-charging mentality that made Jordan an absolute assassin on the court could end up hurting him off of it. Instead of knowing when to delegate responsibility to those who are better suited to make decisions regarding free agents and draft scouting, Jordan’s being used to running the show led to avoidable mistakes when he bit off more than he could chew as an executive.
Nothing can ever make the Tar Heel State turn on the man who won them an NCAA Championship and saved the Hornets franchise, buying them and keeping them in Charlotte—even Duke fans have to respect his legacy and impact on the game—but the fact remains that Jordan stepping into a less active role with the franchise could end up helping their fortunes down the road.
Looking to the Lottery
As it stands right now, the Hornets are tied for the second-best odds (12.5 percent) of winning the draft lottery this year a good opportunity to use the forthcoming North Carolina Sports Betting sites currently set for March, behind three other teams tied for first.
Unfortunately for fans of the Hornets, even if they are able to defy the odds and win the draft lottery, rebuilds can take quite a bit of time.
With only five players per team on the court at any given time—and the least bench minutes for backups of any of the four major sports—the NBA has one of the biggest talent disparities in the pros.
Even if they have a high draft pick they aren’t necessarily going to get a superstar in the making. Last year, the draft had plenty of buzz because of the emergence of generational talent Victor Wembanyama, but that simply isn’t the way things are going heading into this draft cycle.
Best case scenario, the Hornets can pick up another talent along the lines of current point guard LaMelo Ball. He may never win an MVP, but he’s a fine young player and someone the team can build around with attentive drafting and free agent signings. That’s easier said than done, of course, which is a big reason why the Hornets have struggled so much for the past 20 years.
The Hornets Today
Last but not least, it’s worth taking a look at where the Hornets stand now. While it can be tempting for fans of a struggling team to predict how a rebuild will pan out, there’s only so much one can achieve by forecasting future draft picks and decisions: wishful thinking doesn’t do much good, but here’s what the team can build around right now.
One bright spot for the club—albeit in the form of a catch-22—is that they’ve lost the second most games due to injury of any team in the league this season. A fully healthy squad likely doesn’t take them from a 10-34 record to a playoff berth, but things aren’t as bad as they seem.
LaMelo Ball has played in just 22 games due to nagging injuries, and it’s hard to pick up wins when your best player isn’t even on the court. Rookie forward Brandon Miller, last year’s second overall pick, has had a fine season, averaging 14.9 points and 3.9 boards per game despite facing most of the attention with Melo limited.
The club recently went out and acquired 37-year-old guard Kyle Lowry via trade. He isn’t a world beater these days, but could be a valuable veteran presence for younger players like Ball and Miller as they continue to come into their own, assuming the Hornets don’t dump him for more picks and financial flexibility.
Trading Terry Rozier with two years of control left hurts, but if they can succeed in the draft this year and find another young player to pair with Miller and Ball in a core Big Three, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel for Hornets fans in the next season or two, making them an appealing dark horse bet.