The Sky Hasn't Completely Fallen in Charlotte
No matter what side of the Kemba argument you have fallen on over the past two years you are probably entering this Sunday feeling upset and extremely frustrated with the continued ineptitude shown by the Hornets front office since the team's return to Charlotte. Years of frustrating let downs after seemingly talented rosters stagnated with little success. Followed by draft picks that although never completely blow up in the franchises face were never enough to move the team out of an endless cycle of mediocrity. Through this, there has been one shining light, one pillar of hope surrounding the team and his name was Kemba Walker. The hope had always been that in Kemba Walker the Charlotte Hornets at least had one component of a winning team, they just had to find the second piece to the puzzle.
Today it's very easy and well deserved to unload nearly two decades of pent up frustration at Michael Jordan, Mitch Kupchak, Rich Cho or Steve Clifford. It never had to get to this point, it shouldn't have gotten to this point and any team with a clear sense of direction would have never let it get to this point. But with anger flying in every direction at the front office, I'm here to tell you that the Charlotte Hornets are not completely lost.
Flashbacks of the Bobcat's infamous seven-win season are still fresh in the minds of Hornets fans, the image of a young Bismack Biyombo air balling free throws whilst the Bobcats are down twenty-six to the Bulls in the second quarter haven't faded. This current Hornets team is nothing like that seven-win team however and Hornets fans should be optimistic about the future of this young core. We may have lost Kemba but we still have the Avengers.
The most obvious is the hot start the Hornets finished the season on. After several devastating losses, the Hornet's looked to be out of the playoffs. That was when Borrego and Mitch finally pulled the plug and allowed the young players to play major minutes against predominantly playoff caliber teams. Most fans began to tune out the Hornets season and prepare for the Kemba's free agency and the draft. However something remarkable happened, the Hornets began to win. Dwayne Bacon and Miles Bridges took the two biggest leaps of the Hornets "Avengers." Dwayne jumped from a player barely averaging four a night, to thirteen points on efficient shooting numbers. Miles Bridges took a scoring leap also, however, the biggest change was in his overall game with his assists, rebounds, steals, and shooting percentage all taking significant leaps. Devante' Graham became a ten and five player even whilst playing next to an All NBA point guard in Kemba Walker
All these pieces still remain and the chemistry shown by this trio doesn't erase without Kemba Walker. If you tune into Dwayne or Mile's Instagram you'd be hard pressed to find the duo not together. Since the season ended the two have been inseparable spending hours upon hours in the gym together. These two believe in each other and Hornet's fans should too.
The wild card in all of this is Malik Monk, when the Hornets drafted Monk with the eleventh pick two years ago many expected Malik Monk to be the savior of this franchise. Radio stations, blogs, and Hornet's fans had proclaimed him as the second fiddle to Kemba we had always been waiting for before he had even taken a step on the court for the Hornets. A foot injury would cause Malik Monk to lose his first offseason and since then Monk has shown flashes of greatness, inconsistency and been prone to making costly mistakes. Much of the Hornet's fanbase has given up on Monk who just turned twenty-one. However, players with Monk's skill set and play style, in particular, have often been tough to judge and it's hard to tell if you have Nick Young or the next Lou Williams and giving up on Monk too early could lead to him popping elsewhere.
Now with Kemba and Jeremy gone, the Hornets will have the time and room to work with a player like Monk. Although it's easy to write Malik off from the outside, anyone who has seen Monk at his best would be foolish to be ready to move on. His per thirty-six-minute stats are very enchanting the basketball eye and his numbers jumped up across the board from last season. With an investment into allowing Malik to work through his mistakes the Hornets still may be able to key into the talent that still oozes out of Monk.
The Hornets also have the perfect head coach in James Borrego, Borrego was able to get the Hornets to a slightly improved record last season with a roster largely constructed of players he didn't choose. The majority of the roster saw somewhat of a leap in production and Borrego was able to keep the team from having locker room turmoil. However, with the upcoming season, James Borrego is in his element. Borrego has been praised around the league for his ability to develop players and has himself been involved in the development of many star players over the past decade. The Hornet's fans can expect to be in safe hands when it comes to the development of players under Borrego.
With the additions of P.J Washington and Cody Martin the Hornets will be adding two unknowns to the pool of young talent already sitting in Charlotte. Washington, in particular, will fit seamlessly next to Miles Bridges as the wings of the future. Although many have compared their similar body frames and tweener status, the facts are that the two have completely different games that will compliment each other.
With major contracts in Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, Nic Batum, Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd Gilchrist all coming off the books in the next two years the Hornets will be able to hit the complete reset button on something that has not been able to work outside of Kemba. There isn't a better time for the Hornets to do this, next years draft is incredibly deep and full of point guard talent to fill the gigantic hole left by Kemba Walker's departure. On a team that is already one of the youngest in the NBA and will at that time be one of the cheapest. In addition, the upcoming 2022 draft is already being called one of the greatest draft classes of all time, as two classes will converge into one stacked draft class once the NBA's age limit is lowered an entirely new class will be allowed to enter the draft allowing the Hornets two chances at a number one level player.
Although today will always be remembered as a dark day in Charlotte Hornet's history, the future is not bleak in the Queen City.