What Will Happen if the Charlotte Hornets Miss the Playoffs?


The Charlotte Hornets are in the midst of a crucial five game West coast road trip.  Let’s face it, every game is crucial at this point.  The team started out this trip with a horrific blowout loss at the hands of a Lottery-bound Utah Jazz team, and then doubled down with a loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.  Those two losses put the Hornets a game out of the 8th spot in the East.

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Things don’t get any easier for this team in the coming games.  If the Hornets don’t catch fire soon, they will find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture and headed rapidly towards a long off-season.

Let’s face it, this team is what it is at this point.  At their best, they can win a game here and there against playoff-caliber competition.  At their worst, they can get blown out by the Utah Jazz.  Will this inconsistent play land the Hornets a playoff spot?  Even if it does, it doesn’t appear that the Hornets are making a deep postseason run.

This is the same Hornets team that was projected as high as a 4-5 seed in the East. So, if the Hornets fail to get this thing back on track and end up missing the playoffs, what will happen to the team?

There are already murmurs about Steve Clifford’s effectiveness as coach and his questionable player rotation.  If the Hornets miss the playoffs this season, don’t be surprised if Clifford’s job is in jeopardy.

Al Jefferson is in the middle of a 3 year deal with a player option for next season.  He’s not getting any younger and certainly understands that he may be due for his final big payday as a free agent if he decides to opt out and test the market.  If the Hornets miss the playoffs, it is highly likely that Jefferson tries to latch on with a contender.

Mo Williams was brought in for this season with the possibility of re-upping next year.  He’s a journeyman regardless and would have even less incentive to stay with a lottery team.

The Lance Stephenson trade talk will continue this off-season regardless of whether the Hornets make the postseason and it seems highly unlikely that he will return either way.

Bismack Biyombo is in the final year of his rookie deal and is set to become a free agent.  While he has become a good role player, his value outside of Charlotte is unclear.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him gone regardless of whether this team makes the playoffs.

Some other names that are not signed on beyond this year are Jason Maxiell and Jeff Taylor, neither of which are likely to return.  And then there’s the insane amount $9,388,000 that we are paying Tyrus Thomas to not play here that will fall off after this season.

Beyond the names mentioned above, the rest of the team is under contract for next season.  While it would be sad to see Jefferson and Williams go, those guys are not in the developing stages of their careers and we have seen their best basketball.

In addition to players leaving in free agency, it is possible that the Hornets consider trading some younger assets away in an attempt to makeover the roster.  Ever since Rich Cho was brought in, he has held to his vision of how to build a team so I think it’s highly unlikely that the team moves its young core players.  That said, don’t be surprised if rumors float around throughout the off-season.  While Cho has held to his vision, he has always expressed willingness to entertain trade discussions with other teams.

Even if this season is a setback for the franchise, the team is trending upwards with young talented players like Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller (and PJ Hairston with a huge asterisk due to his ongoing inability to grow up).  And who knows, maybe we’ll actually get to see Noah Vonleh on the court next year getting minutes that actually matter.

Additionally, we have seen the Hornets become willing to go out and sign free agents.  Low and behold, we’ve seen them pull in some fairly big name guys in Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson.  If those guys – particularly Al – leave the team, there is reason to believe that the leadership of the franchise will be aggressive again.

Even if the first season as the new Hornets is deemed a “failure”, all is not lost.  As fans, we were all hoping that this season would be special (and maybe it still will be) but the reality is that there are still some major gaps that need to be addressed.

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