The hidden future of the Charlotte Hornets

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 2: Dwight Howard /

Is the Charlotte Hornets’ future as bleak as it seems or is there some hope for the Queen City team going forward?

In recent years, the Charlotte Hornets have become a mainstay in the late lottery. Of their last four first-round selections, three have come in the late lottery. Buzz City is stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity – not good enough to make the playoffs and not bad enough for a top-tier talent.

The picture doesn’t get any better from there. Charlotte isn’t a top-tier free agent destination, the GM situation is up in the air, Steve Clifford’s seat grows hotter by the day, and Michael Jordan seems to surround himself with yes-men. The future seems dreary, but is it really as bad as it appears?

The Cap Situation

Charlotte’s roster this season is paid $117.2 million. The luxury tax line falls at just over that number, at $119.2 million. With their cap hold being so close to the luxury tax line, it’s no wonder that the flexibility of this year’s team was limited. Next season should bring more of the same, as Michael Carter-Williams and Treveon Graham are the only players coming off the books this off-season.

More from Swarm and Sting

Kemba Walker didn’t make his first All-Star appearance until he was 26. Victor Oladipo didn’t become a star until this year, at 25. MKG, Lamb, Kaminsky, Graham, Zeller, Bacon, Hernangomez, and Monk are all 25 or under. Maybe those names don’t jump off the page yet, but there’s still time. With another young draft pick – Kevin Knox, anyone? – Charlotte could still put together a talented group of young guys together who grow and gel into a whole that is better than the sum of their parts.

Sure, they’re probably not as strong as Denver’s Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic trio, or as exciting as Minnesota’s duo of Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but they might be deeper than most other young groups. A rough season can bring fan morale down, but there’s no reason to give up hope yet.

The Unpredictability of the NBA

In 2012, the Golden State Warriors finished with a .348 win percentage. Three years later, they were cutting down the nets as NBA championships. Malik Monk could be the next Steph Curry, going on a mercurial rise to super-stardom. The possibilities are endless

Bleacher Report tried to predict who this season’s top 20 players would be in 2012. Currently, four of those players aren’t even on an NBA roster. The NBA changes much faster than we think, so who knows how good Charlotte’s future actually is?

Next: The Charlotte Hornets coaching problem

We don’t know how good the Hornets will be next year. Or in two years. That’s what makes sports so fun. So if you find yourself too down on Charlotte’s season, remind yourself, it isn’t all bad. The cap situation isn’t impossible to escape, the core is still young, and anything can happen. This season may be a wash, but the allure of hope for better days is almost impossible to resist.