Are the Charlotte Hornets rebuilding? Too soon to tell

Charlotte Hornets Mitch Kupchak (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Mitch Kupchak (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As of right now, it’s too early to tell if the Charlotte Hornets are in full rebuild mode or not, even after the Kemba Walker departure.

Last week, General Manager Mitch Kupchak held a press conference that was largely criticized because he offered no clear direction of where the Charlotte Hornets are headed, saying it was too early to know if they were in rebuild mode. I’m here to tell you he’s right and I will give you the reasons as to such.

I know that fans want answers after Kemba Walker left for greener pastures and I totally understand the reasoning, however, it’s not that simple. The rebuilding process for the NBA in 2019 is far different than it has always been.

If the brilliance of Sam Hinkie taught us anything, it’s that it’s not enough to just be bad and wait for lottery luck, that could take five years or longer. If you really want to make your rebuild work and do it in a more timely fashion, then you have to be bad AND have salary cap space, this way you can take on bad contracts while adding assets.

More from Swarm and Sting

Quite simply the Hornets haven’t been nearly bad enough and we all know they don’t have salary cap space.

Fans are banking on the expiring deals of MKG, Bismack Biyombo and Marvin Williams to turn into future draft assets simply because they are on expiring deals. Three years ago, they may have been right, but the script has totally flipped in the NBA.

Now teams with expiring deals are the ones having to pay to unload those players. So it begs the question, do any of those deals hold any value for Charlotte? The short answer is no, unless they’re willing to part with future draft capital to do so.

I did some research over at Basketball Reference and took a look at the last three off-seasons; primarily looking just at salary dump players and this is what I came up with: Three teams have stood out prioritizing adding bad salary for future assets — the Atlanta Hawks (far and away the leader), Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Hawks have absorbed, into cap space primarily, a tad over $56 million in bad salary since the summer of 2017. They netted four first round picks and an additional four second round picks. Two of those first round picks have been used to select Kevin Huerter last year and this seasons was part of the deal with the Pelicans to bring in De’Andre Hunter.

They are still sitting on 2020 and 2022 firsts from those deals and their seconds extend all the way until 2025, so they aren’t lacking for assets.

The Nets added $36 million in expiring deals and received two first round picks and two second rounders respectively. They used three of those picks to select two high upside international prospects and one to pave the way to offload Allen Crabbe onto the Hawks to clear the path to sign Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

The Cavs, meanwhile, just started this new age rebuild after LeBron James left and have added only $10.3 million in salary, but they turned that into Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. in last month’s draft.

It was a long explanation, but you see what I’m getting at here. So, when Kupchak came out and said last week that it was too early to say definitively about a rebuild, I think this is what he was getting at — we probably won’t know if Charlotte is rebuilding until next summer when they can choose to sign free agents to make an immediate impact for them or take on bad salary and line up future assets the way the three above teams have done.

Next. 5 early predictions for 2019-20 season. dark

I expected the Charlotte Hornets to take a step back next season, even with Kemba on the roster. It was only going to be a matter of time before Atlanta passed them in the standings and I fully expect them to now. Be patient, Hornets fans, it may be a while before we get the answers that we are looking for.