Have the Hornets closed the gap this offseason?

Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte Hornets. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte Hornets. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

Two consecutive play-in tournament losses have exposed the flaws of the Charlotte Hornets. Has the front office done enough this offseason to address those flaws?

It has been a tumultuous few months for the Hornets; a few months ago, the tandem of LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges appeared poised to carry the team for years to come. However, that possibility came crashing down after Bridges was arrested on felony domestic violence charges just hours before the start of free agency. Before Charlotte could even make any free agent moves, they had endured a more tumultuous offseason than every other franchise.

Fast forward a few months and Charlotte is still in a holding pattern. The Hornets, dealing with a turbulent coaching search in addition to Bridges and Montrezl Harrell both being arrested, botched any chance to improve the roster as they essentially went into hiding. While moves can still be made, it is hard to not feel like this offseason has been a missed opportunity.

Reviewing the Hornets’ Offseason

LaMelo Ball’s presence has dictated how the Hornets approached its roster moves recently. It was imperative to surround Ball with an upgraded frontcourt, as the Hornets play-in run exposed a glaring hole in the middle. In fact. the defensive numbers from last season are downright atrocious; Charlotte finished 25th in points allowed, 27th in rebounds allowed and 27th in defensive rebounds. The only positives defensively were steals (5th) and blocks (11th).

The Hornets wasted the entire offseason as they failed to address any of their primary concerns. With players such as Rudy Gobert, Myles Turner, Mo Bamba, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Deandre Ayton all available, the Hornets showed little to no pursuit towards any of the coveted big men. With big men such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo, Myles Turner, and Evan Mobley in the conference, the Hornets face an uphill battle.

The most notable offseason move came during the NBA draft when they selected Jalen Duren, only to trade him to the Detroit Pistons. Charlotte would land their man a few picks later when they selected Mark Williams with the 15th pick. The 7’1″ Williams averaged 9.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over the course of his career with the Duke Blue Devils.

With Charlotte’s offensive scheme and spacing, Williams should be primed for success early on. His field goal percentage of 72.1% in 2022 is promising, and his defensive upside is immense. His 110 blocked shots in 2022 was 5th in the nation and led to Williams being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Outside of the draft, the Hornets had minimal movement. Cody Martin was re-signed and there are rumors of a reunion with veteran point guard Kemba Walker. Mitch Kupchak and company remain on the lookout for opportunities to further upgrade its roster around LaMelo Ball and company.

What will the 2022-23 season hold?

The 2022 season proved that if Ball stays healthy, the ceiling will remain high. Charlotte should remain in the mix for a postseason berth, teetering at the brink of the play-in tournament at the bare minimum despite the East becoming more competitive in the past several seasons.

Looking at the offseason and considering the cognitive approach of a front office with a bad record, the philosophical approach was confusing. At this stage in the offseason, it is safe to assume that there are not any big splashes coming. The addition of Williams essentially still makes them better, but it seems that Charlotte will enter next season with their roster as currently constructed.

It is important to remember that the organization has done the most difficult part of becoming a championship-level club in acquiring a generational superstar. Ball is on his way to becoming a star player in the league if he is not one already. However, with other teams in the conference improving, the Hornets continue to drown in what seems to be everlasting quicksand, as they have now finished ninth or lower in the conference over the past six.