Hornets unfairly grouped among tanking teams in NBA Power Ranking

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

The 2022 season did not go according to plan for the Charlotte Hornets. Injuries combined with being one of the worst teams in the league offensively contributed to their draft lottery status, ultimately landing the number two overall pick. So when it comes to how they are viewed amongst other NBA teams, it is not exactly a surprise to see them ranked towards the bottom of the league.

In a recently published NBA Power Rankings from The Athletic’s Zach Harper, Charlotte checks in at 29th overall, dropping one spot from their previous end-of-regular-season ranking. According to Harper, this puts the Hornets in Tier 6, a group of teams considered “tank adjacent.” This does seem a bit unfair, as the team is not actively trying to lose. Charlotte has a marquee player in LaMelo Ball and is working on building around him. Putting them in a group of teams that are intentionally losing is harsh and far from accurate at the current moment.

There are pieces in place for the Hornets, but there is still a long way to go to climb out of the Eastern Conference’s basement. If they are going to make their exit from the proverbial basement, Charlotte will have to make sure that there is enough quality talent on the roster to do so. This brings us to the “one pressing question” attached to the Hornets by Harper.

Does LaMelo Ball have the help he needs yet?

This is a very valid question. The future of the franchise is clearly LaMelo Ball, and there is a reason the team signed him to five-year $205.9 million contract extension. Charlotte believes that Ball is the caliber of player who can carry a franchise to relevance, but to do that, there is a certain level of complementary talent required to get there, and the Hornets did not have it last season.

Charlotte was not a good team when they were without the services of their franchise cornerstone, winning 14 of 46 games without Ball in the lineup. Although it must be said that the Hornets still struggled as a team with Ball, going just 13-23. While neither mark is impressive by any means, the fact that they won just one more game in 10 additional chances without Ball is far from encouraging. It was quite clear that something had to be done in order to properly complement Ball and prevent a similar outcome should he miss significant time again.

The Hornets are hoping that their recent draft selections, headlined by second-overall pick Brandon Miller, can be an integral part of their future. Charlotte also selected Nick Smith Jr. 27th overall and Amari Bailey at 41. Miller may be the only one of the group to make a meaningful impact in year one, but the hope is that all three can be contributors at some point down the line.

In an effort to maintain a level of continuity and keep a talented player from leaving Charlotte, the team was able to retain the services of Miles Bridges in the form of a one-year deal worth just under $8 million. Bridges is coming off a season where he set career-highs in points (20.2), rebounds (7.0), and assists (3.8) while being one of the few bright spots for the Hornets on the court while they were without Ball.

So, does LaMelo Ball have the help he needs yet? Even though nothing is definitive yet, the Hornets are at least trying to improve the supporting cast in Charlotte, which deserves some credit. Charlotte is not directionless by any means, as they are making strides forward in an attempt to exit the group of tanking teams.

Selecting a potential future star in Miller combined with the continued development of other young players on the roster should have the Hornets back on track sooner rather than later.