Injury to NBA all-star breathes faint life into Hornets' play-in hopes

2024 NBA All-Star Game
2024 NBA All-Star Game / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Making the NBA play-in tournament will be an uphill battle for the Hornets to say the least. The team would need to climb from 13th in the Eastern Conference to 10th with just over a month remaining in the season.

They currently sit at 15-42 and trail the 25-32 Atlanta Hawks by 10 games for the 10 seed. The Hornets will also have to jump the 12th-place Toronto Raptors and the 11th-place Brooklyn Nets in the process. And they’ll have to do it all with just 25 regular season games left in the season.

A glimmer of hope

However, that unlikely path did get the slightest bit more feasible with news coming out on Sunday that Hawks’ all-star guard Trae Young will undergo surgery on his finger and be re-evaluated in four weeks.

While the Hawks have a very capable option to take over Young’s role in Dejounte Murray, the team will still be without their only all-star. For the season, Young is averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals, shooting 37% from the three-point line.


Four weeks from Sunday would mean Young could be reevaluated on March 24th. Even if Trae can return that quickly - fairly unlikely - that would have him missing 14 games and returning with only 13 remaining. A lot could happen and change over that lengthy stretch of games and if the Hawks falter and the Hornets keep surging, this may start to look possible.

That’s also the optimistic outlook for Atlanta. There’s a real chance that Trae’s recovery doesn’t go smoothly and he could be shut down for the rest of the season. Also, the Hawks have been a massive disappointment this year, and may not even value making the play-in tournament at this point.

Do the Hawks even want to win?

After the 2024 draft, the Hawks don’t control their own first-round pick until 2028. There have also been loud rumors recently that the Hawks may look at trading Young this offseason. There’s a chance they may be happy to sit Young and lose games to improve their 2024 draft position.

These are all factors that could help the Hornets’ (admittedly slim) chances of reaching the play-in tournament. A 10 game gap is still a big one, and again, there are two other teams to pass, not just the Hawks. But the vibes are immaculate in Charlotte and we’re daring to dream!