It's time for the Charlotte Hornets to Embrace the Tank

Before the season started, most people thought the Charlotte Hornets would be a six or a seven seed in a weak eastern conference. Well, injuries and inconsistent play have derailed the Hornets, and the east was friskier than expected. Now the Hornets only have a 3.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Head coach Steve Clifford said the next eight to ten games would decide whether the Hornets throw in the towel or not. Well, the Hornets won last night, but barely against a terrible Orlando team.

My guess is they will be eliminated about two weeks after the all-star break. The schedule is not bad( It's the sixth easiest in the league), and the Hornets are finally healthy it's just the Hornets are not that good, and the nine teams ahead of them are better. Two teams would have to fall off a cliff for the Hornets to have a chance and that is unlikely. Sooner rather than later the Hornets need to embrace the tank. Doing that means playing the young guys and seeing what they have while giving them a chance to grow. This is not a suggestion, but Charlotte's only real option of getting out of the hole their in and here's why.

Charlotte was built as a win-now team that can't win. Nicholas Batum's contract is a killer and probably unmovable. He has fallen off a cliff this season. Charlotte's best move probably is to shut him down for the season, so he can get elbow surgery and hope he returns to form next season. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has flatlined, he is a good defender, and he hustles, but his offensive game has not grown.

Marvin Williams is solid but is getting older and also has a huge contract. He is best in a bench role. Dwight Howard has been good this season, but the kind of player he is doesn't fit that well in the modern NBA. Cody Zeller is better and should be starting. I am not sure Dwight will ever go for that, so he should probably be moved in the offseason, which won't be easy as he too has a massive contract and is 31.

Our only real asset is Kemba Walker, and I understand why we took calls on him at the trade deadline. Charlotte also made a good move not panicking trading him. This offseason expect him to be on the table again. The Hornets conditions for moving him should be as follows. One; unload a bad contract with him, two; get a first round pick and three; get an all-star caliber player. Doing all three may be tough, but if they can get two of those things, it might be worth it. Kemba is a free agent in 2019 and Charlotte can afford to let him go for nothing.

They may be able to resign him in 2019 when Dwight comes off the books, but it will be tough, and Kemba may be tired of the losing. Listen to calls again at the draft, and if the value is worth it pull the trigger. If not, hold on and hope you can convince him to stay. If you know that he is going to leave and Charlotte struggles, trade him at next years deadline.

Speaking of free agency, barely any teams will have money this offseason. Especially the Hornets. Charlotte is not a free agent destination anyway, and now they don't have the money to sign a good one. The Hornets need to evaluate their roster from within and decide who stays or who goes in the offseason. Let's assume there is no good deal for Kemba in the offseason and he stays, who else will stay?

Let's go down the list. Dwight may be able to be moved because he will be an expiring contract. Batum is staying because his contract is untradeable. Marvin is also likely staying. He is a good leader and still solid. I would consider trading MKG he is still young and a team may still be high on his potential. It is also time for the Hornets to move on from Frank Kaminsky, he is showing no progress, and since he is cheap, we can probably flip him. Michael Carter Williams will not be resigned.

The young guys of Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon, Treveon Graham, Jeremy Lamb and newly acquired Willy Hernagomez are likely to stay. Combine those five with Kemba, Zeller, Marvin, and Batum, and you have an alright team. Well, if the young guys continue to progress. That is nine players the other two will likely be a first-round pick from this year and two players the Hornets get in trades.

Now the young guys need time to grow. They will have their struggles and will lose more than they win, but that is a good thing. Nine other teams will clearly tank, and Charlotte needs a few extra losses to increases their luck int he lottery. Whatever happens, they must be in the top eleven, according to most draft experts the draft falls off considerably after eleven.

Let's look at what Charlotte has in its young players. Lamb is good and should be starting ahead of Batum anyway; he is a keeper. Graham has impressed this season and will only get better; he makes MKG expendable in my mind. Monk is an elite shot maker, who needs to learn NBA defense.

Charlotte should experiment with him down and play him on and off the ball and see what works best. In the offseason, he needs to get stronger, but don't give up on him Charlotte fans; he's going to be a good one. Bacon needs to work on his shooting and his decision making, and that will improve with playing time. I am not as high on him as I am with Monk, but think he can be a backup wing in the league. Hernangomez is good, and he needs minutes. He is a skilled big who can pass, rebound and score. Hsi defense needs improvement, but he is young with upside.

Say Charlotte goes 5-5 in their next ten games and brings their record of 29-38. They would be almost eliminated from playoff contention and have 15 games to play their young guys. Best case scenario the young guys go 7-8 and Charlotte finishes with a record of 36-46, same as last year(sweet!). Hopefully, they are worst to improve Charlotte's draft odds.  Charlotte will have around the tenth pick in the draft. With that pick, the Hornets could select a player like Mikal Bridges from Villanova. A player who can be a foundational player for years to come.

With a starting five of Kemba, Lamb(hopefully next year Clifford has the guts to start him over Batum), Graham, Marvin and Zeller plus a bench of Monk, Batum, Bacon, Bridges, and Hernagomez the Hornets will likely be better than this year. The team is littered with bad contracts, and no free agent is coming to help, the Hornets have no choice but to tank. If they do they can get a franchise player and the future will be much brighter.

I hope Michael Jordan and Rich Cho are listening. 

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on      or