Losing and Improving

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Published: April 2, 2012

Most everyone agrees that being stuck in the mid to end lottery can leave a franchise struggling for a long time. Today, Jake explains why it might not be the end of the world for the Hornets in 2013.

Just because...

The other day Ryan wrote a post that kind of depressed me. While his argument is based in reality, there are so many variables involved that the Hornets’ future, that it could swing any which way. So let’s take a more optimistic look.

Ryan correctly points out that the Hornets aren’t playing much worse with a bunch of D-Leaguers and bench players than they are with the starting lineup (minus Gordon). But that doesn’t worry me. Okafor, Ariza, Belinelli, Landry and Jack are solid but mostly unspectacular NBA players. When Kaman-Henry-Vasquez-Aminu-Ayon/Smith are giving maximum effort, the difference between them and the starters should not be that huge. If anything, this shows how good a motivator Monty Williams is.

Additionally, the Hornets have the hardest schedule–by far. Take a look at Basketball Reference’s strength of schedule rankings. With a healthy team and schedule strength closer to the league average, it’s conceivable that the Hornets could be much closer to end of the lottery or even fighting for the 8th seed in the playoffs.

To put it simply: the Hornets are not nearly as bad as their record indicates. It’s a pretty stacked draft, let’s just be happy that luck didn’t go the team’s way this season.

Purposely not setting up the Hornets to fail next season might stick the team in that mid-lottery sport next season, but that’s not the end of the world. The Hornets are flush with young talent especially once you add in the two high draft picks. Stinking up the arena and getting another high lottery pick in 2013 sounds great, but the better move might be to trade the 2013 pick for an established veteran player.

A team needs more than superstars to be competitive. They need a deep bench and solid role-players. Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed play significant roles  for the Thunder and yet they both have a PER below 12. This season, the Hornets are showing they have that part covered. And guess what? They also have Eric Gordon who has the potential to be a superstar.

Add in the two lottery picks in a loaded draft, Monty’s ability to get the best out of his team, sprinkle in some luck, and the Hornets start to look like a team on the rise even if they don’t end up with a high lottery pick next season.

30 comments
J
J

The fact of the matter is that this team need youth and veterans on this team.Ayon could be a gem with a bigger point average next season.Other players like Henry & Vasguez will be on this team next season.It would make sense to blow up the roster and start over but we need some more big names on this team the new owners,Monty and Demps needs to give these free agents the NOLA treatment of good food,southern hospitality and show them great real-estate properties to live in.

LaNative
LaNative

Because of the Hornets history, it has not been a desired franchise. But the culture of the team is changing with Weber, Demps and Williams and the city/region, in my opinion, is beginning to embrace the team. Hopefully the new ownership will come in and invest money in the team and its players. The Hornets are the perfect "rags to riches" story with a little luck and the hard work of Demps, Williams and the players. We're definitely on the rise and there is nothing but potential for greatness in our future with a little patience.

DownUnder
DownUnder

Im quite sick on this argument of whether sucking more now vs getting back to playoff contention as soon as possible. I know which one Id prefer but im not gunna get caught up on it and be biting my nails for 2-3 years seeing what actually happens because in reality your just setting yourself up for dissapointment. I got news for everyone, no matter what you as an individual believe is best, it will have no impact what-so-ever on the resuls of the lottery, impact of actual players and the decisions the front office takes. Save yourself the sleep and just remember that if the NBA was perfectly fair your team would still only win one every 30 years so its a very hard feat that stacks you against the odds. Once I accepted this myself I've found basketball a lot more comfortable to support. Bring on the rookies! whoever they may be....

D$
D$

i think the hornets will make the playoffs next year...can't be this injured 2 years in a row right? the hornets stay healthy, monty will get them to play hard every game, and the 2 new picks should be enough to sneak into the playoffs

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

Okafor solid? You watched the last playoffs? Belinelli solid? Are you kidding me? Well, I think you're being far too optimistic.

D$
D$

oak is definitely starting caliber center in the league so hes legit

David
David

Just got to win. There is no reason why New Orleans can't be more desirable than most other NBA cities. NOLA or Minnesota? Cleveland? New Jersey? Sacremento? There is no reason why NOLA can't be in that 2nd tier of markets like Orlando, Houston, Portland, etc.

Mark
Mark

Is it just me, or does anybody find it weird that 15 of the top 17 teams with the highest SOS are in the Western Conference? Why is that?

Everett
Everett

Western conference generally is a more balanced conference. As of this post, only 3 western conf squads have won less than 40% of their games, as opposed to 6 east conf teams. Even in a normal season, teams play teams in their own conference more often than they do teams in the opposing conference, but the lockout's weird scheduling has meant that they play them even less; for example, the Hornets play the Raptors and Wizards once this season, but we play OKC 3 times and the Spurs/Memphis/Dallas/Houston 4 times. Basically, teams in the western conf play the worst teams in the league a lot less often than eastern conference teams do.

Jake Madison
Jake Madison

Those are those mini extensions based off rookie contracts (I think). Paul signed one with the Hornets. Same with Lebron in Cleveland. It's kind of a different animal.

JT's Hoops Blog
JT's Hoops Blog

The Hornets will not get any better than they are because they will never be able to attract any quality players to play there. NOLA is not exactly the desired destination of most free agents and once they get talent, they are as good as gone once their rookie contracts are up.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Chris stayed one contract longer. Forever is a long time.

C.C.
C.C.

Just because NOLA isn't a desirable destination right now doesn't mean it can't become one in the future. Look at the Saints. They just signed some really good free agents like Curtis Lofton and Ben Grubbs. Why did they choose to sign w/ NOLA? Because the Saints win a ton of games every year. Nobody wanted to sign with the Saints right after Katrina, (save for an injured Brees that nobody else wanted), but they built up a solid young core through the draft and started competing for championships, and now they are in the upper tier of free agent destinations. NOLA is a desirable football destination b/c the team wins games. Who's to say the Hornets can't become like that, especially if they get Anthony Davis/Thomas Robinson and bring back Gordon? And I agree w/ da ThRONe, players value winning more than anything, and as long as their team is winning and has a solid young core, they have no reason to leave. That's why Love, Westbrook, and Durant chose to re-sign with their small-market teams instead of jumping ship in free agency.

Ron
Ron

Hypothetically because NBA superstars are more self-centered than NFL stars, due to how young b/b stars are treated, who they surround themselves with and the abbreviated path that these very young people take from living with Mom to making millions. Contrast this with the complete team nature of football, that the teams are larger and they come out of college older than one-and-done almost-children.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

Minnesota and OKC aren't "desired destination". Yet Westbrook, Durant, and Love all signed extensions. Most players want to win. If we can construct a winning team players will stay.

Jake Madison
Jake Madison

Brian Cardinal and Brian Scalabribe are both free agents and add championship experience. Add kaman in and I smell a title.

NOS-3RD GEN
NOS-3RD GEN

Maybe they should trade in their 2013 1st round pick for top 2012 lottery pick add Okafor to the mix and we have another real team! Can U imagine Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger & Kendall Marshall on the Hornets team.marvelous

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I'm a fan of blowing things up. Sure you need quailty mins for "D leagues", but those guys can be found anywhere. The blueprint for low rev teams seem to be draft well, draft often, and be patient. That's why I'm dissappoint we choose to let Kaman and Landry contracts expire. We need to build young team. Guys thats still on their 1st contracts.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

I actually think you and Ryan would agree here, not disagree. In your headline paragraph, you say it is bad to be "stuck" in the mid lottery, and that is what we are all (hopefully) against. OKC was mid lottery, and then 8th seed before ascending last year. It is not a problem to be mid lottery or 6-8th seed for a year or two as you climb. The problem is staying there year after year like Houston or hitting your the wall in the 4-6 seed range like Atlanta and like Philly and Indy are poised to do for the next 3-4 years. A big three of Gordon, Thomas Robinson, and Kendall Marshall would put us on track to be the next Philly, Atlanta, etc. You have to get the BEST player from a draft class to be a contender in this league. Davis is 99.99% likely to be that guy next year and the Hornets will be just good enough next year not to have a chance at one of those guys the following year. Losing and improving is not a bad place to be at all. Slightly above average and flatlining is the worst place to be.

Pluto D
Pluto D

Davis is obviously the #1 guy, and the thought of having him on the Hornets gives me goosebumps. But after watching the tournament, I would still be very, very, VERY happy if we landed Thomas Robinson. Robinson is simply a BEAST, and I don't think his ceiling is within sight. People have compared him to LaMarcus Aldridge, and I'd be thrilled to have a guy like that on my team, but in all honesty I think Robinson could surpass a player like him. I can see the killer instinct in him. He rips down so many tough rebounds and isn't phased by his mistakes. He keeps grinding it out. We might not reach the NBA Finals with him as quickly as we would with Davis, but to me Robinson is clearly the next best thing in the draft, and I'd be thrilled to have him in creole blue.

Everett
Everett

Yeah, I like Robinson a lot too. If we can't get Davis or MKG, we should go with him.

504ever
504ever

What's wrong with being a 4-6 seed every year? I wouldn't complain if we were the next Memphis. I mean how many teams get the #1 pick when that pick is a difference maker? If that is the one goal, we may always be disappointed. P.S. That could be a very good young big three. Wouldn't complain with Gordon, MKG, and Marshall either.

Everett
Everett

Don't know that picking a high-ceiling, low-floor guy with a top five pick is advisable. The only top-15 player in the league taken in a recent draft who I can think of who was a high-ceiling, low-floor top 5 pick was Russell Westbrook. Other than that, there's a bunch of Hasheem Thabeets and Darkos. We should consider taking such a gamble with our 2nd lotto pick though.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Joe, That is exactly what I advocate for. If you check out this week's podcast, that is what I tell Ryan. If not Davis or MKG, go for the boom or bust guys who won't make us better next year- giving us a good chance at the next elite guys

AbsurdJoe
AbsurdJoe

Hey Michael, Since you're an all or nothing kind of guy, shouldn't you be in favor of the Hornets drafting for ceiling rather than floor? Does guys like Robinson and Marshall really transcend the team and take them to the level of championship competition? Shouldn't you be lobbying for guys like Drummond and Perry Jones III who not only has as much potential as Anthony Davis but also could become superstars with the right development. So why go for a higher floor if you prefer an all or nothing approach?

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

The problem with this is that won't last without giving out bad contracts. CP3 left because he didn't see us advancing so now we're bottom feeder. I rather not give out a Joe Johnson type deal just to stay a perennial playoff team.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Hey, to each their own. I am an all or nothing guy. Personally, I would hate to be a Hawks fan. I would rather be a Raptors than a Hawks fan right now, but that is just me. I know there are others who would take the 45-50 wins a year and 1st or 2nd round playoff loss with no chance whatsoever of getting an elite player and/or a title. Not me- I keep sucking until I get a super elite guy and then go all in.

504ever
504ever

Yeah, with a little luck the Hornets could even be fighting for a playoff spot next year!