The Race to Suck Now, not Later

Published: January 12, 2012

Ryan Schwan worries that the Hornets are too good.  That’s right.  Too good.

There is a Limbo in the NBA.  A purgatory.  A place where no team wants to be – and few fans have the intestinal fortitude to suffer through year after year.  It’s a strange place – because the teams that dwell in that dark place aren’t absolutely terrible.  They have talent.  Some work hard and scratch and claw their way to a few extra wins each season.  Some have enough offensive talent (and defensive apathy) that they can’t help but win a few extra games each season.

These are the teams like the Golden State Warriors, the Raptors, the Bucks, and the Bobcats.  These are teams that perennially pick between 5th and 15th in the draft.  They every so often get lucky enough to squeeze into the playoffs, but generally don’t make it.  These teams get no superstars in the draft, have no real talent to try to attract free agents, and therefore languish for half a decade at a time.

I’m worried that the Hornets appear to be heading that way.  Take a look at the teams around the league.  Are the Hornets one of the worst five teams in the league?  I would say not.  There are four sure-fire worse teams in the east in the Wizards, Nets, Bobcats and Pistons.  In the west, I’m comfortable saying the Kings are a worse team.  That’s five teams worse than the right there – but would anyone confidently say the Bucks, Jazz, Cavaliers, and Warriors are better than the Hornets?  I wouldn’t.

That means, of course, that this Hornets team is likely to end up with two late lottery picks.  That puts the Hornets out of the running for the big talent in the draft.  There will be no Davis or Drummond.  No Barnes, Sullinger or Kidd-Gilchrist.

That’s a disaster if the team is trying to turn it around quickly.

Of course, the irony in all this is the Chris Paul trade mess this summer.  David Stern rejected the Lakers-Rockets-Hornets trade presumably because it didn’t make the Hornets bad enough to start over quickly.  That trade would have resulted in the first real Superstar trade that actually kept the team losing the Superstar with the same talent level as pre-trade.  The Hornets probably would have been a 6-8 seed in the West this year.

Instead, Stern made a different trade with the Clippers, stockpiling young assets and ostensibly making the Hornets so bad their own pick would become a major asset.  He forgot, however, about Monty and Dell.  Monty will get a team playing defense.  That gives you a chance every game.  Dell will turn borderline assets into slightly better assets.  He will try to improve the team.  These two guys want to win – and really, I don’t blame them for it – but I do think it may harm our hopes for a quick, young superstar-driven turn around.

Now, the Hornets can still trade veterans and make moves that help them gain ground in the “Race to Suck Now, Not Later”.  However, if nothing does happen, it’s possible the league office traded a Hornets team that made the playoffs but struggled to progress year after year for a Hornets team that simply struggles to make the playoffs year after year.

I don’t think that’s a trade I like.


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