Giving Everything and Losing

Published: March 31, 2012

After yesterday’s post by Grayson about how the Hornets are doing things right with their roster, Ryan looks at the Hornets and worries what this hard-working squad of players really means for the future.  Warning: Contains Eeyore-like content.

The consensus around the league – and something stated by every opposing team’s announcer (no matter how much of a Tommy Heinsohn they are) is that the Hornets play hard and that they never quit or concede anything.  These sentiments are supported by many team-based numbers.  The Hornets are the only team in the bottom 10 of the league with rebounding numbers in the top 10.  The Hornets join Toronto as the only bad teams in the league who hold opponents to a below-average eFG%.  Most impressively, despite the large number of losses, the Hornets are rarely on the receiving end of blowout losses.  In fact, the Hornets have lost 5 games all season by 16 points or more.  There are only 6 teams in the league that better that number:

  • 3 Blowout losses (Spurs, Grizzlies)
  • 4 Blowout losses (Celtics, Rockets, Pacers, Heat)
  • 5 Blowout losses (Hornets,  Sixers, Jazz)
  • 6 (Magic, Bulls, Hawks)
  • 7 (Mavs, Bucks, Clippers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Raptors)
  • 8 (Nuggets, Warriors, Thunder, Suns)
  • 9 (Kings)
  • 10 (Cavs, Knicks)
  • 12 (Nets)
  • 13 (Lakers!, Wizards)
  • 15 (Pistons)
  • 18 (Bobcats)

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about that list is that every team keeping company with the Hornets is in the playoffs as of today and have half as many losses overall. The Hornets lose and they lose, but they get crushed as often as teams that win and win.  Despite the dearth of talent and health on this team, in almost every game, the Hornets will be right there, all out of proportion to what is expected or should be expected.

I love it.  I know most of you love it.

But should we?

What does this really mean for next year and the year after?

My worry is that the Hornets are already maximizing their effort.  This team of D-Leaguers, castoff veterans and bench players are already doing everything they possibly can night in and night out.  What’s more, the team isn’t even playing significantly worse running with Kaman-Ayon(Smith)-Henry(Aminu)-Belli-Jack than it was when it trotted out Okafor-Landry-Ariza-Belli-Jack.  There is almost no difference in results.

To some, that points to extraordinary depth.  To some, that points to management gathering a nice, young set of talented role players who could really turn into something.

To me, that’s damn worrisome.

It means to me that the Hornets are probably farther than we think from returning to relevance.  What we’ve learned is that no matter the set of players the Hornets retain from this season – that group of players, working their hardest, they are only worth a handful of wins.   If you add . . . say . . . Thomas Robinson (yes, this all changes if we get Anthony Davis, but let’s focus okay?) and Perry Jones III and Eric Gordon to any other set of six current contributors from this team, are the Hornets going to be pushed from a bottom-3 record towards the playoffs?   Or will they be simply pushed into the hard-to-escape NBA purgatory of the mid-lottery?  My guess is the latter.

So if you were Dell Demps, and that is what you were facing, what would you do?  You essentially have a team of maxed out role-players, an injured and questionable cornerstone, have capspace in a summer when a dozen other teams have loads of capspace, and a pile of precious, precious lottery balls.

Me?  I’d be trying to turn Eric Gordon into another high draft pick this year. (Portland maybe, for the Nets pick? Washington might take Gordon and Ariza for theirs maybe, right? Winning Culture?)  I’d also be trying to cash in any value that these hard-working role-players have established and turn them into future assets.  Ship Ariza somewhere for  a 2013 first rounder.   Send Vasquez and Jason Smith somewhere for a 2014 first rounder.

In short, I’d be trying to set the Hornets up to stink again next year.  Then surround those developing blue-chip rookies with another set of hard-working hungry cast-offs from the d-league and Europe that will work hard but be terrible.  Earn another pile of lottery balls and their attendant blue-chip rookies.  Then take that set of blue chippers, an even larger treasure trove of cap space available when fewer teams have space, and make that big push to relevance in 2013-2014.  It could work.  Right?

What do you think?  Am I underestimating our players?  How would you attack the problem?  More – could you stomach another season of losing big with no guarantees that it’ll turn the Hornets around any faster?

Let us know in the comments.


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