It's been a weird offseason for Charlotte. They've gone from the laughingstock of the league, to media darlings. After an impressive run to the playoffs, and giving the Heat all they had, Charlotte put away the Bobcats orange and blue, for the Hornets teal and purple. To go with the re-brand, the Hornets signed Lance Stephenson, and everything with the team has done a 180. There have been predictions that have the Hornets as high as 3rd in the east. Of course, not everybody is high on the Hornets. In particular, the rest of the NBA isn't.
This year's GM Survey has been released and the Hornets made a few appearances here and there.
For starters, only 3.7% of GM's think the Hornets will win the Southeast Division, placing them last, as Orlando received no votes. This does not mean that the rest of the league doesn't think highly of the Hornets. It's possibly many of them think they will finish second or third in a very tough division this year. But it's strange to me that the overwhelming favorite is the Washington Wizards, getting 59.3 of the vote. In my opinion, Washington didn't really do that much to improve this year. Sure, John Wall and Bradley Beal have another year of experience, but their bench depth leaves something to be desired, their coach, Randy Wittman, is very underwhelming, and their big signing in Paul Pierce is another year older. But I guess their playoff success last year gives them the edge. I don't have any problems with picking Washington to win the division, I just don't think they should be the massive favorites they are.
Marvin Williams and Lance Stephenson both received votes as the most underrated player signings this offseason. While the majority went with Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik, Spencer Hawes (!?), Pau Gasol, and Paul Pierce. Many other players received votes along with Williams and Stephenson, making this vote a lot more wide open than the division vote. The highest percentage was Chandler with only 17.9%, so there's lots of variety here.
Charlotte got 3.6% of the vote to be this year's most improved team. This number is so close to their chances to win the division, it's likely the same GM's that think they win the division, believe this as well. If the Hornets did win the division, that would be a massive improvement over last year's 43 win team.
Lance Stephenson to Charlotte got 7.1% of the vote when GM's were asked about this offseason's most surprising move. LeBron to Cleveland was the obvious overwhelming favorite, but it was definitely a surprise to hear Stephenson's name going to Charlotte, especially with the contract he got. I think most people had him pegged for staying in Indiana, or getting a much larger contract somewhere else.
Finally, when asked who is the best manager/motivator, Steve Clifford received a vote. Greg Popovich was the overwhelming favorite with 57.1% of the vote, and Doc Rivers came in at second with 35.7% of the vote. Tom Thibodeau also received a vote. It's definitely not easy to vote against Pop or Doc in this situation, but I'm glad to see Clifford get a vote here. The roster Clifford took over, was almost the exact same roster that won less than 25 games the year before. He motivated that team and erased the losing culture, to get them a surprising 43 wins. Clifford has already cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the NBA, and there's no way he can't get better.
While the Hornets definitely received some praise, it's very apparent that the GM's across the NBA are a little skeptical of them right now. The NBA wants to see it before they buy in, and I think Charlotte has to do it again this year, before GM's are willing to believe they've completely turned it around. The NBA notices they're heading in the right direction, but it's time for them to prove they're not just the same broken down car with a new coat of paint.