ESPN insider's NBA Future Power Rankings were released this morning. Usually, when this was released, anybody that followed Charlotte basketball knew exactly where to look. Just scroll down to the bottom and there would be the fans' beloved franchise. Those days are no more.
After spending years at the bottom of the Power Rankings, the Hornets made a massive jump last season, and had a solid offseason. Their future looks bright. As a result, ESPN has put them 15th in the NBA on their NBA Future Power Rankings.
Looking forward, the increased confidence in management following the appointment of Rich Cho as lead basketball decision-maker (along with the departure of former president of basketball operations Rod Higgins), combined with Clifford's masterful coaching job and managing partner Michael Jordan's willingness to simultaneously invest more money into the roster and take a step back from day-to-day control led to a corresponding rise in score.
As someone that's covered the Hornets the last couple years, I'd say this ranking is very fair and accurate to the team. While many fans probably want the Hornets in the top 10 thanks to the young talent on the roster, the Hornets still have much to prove before they can gain that honor.
While the Hornets have made some massive improvements over the years, they could still very easily go in reverse if things go wrong. Lets say for a minute that disaster strikes this team. Al Jefferson's ankle injury gets worse and he's never the player he was last season. His contract runs out but the team can't attract any more free agents to come to Charlotte. The young players never develop the way the franchise wants them to, and just like that, the Hornets are back to a bottom 8 NBA team. Is this likely? I don't think so. The team seems to have a good idea of where it's going and what direction they want to go in. But success at the moment is still not a guarantee. Don't forget, as good as this team was last year, it was still quite a battle to get to 43 wins. Until Charlotte has solid players to stand on, I think right in the middle at 15 is the perfect spot for them, for now.