A lot of excuses can be made for why the 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets failed to meet expectations. There's been the flurry of injuries to key players throughout the entire season. There was the natural regression that is expected from a team that overachieved the previous season. There was the Lance Stephenson drama, some minor roster turnover, Josh McRoberts leaving, and some questionable coaching decisions from head coach Steve Clifford.
And the list goes on and on and on. And on.
Regardless of the hot takes critics will serve as to why the Hornets foundered — and there will be plenty of them — the bottom line is that the 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets' season is dead. May they rest in peace, and be remembered as a team that failed to live up to pre-season expectations before somehow failing to meet our adjusted mid-season expectations as well. They were not fun to watch, and in general the Hornets were a bad team that only contended for the playoffs due to playing in a weak conference.
Charlotte entered the season with sky high expectations after a surprisingly successful season the year prior and what looked like a very solid offseason. Experts like Turner Sports' The Starters (formerly known as the Basketball Jones crew) said they might be the deepest team in the NBA, Matt Moore of CBS NBA picked them to win the division, and season previews everywhere had them safely in the playoffs.
So what happened?
Well, they fell flat on their face. That's what happened. The defense started off very slow, the offense was a disaster, and new additions were playing well below the level what they expected to play at. For some reason Jason Maxiell was playing key minutes, and by god, the Hornets were losing to teams like the New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers early in the season.
A lot of this was written off as players being unable to figure out how to play together, but an injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist changed everything. It was well known that MKG had a huge impact on the team's success, but what wasn't known was the extent of his impact, and that without him Charlotte would fall off a gigantic cliff. The Hornets went on a 10-game losing streak without him, and ranked near the bottom in most defensive statistics. They lost their defensive anchor and did not have an offense to fall back on to. Those pre-season expectations were long gone, and there was a real fear that Charlotte wouldn't even have a chance at the playoffs.
That was until the new year. The Hornets entered 2015 reminding everybody why those high expectations existed in the first place. Their offense was still a dumpster fire, but they had the best defense across the NBA since January, and that rightfully rekindled some of that old pre-season hope. No longer did anyone care about winning a division the Atlanta Hawks were clearly running away with or even getting home court in the first round. All that was expected was progress. Was a playoff berth and the first playoff win in over a decade so much to ask for?
Well, apparently it was.
Even with the Hornets' defensive improvements, not once this season did their offense improve. From the start of the season right until the moment they were eliminated from playoff contention, the Hornets' offense consistently ranked at and around the bottom of the league.
It became such a problem that a mid-season trade for Mo Williams was required. All adding a scorer did was cover a gaping wound with a small bandage. It helped a bit, but it didn't stop the bleeding or fix the underlying problem. Did Williams' ability to put points on the board help the Hornets? It did. Did it change the fact that the Hornets couldn't shoot 3-pointers, had an offense similar to that of a college basketball team, or that they lacked any amount of useful ball movement? No, because one gunner can't fix those problems.
Those issues cannot be remedied without a massive overhaul of the roster. This group of players do not possess the ability to run a competent offense.
Of course, Charlotte showed last year that an offense doesn't have to be good, it just needs to be competent. Last year's team was still in the bottom tier of NBA offenses, but at least they had a direction, a plan, or some semblance of those things that suggested that they knew what they were doing.
This year's team appeared to wing it on a nightly basis and it was just so not fun to watch. That's the worst part of being a fan of this team. Their brand of basketball was impossible to like as a fan of the game of basketball. It would have been one thing if they were racking up wins, but they couldn't consistently put anything together and that led to a promising season turning into an unbearable mess.
Maybe the problem was that everybody thought this team was supposed to be good even though they weren't. An injury to a single player sent this team on a 10-game losing streak. They never found a way to score on consecutive possessions consistently.
All year, the Hornets have gone on winning and losing streaks that really couldn't be explained. Five straight wins would be followed by four straight losses, which would be followed by two wins, then four losses, and so on and so forth. Good teams don't do that. Good teams play the same way every night, and while the results may change, the process does not. Charlotte's process changed almost nightly.
Did injuries effect this? Yes. But good teams find ways to overcome those injuries.
Rest in peace to the 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets. You had your problems, some of which were in your control and some of which weren't, but in the end, you just weren't that good.