Things didn't go according to plan in the first year of the rebrand for the Charlotte Hornets. Expectations were high coming off of a playoff season and adding Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams in free agency. Not only did the team miss the playoffs, the Hornets began shopping Stephenson to anyone who would take their calls as soon as they could to no avail.
Consequently, the Hornets will likely pick ninth in next month's draft. But do the Hornets need more youth based upon where they currently are as a franchise? What if they were to trade their pick?
Entering the 2014-'15 season, the Hornets were tied for 10th as the NBA's youngest team. At 25.7, the Hornets had the same average age as the Houston Rockets-- another team with a win-now mindset. Typically, teams looking to win immediately don't have time for player development. Rookies and young players make costly mistakes, mistakes that could cost a team games and possibly playoff seeding. For example, look at Noah Vonleh last season. Vonleh is probably going to be a fine player someday; but in the mean time, the Hornets couldn't afford his defensive mistakes as he adjusted to the NBA game. This is part of the reason why Jason Maxiell would see time over Vonleh, but would be illogical to do on a rebuilding team.
We know the Hornets have several starters with no real superstar. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist does great things on both ends of the court, but he's hardly a superstar. Al Jefferson is a great offensive player, but he's already 30 and likely not going to be a future piece for the next five years. Then there's a guy like Kemba Walker who is a fine point guard, but, also, not a superstar.
Are you going to find a superstar at ninth overall? Possibly. That's where Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire and Joakim Noah were drafted. Of course this is also where guys like Rodney Rodgers, Ike Diogu and Patrick O'Bryant were selected. Realistically, you wind up with a nice role player here like Dale Ellis, Brad Sellers or Derrick McKey. This is when the Hornets have to ask themselves what type of player, say, Stanley Johnson is and if he has the potential to take them to that next level in the next few years. If not, the consequence is toiling away in mediocrity while teams like Miami, Indiana and Orlando all position themselves to be better for next season.
The motive behind dealing the pick would then be to land an available star player. These type of players are rarely available because teams like having good players on their teams that help them win. However, we've already heard a name like Ty Lawson being available, so these players do hit the market sometimes. With an established player, you know exactly what you are getting, save for Lance Stephenson. Sure, there's the adjustment period where everyone has to re-learn to play with each other, but everyone is still experienced unlike trying to integrate a rookie into the core. With a rookie, you have zero clue that they'll be any good no matter where you are selecting.
Whether the ninth pick would be enough to be the centerpiece of a deal is completely unknown, but it has the potential to be a starting point. The Hornets shouldn't just deal their first round pick to the first team that comes calling, but shouldn't rule it out entirely either. With Cody Zeller, Vonleh, and Kidd-Gilchrist all taken as lottery picks the last few years the Hornets already have enough young talent for the future. An already established player could help push this roster of youth and veteran experience to the next level and back into the playoffs.