The Charlotte Hornets have had one of the busier, and more interesting, offseasons across the NBA this year. They made headlines early on by trading Lance Stephenson away to the Los Angeles Clippers, and received Spencer Hawes in return. They followed up that trade by flipping Matt Barnes, also received in the LA trade, to the Memphis Grizzlies for Luke Ridnour and his unguanteed contract. Of course, Luke Ridnour was never meant to be around long term, and Charlotte traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeremy Lamb.
This was a process of events that many teams would use for their entire summer, but Michael Jordan, Rich Cho, and the rest of the front office wasn't finished yet. Before the draft, Charlotte sent Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson to the Portland TrailBlazers for Nicolas Batum. This trade cleared out space in their front court for them to draft Frank Kaminsky out of Wiconsin. This confused a lot of people that saw Vonleh as a player with much more upside than Kaminksy, but it did get the Hornets a very good wing player in return.
After all of this, Charlotte chose not to send a qualifying offer to big man Bismack Biyombo. Their lone rim protector was a free agent, and the Hornets let him go for pretty much nothing. This not only annoyed fans due to him being a fan favorite, but it also raised concerns on how the team would be able to keep up their trademark defense without a rim protector anywhere on the roster.
Not finished yet, the Hornets addressed a need at backup point guard by signing Jeremy Lin to a very inexpensive deal. A move so low risk that the only response for it could be praise, or an acceptance that Lin's deal is too short to make a huge difference in the long run.
Finally, Charlotte made another move, and this one might be their final signing of free agency. The Hornets signed North Carolina alum, Tyler Hansbrough, and this left many people scratching their head. Hansbrough is definitely not a horrible player, but he's not exactly good. In fact, average might be overpraising him. He's just the latest questionable move in an offseason that has left many people in a strange state of impressed, unimpressed, and confused all at the same time.
Their offseason has been impressive in the sense that they managed to dump Lance Stephenson, get a definite upgrade in Nicolas Batum, and add Jeremy Lamb for almost nothing. They've addressed 3-point needs by adding Frank Kaminsky, and trading away inefficient outside shooting such as Gerald Henderson. From a very positive standpoint, the Hornets got better this offseason by filling needs, and fixing previous problems.
On the other hand, Charlotte traded away a top 10 pick in Noah Vonleh, and it felt like the Hornets never really gave him a chance. Now, he gets to develop in a great situation with Portland, while the Hornets run in place without a huge future. On top of this, they added Spencer Hawes coming off the worst season of his career with the Clippers, and he's still fresh on a new contract. There's also the issue with Nicolas Batum being an upgrade over Lance Stephenson, but he'll be a free agent next season making Batum possibly nothing more than a rental. When taking an extremely negative view, the Hornets traded away their future in Vonleh, and replaced it with Kaminsky's limited upside. Then Charlotte entered a strange state of win now mode, and signed veterans like Lin, and Hansbrough, to fill out the roster instead of opting for youth. The team is setting itself at a ceiling, and the future is not bright.
Neither side is really wrong when discussing the Hornets, but in reality their offseason probably falls somewhere in the middle. They really did get better with the addition of guys like Batum, and Kaminsky should help their 3-point shooting woes while actually getting to play his rookie season. That said, it's impossible to ignore Hawes albatross of a contract, and that the Hornets gave up on Vonleh as a prospect far too quickly.
Really though, all of this raises a question, what exactly are the Hornets doing? What's the end goal? Is this a team that really believes they can go make a playoff run with Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as the core? That would be overly optimistic from most perspectives, and there would need to be a way to make that work, but the NBA is a weird place where strange strategies present themselves.
For the Hornets, based on the moves they've made and the team they've put together, this looks like an attempt to re-create their 2013-2014 playoff team to an extreme scale. It's the same offense, but they're hoping the addition of big men that can work out of the high post will allow them the spacing last year's team lacked while allowing perimeter players from the bench to shoot as many 3-pointer as possible. It'll still be far from elite level, and will most likely find itself below average, but that might be enough with a top level defense.
In order for this whole plan to work, the Hornets defense has to be beyond elite. It needs to be one of, if not the best, defense in the entire NBA in order to make up for the below average offense they'll surely have. That might be a tall order to ask from a team that got rid of their only rim protector, but Steve Clifford has shown in the past that he can make a good defense out of just about any tools he's given.
So that's what the plan looks like, but what if it all blows up in the Hornets face? If everything doesn't workout then are they forced into an immediate rebuild? That's possible, but more likely the team will opt to go into what may be their actual plan, and that's use their cap space in 2016. Charlotte will be entering into a large amount of cap following this season, and it's possible that the Hornets are merely buying time as they wait for their roster to become more flexible. It would coincide with a lot of these short term moves, and would help explain why the team doesn't seem interested in looking farther ahead than this upcoming season.
At least, it would be nice to think that the Hornets have everything planned out, but more often than not it doesn't go that way. There's probably a skeleton blueprint the franchise is following, and they're making moves based off that. In the end, the only thing we can do is speculate as the team continues to make moves. What's most frustrating about this offseason more than anything else is just how unpredictable it is. Charlotte has no clear direction, or motive, from an outside perspective and that's frustrating. Nobody has any idea what they're doing, and fans are praying that the same feeling doesn't currently exist in the front office.