The Charlotte Hornets offseason has been intensely debated by anyone with a basketball opinion. Everybody ranging from the comments section, to Grantland's Zach Lowe, has weighed in on Charlotte's offseason, and what it means for the Hornets in the long and short term.
The latest to weigh in on the subject was ESPN (Insider) in their offseason improvement rankings. Using WARP (Wins Above Replacement Level Player), Brandon Doolittle found that the Hornets had the second most improved offseason among all NBA teams. Coming in ahead of them at number one was the Los Angeles Clippers.
Using WARP as his basis, Doolitle explains that the Hornets were so bad last year with Lance Stephenson that just getting rid of him for nothing could have improved the team dramatically. As a result, being able to bring in Spencer Hawes, and Jeremy Lamb as a side effect from that deal, led to a much better Hornets rotation. He also explained how recently drafted Frank Kaminsky is possibly going to have more of an immediate impact than Noah Vonleh would have. Of course, Nicolas Batum was the acquisition of the Vonleh trade, and he's better than any of the players Charlotte lost this offseason.
Looking at everything Doolittle wrote, he is 100 percent right about the Hornets offseason. They definitely will be better this season than they were last season from a talent standpoint, and one would have to expect that this will raise them up by a few wins here and there. That said, just cause it looks good on paper doesn't mean the fit will work. Everybody thought the Hornets had a team good enough to grab the fourth seed in the East last season, and obviously that didn't go as planned.
It's also important to note that, when ranking the Hornets offseason, Doolittle focused entirely on comparing this season to last season. He didn't talk about long term gain, the possibility of Batum leaving in the offseason, or how the Vonleh trade will look long term. That was not his goal, and had it been then looking at Charlotte's offseason would have been much harder.
The reason the Hornets are being discussed so much in these dull parts of the season is that it's really difficult to figure them out. Everybody agrees that they likely will be better than last year if the pieces fit together, but will they ever get any better? Charlotte's current roster doesn't look like it can get anywhere farther than the first round, and maybe the second round if they're playing brilliant basketball. Some fans would find a lot of success in that, but a team should never make that their end goal. The Hornets, at the moment, will never be able to achieve higher, and likely made their future very difficult by trading away Noah Vonleh to go for the proven Frank Kaminsky over a higher upside player in Justise Winslow.
The Hornets long term future is going to continue being debated until there's enough evidence to start judging if their moves were a step in moving the franchise in the right direction, or what ended up being the offseason that locked them into mediocrity. As for now however, in the short term, Charlotte is a better basketball team. Unfortunately, that might not mean a whole lot three years from now.