The 2017 Charlotte Hornets are finished.
In a season that had looked ripe for a playoff appearance repeat, the team will end the season tenth or possibly eleventh in an Eastern Conference race in which most expected them to be contending for fourth or fifth.
It was an alright season for the franchise in some respects. Kemba Walker improved yet again, solidifying himself as true star in the league in part due to massive upgrades in his shooting from range. Frank Kaminsky had flashes of offensive potency, Cody Zeller seemed to find a role that suited him, hell, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist actually played an entire season.
But on the whole, this year was disappointing.
The Coach Cliff defense observers have come to know and love seemed absent. Low-upside deals were made, while young-core improvements were kept to a minimum. The win-now team that was kept together last summer regressed when they had no room to and logically shouldn’t have. Finishing with a similar record as they Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, and Denver Nuggets, teams trying to mold young talent and not necessarily going all in on winning in the moment.
It’s a tough spot for the Hornets. The post-Lance year saw a team and fanbase thrilled to be watching high-chemisty, high-character, high-hustle basketball that clinched a playoff birth. But this year, even if they had gotten to the eighth seed, would it have mattered?
There is no clear path forward for the Hornets. They are not good enough to commit resources to winning, and not so bad that it makes sense to rebuild. They are in NBA no-mans land, and the sooner the front office comes to grips with that, the sooner this team will be able to take steps to getting better.
A deep draft class awaits, and once again it promises to be the only potentially redeeming feature in the Hornets offseason. With Rich Cho getting picked up for next year, collective fingers are crossed that he’s able to work some magic...or just not blow it.
Head’s high Hornets fans.
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