While the NBA is moving forward with the 2020 playoffs, we as Charlotte Hornets fans wish to a degree that we could just pull a Rip Van Winkle and wake up in time for the draft and free agency. The Hornets are rebuilding and have some promising pieces. They will also have an early draft pick and a decent amount of cap space. Things are looking good, right?
Well, kind of.
When it comes to NBA roster construction, rebuilds aren’t complete until a team has at least one surefire stud. Competitive franchises need a clear-cut alpha dog, a regular All-Star, somebody who can get buckets no matter the situation. While Devonte’ Graham has been a revelation, he’s nowhere near that level. Terry Rozier can contribute to a winning team but not anchor one. Miles Bridges and PJ Washington are young with a ton of upside but both of them have a lot of developing to do before the phrase “potential All-Star” gets attached to their names.
To use an astronomy analogy, the Hornets have assembled some good planets but they don’t have a sun to revolve around. The sun provides gravity, keeps the planets in order, and gives life-sustaining light and heat (well, to us earthlings, anyway). NBA teams without a franchise superstar are like planets without a sun. The Hornets have four viable planets, they now just need a giant ball of gas to orbit.
Each of the 16 NBA teams that made the playoffs this year have at least one All-Star level stud, including the fringe Eastern Conference teams against whom the Hornets will be jockeying for playoff berths for years to come. The Brooklyn Nets will get fully healthy versions of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant soon enough. The Indiana Pacers had two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo miss most of this season only to see Domantas Sabonis emerge as an All-Star in 2020. The Orlando Magic have 2019 All-Star Nikola Vucevic still putting up 20 and 11 every night while 22-year-old Jonathan Isaac is flashing some major upside.
The Hornets still don’t have these types of suns, er, stars.
But there’s definitely reason for hope. Perhaps the draft lottery gods smile on the Hornets this week and they end up with a top three pick and land their All-Star via the 2020 draft. Or maybe Mitch Kupchak wisely leverages the cap space he’s been clearing to lure a franchise savior to Charlotte this offseason or next. As we watch the upcoming NBA playoffs we’ll be reminded that truly competitive teams have true franchise studs. The Hornets rebuild won’t be complete until they can check that box.