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Another season on the outside of the playoffs

Man, I had to take a beat after that season ended. One, because the mortgage-paying job was going through a core conversion which required a level of attention here-to-fore unheard of. But also because I found myself in the minority opinion when it comes to The Charlotte Hornets season. The takes coming out of the 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets season have been positive. Phrases like “bright future”, “Young talent”, and “future stars” have been used to describe takeaways from this season. And although I see a lot of truth in those statements, I was disappointed, overall, by the results of the Hornets season.

Let’s start at the end. The Hornets got their butts handed to them by a short-handed Indian Pacers team in the play-in game. That Pacers team then got blown out by the Washington Wizards who are, themselves, getting swept by the Philadelphia 76ers; down 0-3 as of writing. Not only were the Charlotte Hornets not prepared for the pace of the postseason, TJ McConnell made them look like mannequins on defense. And the season ended as it has so many times, watching the Hawks, the Knicks, the Wizards in the playoffs instead of Buzz City.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Hornets just missed the bubble, finishing tenth in the Eastern Conference. This year, the Hornets just missed the payoffs, finishing, you guessed it, tenth in the east. Now, the young Charlotte squad doesn’t get the benefit of a couple reps in the first round against a more evolved opponent. The Knicks are trading punches with the Hawks in the first round. Even if that doesn’t result in a second round berth, they’ll know how to take a jab come 2022. To preempt the comments, the Hornets winning percentage has improved year-over-year, but what results can you take away from a Covid shortened regular season in that vein?

Then there are the contract situations that are one year closer to being made. Malik Monk was DNP Coach’s Decision for the first month of this season then became a major part of crunch-time games. He is entering restricted free agency. Devonte’ Graham ran the gamut of season struggles with a slow start, injury, and just finding himself in a crowded guard rotation. He is also due a new contract. Gordon Hayward, the Hornets 4 year, $120 million free agency signing, ended the season on the injury report after an amazing first half of a season. All these choices have to be made with PJ, Miles, and even Ball’s contract negotiations on the horizon.

However, I do agree about the bright future. Miles Bridges found a gear this year that increases his potential. He was a playmaker and a bucket-getter this season in a way that few players are in this league. If I just type the word LaMelo Ball in this article the algorithm gives me ten extra views. But also he seems like an electric point guard, who is at least evenly interested in winning as he is in his own stats. PJ Washington looks unaware of what role he should serve on this team. Does this new spread five position make him the rim protector on defense? Should he try to playmake on offense or tuck in the corner and be there for the outlet pass from a cutting Ball? But he is learning a brand new role, not only in his career, but new to professional basketball. And I’m diamond hands on PJ stock (did I just mangle that jargon?)

If I can level, this is mostly just six years of being outside the playoffs. For some teams that is an eternity that would set off alarm bells and think pieces about the state of basketball in Madison Garden. But the reaction to the Hornets missing the playoffs again is, “thumbs up, guys,” here’s your bright future star sticker. We ended the season stagnant in the standings, star player hurt, and getting our lunch money stolen by the cast of the Hosiers. If I know Michael Jordan, and I certainly don’t, he’s holding an iPad right now.