Panthers Make a Cut Day Trade

It’s officially Dallas week here in Charlotte. We finally are at a place where we can move past the pundits that have lauded over New Orleans and Atlanta over the past seven months while Carolina essentially lay forgotten. Well the roster has been set and it’s time for Ron, Cam and company to remind the nation who they’re sleeping on.

Cut down day came with a few surprises, but nothing that was alarming. Kenjon Barner was probably the biggest name that was cut, but it’s a non story when the options taken ahead of him are completely justifiable. Daeshon Hall being cut a year after the team traded up for him in the third round was surprising as well, but he was completely invisible all preseason so you shrug your shoulders and move on.

The fun part about cut down day though are the minor trades and waiver claim acquisitions that are made. Even though players that are exchanged via these types of deals are, at best, depth moves or special team contributors, fans like myself love to over analyze on how they ultimately can put the team over the top.

It wasn’t a secret that the Panthers needed to do something to add to the offensive line. Ever since Daryl Williams and Amini Silatolu went down with knee injuries during the first week of training camp, depth was a massive issue. That’s two starters, one of which is an All Pro, that are lost for what looked to be an extended period of time from the jump. If there was good news, it’s that both players weren’t anticipated to miss the entire season, but their injuries left an obvious depth crisis among the group.

Fast forward to the Miami and New England games and two more brutal injuries follow on the o-line. The first was to starting left tackle Matt Kalil and the second was to swiss army knife Jeremiah Sirles. Kalil’s injury was a knee issue that he had scoped shortly after the game. The initial prognosis was that Kalil would be out for a couple of games and should be back after the Panthers’ bye week which comes in Week 4 of the season. This proved to be too optimistic and a day after the roster is named, Kalil gets put on IR with the hope that he’d be able to return after 8 weeks which should be enough time for him to heal up. Sirles wasn’t as lucky. His injury was hamstring related and he was put on IR from the jump which meant him losing out on the season with no opportunity to come back.

Here is where the move comes in. Shortly after the Panthers announced their first wave of roster cuts, Marty Hurney made his move to bolster the o-line and traded a conditional 2020 draft pick to Detroit for OT Corey Robinson.

Robinson is a local kid out of Havelock in Eastern NC and played college ball in Columbia at South Carolina so Charlotte is definitely a homecoming for him. Robinson’s play on the field has been adequate by most metric systems, but he grades out as a quality backup that can provide fill in minutes for starters at both tackle and guard spots. The position flexibility is definitely key with this trade.

In an interview post trade, Hurney and Ron both mentioned that they had been monitoring Robinson for the past couple of weeks and felt like if he were available then he could help the Panthers. It turned out that he was and since Marty only had to give up a conditional pick (7th rounder) in 2020 for him, Robinson was likely headed for the cut line in Detroit and the trade allowed Carolina to snag him without risking him falling through waivers. Seems to be a very prudent move.

Robinson will likely start week one at right tackle with Moton manning left while Kalil and Williams recover. Once Williams returns, Robinson should still be able to contribute both inside and out as a rotational piece.

I felt like there was a possibility of additional moves being made since
Marty had restructured Luke’s contract earlier that same day, but for now, it looks like the Robinson addition is it. I did see where the Broncos allegedly offered up Paxton Lynch in trade to Carolina as a backup QB, but we passed.

Stay tuned.

Analyzing a Busy Hornets Weekend

I woke up on Friday morning, July 6th, expecting a pretty easy going weekend in regards to the Charlotte Hornets. Their Summer League season started against Oklahoma City that evening followed by games against Miami and Boston on Sunday and Monday. Free agency was about a week in and given the fact that Charlotte has a roster full of hefty contracts and a salary cap that is flirting with the tax line, I wasn’t expecting much to happen on the player transaction front. Naturally, the exact opposite happened.

Let’s a take a look at each of the many moves that the Hornets completed over the weekend.

Previous trades go through

Mitch Kupchak made his first splash for the Hornets on the day before the NBA draft when he shipped out Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Timofey Mozgov and two second round picks. The deal was made on 6/20 and couldn’t be approved until 7/6 when the new league year began. Once the trade was official, Mitch’s comments were geared towards Dwight’s lack of a true role within Coach Borrego’s system. Seems legit, but we know a big part of everything was Dwight’s attitude in the locker room and the consensus that he was not well liked. Thanks for the memories Dwight.

The second part of this trade was the deal that the Hornets made with Oklahoma City on draft night. Part of the Howard return was the 45th pick from Brooklyn on draft night. With the pick the Nets via the Hornets selected Hamidou Diallo, the young shooting guard from Kentucky. After the draft was over, it was announced that the Hornets sold the pick to the Thunder for cash considerations and a 2019 pick. Diallo was viewed as a high upside / low floor prospect, but given the depth at wing for Charlotte, it was unlikely that he would have made any impact this season if he made the team in the first place. Getting cash and a future 2nd rounder is a win here.

Tony Parker comes to Buzz City

Free agency technically began at midnight on July 1st, but unofficially, free agency starts when Woj and Shams bomb Twitter around 11:30pm on June 30th. The Hornets were never expected to be active in the market given how little cap space that they have, yet Mitch Kupchak made it clear several times that the team would be in the market for a backup PG to Kemba Walker.

During the first few days of free agency, the Hornets predictably sat on the sidelines while several players deemed as realistic options went off the board to different teams. Earlier in the week, Woj and Bobby Marks spoke on a podcast about Tony Parker and how both Charlotte and Denver were interested in the four time champion. This nugget certainly piqued the interest of Hornets fans as most people were unaware that Parker was A: a free agent and B: even considering leaving the Spurs franchise where he had been for 17 years.

Shortly after the Dwight for Mozgov trade went through on Friday afternoon, Nic Batum dropped a Woj bomb of his own and announced that Parker was indeed coming to Charlotte. The signing of Parker in and of itself is interesting (he’s coming over on a 2 year/$10 million deal) mainly because of the connections he has in place already. Coach Borrego was an assistant for the Spurs for two of the championship runs that Parker was a part of and Borrego has mentioned wanting to build a culture in Charlotte that is symbollic with winning. That has Spurs written all over it and who better to help instill that here, than your former All NBA/Finals MVP point guard who was literally raised in the culture you’re looking to model. Parker also has the French connection with Nic Batum so there is some playing chemistry in place as well.

Multiple reports are saying that San Antonio did truly want Tony Parker back, but his role seemed much less defined there. Between Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills and Derrick White, extra minutes for Parker seemed sparse. In Charlotte, there is a clear gap of 15-18 minutes per game available behind Kemba that Tony could slide into right away. I don’t expect TP to be 2015 Jeremy Lin for Charlotte, but Parker is certainly stable as a backup when healthy. He’s going to be able to run an offense unlike his two predecessors (MCW & Sessions) and there is enough scoring ability there to help take pressure off of Kemba when he’s in need of a break. The concern you have with Parker is his health. It’s unreasonable to expect him to play a full 82 game slate meaning that Devonte Graham will likely see some time at some point during the season as well and he’ll benefit under the mentorship of Parker.

Some might argue that Parker isn’t worth the money we gave him (for health reasons), but he provides a winning mentality, stability and leadership to that backup PG role that has been void for some time now. Excited to see him in Charlotte.

Return of the Mack!!!

Everyone loves a good trade. They’re such a nice vessel for a flood of content around your team and I know I enjoy getting everyone’s take on a transaction involving players.

During the first trade Mitch made as the GM, most people were thrilled with Dwight leaving town and were ready to move on with Cody and Billy Hernangomez, but were less thrilled about taking back Timofey Mozgov. Like Dwight, Mozgov was a product of the summer 2016 cap spike and his contract has not come anywhere close to having any value. In fact, Mozgov was so unplayable in Brooklyn that the team was more than fine just sitting him on the bench even though the team was paying him $16+ million a year.

I’m not convinced his playing time would have increased in Charlotte either to be honest. Cody and Hernangomez are both more skilled and better scheme fits, so it’s likely Mozgov would have been the emergency center should anyone get hurt at any point. He was essentially wasted roster space.

Enter Mitch Kupchak.

I’m not sure how this trade was initiated, but Saturday night just after 8:00 pm EST, Woj drops a bomb that Charlotte, Chicago and Orlando were finalizing a three team trade that, among other things, would send Mozgov to Orlando and Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte. BIYOMBO IS COMING HOME!

Such a weird trade to be honest. Three teams got involved to move around spare parts in a sense. I’m thinking that Orlando was the instigator here since they had the biggest needs to fill of the teams involved. Orlando needed a point guard to pair with DJ Augustin and were able to swing Jerian Grant from Chicago to fill that role and they needed to clear up playing time for their first round pick Mo Bamba. Bamba is a long and rangy center that projects as an exceptional to elite rim protector in the NBA and he offers a lot of potential offensively as well. With Orlando in a rebuild with young pieces they want to develop, it makes sense to want to play Bamba meaningful minutes from the go. The problem was that they had Biyombo on the roster.

Biyombo is redundant to Bamba defensively as his calling card in the league is his rim protection ability, but he doesn’t offer nearly as much offensively. The problem was, Biyombo is getting paid $17 million a year this year and next and he’s talented enough to where he should be in the rotation. It seemed that there was just no way to satisfy that from Orlando’s perspective so they decided to move him. Charlotte was a good partner in this because, they lack any rim protection among their bigs and protecting the rim is a big part of Borrego’s new scheme. As it turns out, Charlotte had a center in Mozgov that wasn’t going to play and could match salary of Biyombo. To round out the trade, Charlotte sent Julyan Stone and his non guaranteed contract to Chicago and snared two second round picks from Orlando.

Biyombo is the NBA equivalent of a movie that has a cult following. He has sentimental value to the fans, but was never as appreciated as he should have been in his time. Biyombo was acquired as part of a draft night trade in 2011, the same draft that produced Kemba Walker. Biyombo came in raw as hell, but had a really high defensive ceiling and was a plus shot blocker out of the gate. The hope was that, offensively, his game would develop, but it never really did. Charlotte signed Al Jefferson and drafted Cody Zeller a couple years after he was drafted and his spot in the rotation became shaky. Steve Clifford was also hired around the same time and never seem to take to him.

When it came time to give him a qualifying offer back in 2015, Charlotte declined and Biyombo hit the open market where he signed a one year deal with Toronto. At the time, most fans were pretty upset that we’d just give up on a lottery pick that quickly especially one as young as he was. The minutes probably weren’t there to be sure, but it did seem shortsighted financially at the time. Biyombo took that year with the Raptors and used it to his advantage. We really saw him blossom as a defensive force in the playoffs against Cleveland that following summer and he parlayed it into a massive four year contract.

Most fans seem to be excited that Biz is back in Charlotte and can live with the contract he has even given it’s substantial figure. It’ll be interested to see how he plugs into the front court. I have to imagine that he will play some even if Cody and WH are both healthy. He offers a defensive skill set that no one has on this team currently which has to account for something. As for Mozgov, the 36 hours he was officially a Hornet were riveting, but Biz is our guy. No hard feelings.

Mitch certainly had a busy weekend, but he’s doing a nice job positioning this team going into the season. I tend to think that another trade will happen before the season to clear up some of the wing “clutter”, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.


NBA Draft 2018: Recapping a Busy Draft Night for Charlotte

The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone and now our sites are set on the impending free agency and summer league seasons. However, before we look too far into the future, let’s take a step back and examine Mitch Kupchak’s first draft as GM of the Hornets after having slept on it throughout the weekend.

Really, to summarize my thoughts for a second, this Hornets draft was as busy a draft as the franchise has had in recent memory. Mitch came into the night with an extra draft pick in hand from Brooklyn (pick 45), orchestrated a deal in the lottery to acquire to more future second round picks with the Clippers and then turned right around and flipped those two picks to Atlanta in order to move up in the second round. It was quite an active night and the results have produced mixed reviews from the fanbase. Not surprising given how cynical most of the fanbase is at the moment.

Here is a recap of each pick and my take on the fit and overall outlook each pick provides to the Hornets.

Pick 11: The Hornets draft PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from Kentucky and trade his rights to the Los Angeles Clippers for the draft rights to Miles Bridges and two future second round picks (2020 & 2021).

Okay there is a lot to unpack here.

In regards to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, there was talk that he could go as high as six in the draft and it was rumored that teams outside of the lottery may attempt to try their way in to get SGA. As we crept towards the 11th pick and the Hornets being on the clock, Twitter and the board led me to believe that SGA would end up a Hornet. The upside was there, and he filled a position of need now and potentially the future depending on if Kemba was extended or not. His defensive ability also seemed to make sense under Coach Borrego and I think he could have seamlessly played on the court with Malik Monk.

Given SGA’s overall upside as a 19 year old, there was understandably a lot of intrigue around the league around him. Mitch was able to leverage that into his favor by moving back a spot in the draft while still getting the guy he coveted and, at the same time, getting some additional assets.

The guy Mitch Kupchak ended up coveting was Miles Bridges. I personally am very high on this pick for the Hornets. Most fans who disapprove will point to the fact that he’s not a high risk/high reward pick or that there were other players (Michael Porter Jr) available that had potential superstar ceilings. Maybe those points are valid, but in my view, Bridges best represents what the new NBA is: positionless basketball.

Bridges is undersized for a four in a traditional NBA sense at 6-7 and his offensive game isn’t poilished enough to be considered a true three either. That being said, his ability to come in and guard three positions right away is exactly what makes him valuable. I don’t think Bridges has a higher defensive upside than SGA, but the athleticism coupled with his 220 pound frame make him ready to handle what’s asked from him defensively today. We have seen how the ability for players being able to switch off PnR’s can elevate your team. Bridges brings that.

Offensively, he has a lot of great foundational skills. He’s a great catch and shoot shooter. His form on his jumper is good as well so I have no reason to believe that he won’t be able to improve as a three point shooter. The athleticism and ability to run the floor should benefit him from day one as well. Ideally, you’d love to see him develop into a big bodied three and just bully people around offensively.  Some things he will need to improve on are his ball handling and while he improved his free throw shooting dramatically as a sophomore, he didn’t get to the line very often. That’ll need to change.

Pick 34: Hornets trade two future second round picks to the Atlanta Hawks for the draft rights to pick 34. With the 34th pick, the Hornets selected PG Devonte Graham from Kansas.

While Kupchak ultimately decided to pass on SGA and a potential PG of the future at pick 11, he did decide to add a PG in this draft. However, instead of getting the heir apparent to Kemba, Mitch opted instead to draft a player that could support Kemba in a reserve role for what they hope is the foreseeable future. Early in the second round, there was a run of PG’s that included Jevon Carter and Jalen Brunson so the Hornets made a move to get a guy that most likely would have been off the board by pick 45.

Graham’s college career at Kansas is storybook. Finished off his senior campaign as the Big 12 POY and led the Jayhawks to the Final Four all while replacing one of the great PG’s in Kansas history in Frank Mason.

Graham comes into his rookie season as a really mature 23 year old. It’s rare today that players come into the league via the draft with two years of college experience much less a full four. That experience should aid Graham into being able to see some minutes this upcoming season. It’s likely that Charlotte will sign a veteran in free agency to serve as the primary backup to Kemba which would allow Graham to really develop from that third PG spot.

What Graham does on the court though could provide real dividends down the road. He averaged 17 and 7 this past year at Kansas which means he’s not only comfortable scoring, but also making plays for others which are qualities that the past two backup PG’s have lacked here in Charlotte. It also helps that Graham has experience playing off the ball so theoretically, he’s someone that can share the court with Kemba during certain points in the game. This is valuable as it takes more pressure off of Kemba to not only score, but do the bulk of the creating as well.

Graham doesn’t give the Hornets the high upside PG of the future that the fans are craving, but he does give a steady presence and provides a solid offensive skill set that should compliment Kemba quite well. If he can develop into a similar player to Fred Van Fleet then that’s a win.

Pick 45: The Hornets draft G Hamidou Diallo through the Brooklyn Nets. Sell rights to Oklahoma City.

This pick was one the picks the Hornets obtained from the Dwight Howard trade that was made on 6/20. With the selection, they took the Kentucky guard Hami Diallo who is one of those high celing/low floor second rounders that teams seem to like.

I won’t speculate much on this pick because before the night was over, Charlotte sold the rights to the Thunder for what is believed to be a future 2nd rounder and some cash. We won’t know the details until July 6th.

Pick 55: The Hornets draft international prospect Arnoldas Kulboka from Lithuania. 

With the final pick for Charlotte on the night, Mitch Kupchak decided to dabble in the draft and stash game. With his wing and PG already in hand from this draft and a pretty full roster, Mitch opted to go with a player that can stay in Europe for a couple of seasons and hopefully develop into someone that can play for the team down the road.

I don’t know much on Kulboka, but he’s listed as a 6-9 wing and is said to have a really good jump shot. All of those things are valuable if they develop correctly. He will be one to keep an eye on over the next two seasons.

All things considered, I think that Mitch had a nice and productive first draft night as the GM for the Hornets. He checked his boxes with getting a wing and a PG that fit what this team needs and should be able to contribute as early as this upcoming season. I also applaud him in being creative with trades and acquiring future assets and reflipping them to get the guys he wanted while not sacrificing any additional assets going forward.

Summer league should be fun.

My Draft Big Board

The NBA Draft is HERE! I know the NBA season really just ended, but as a Hornets fan, my season really ended two plus months ago so I’m ready for some actual roster transactions.

Without projecting any trades that may or may not happen , we all know that Charlotte has absolutely zero room to do much, if anything, in free agency. So really, the Hornets offseason starts and ends with the draft tonight. It’s no secret as to how bad the Hornets have performed in the draft over the past 10 plus years so we don’t need to revisit it, but I’m hoping that with a new, experienced GM in Mitch Kupchak coupled with an overhauled front office and a young coach ripe from San Antonio in James Borrego, Charlotte can experience some draft success that’s largely avoided them for most of franchise history.

I’ve kept up with the speculation as to where players will end up, but it’s hard to truly project out what will happen, especially when trades are on the table. Plus once the draft starts, 11 is a long ways out. So much can happen, a player always drops, there is always a surprise player that goes much earlier than anticipated, etc. so it’ll be interesting to see how different the landscape is when pick 11 comes around compared to what we assumed would happen as recently as a day ago.

All of this being said, I think there are about 10 players or so that could conceivably be available at 11. Some are much more likely than others as I have factored in who might drop that is considered a top 10 pick and, vice versa, players that might consider pick 11 as their absolute ceiling and are likely be picked later in the lottery or just after. When it comes down to it, there are three players that I truly think will be in play at 11 that the Hornets should draft and their order in my priority list.

My Big Board:

1.  Miles Bridges

Miles Bridges is far an away the number one player on my wishlist for Charlotte. I find it a little ironic that I’m typing this so adamantly given where I stood with him back in March and February. Early mock drafts kept throwing Bridges at Charlotte and I just initially couldn’t get behind the idea of a 6-7 forward, who was naturally a four, but slated as a three in the NBA on this roster. What changed my opinion on him was just simply watching the playoffs.

If you watched any of the teams in the Conference Finals, you saw different versions of this, but the Celtics were where it stood out most prominently and that was defensive switching. The NBA has entered into this era of positionless basketball and the more players that you can have on your roster that can successfully guard multiple positions, the more success you will have. Miles Bridges is a guy that should be able to switch to as many as three positions on the floor right away and with time, could elevate that number to four and sometimes five. I think his ceiling on defense is that high. Plus, the frame Miles brings with him is one that should be able to withstand a full 82 game schedule.

Offensively, I like Bridges as well. He’s an elite athlete in this class even though his tools aren’t as developed as other guys that will get taken before him. His outside shot isn’t bad, but could use some development. The form is good, but he will need to make sure he can hit outside shots consistently.

If Miles Bridges is there at 11, I’m all in on Kupchak taking him.

2. Collin Sexton

Trying to figure out if the Hornets are going to keep or trade Kemba is another blog post entirely, but even if they keep him, there is no backup or succession plan in place. In 2015, Charlotte had a great season in large part to the role Jeremy Lin played for the team both as Kemba’s backup and as a player that could effectively play alongside of him. After Lin left for Brooklyn, Charlotte has tried to fill that void and has unsuccessfully done so. I think Collin Sexton would be the solution.

Sexton, like Kemba in college, is a great scorer with a ton of raw athletic ability that allows him to get to the rim at will. He has the ability to hit threes, but he’s not a great shooter. Kemba grew into it. Why can’t Sexton?

Where MCW and Session couldn’t provide an offensive spark when Kemba took a breather, Sexton should be able to remedy that. He’s enough of a threat offensively that defenses will have to keep him in mind during matchups. He could improve as a ball handler, facilitator and overall shooter, but with his rim scoring and potential hot streak that could surface, he should be a capable 2nd unit leader from day one in the NBA.

As a defender, he also has the built out frame that can hold up over 82 games. Sexton is an active on ball defender and he is high energy in that department. He does have a tendency to lose people off the ball, but playing under Borrego will help correct those lapses.

3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SGA is a popular pick among Hornets fans, but he sits in chair three for me. You have to love how young he is and the measurables that he provides a PG position. He’s pretty rangy at 6-6 too, so I think he has the ability to be a pretty versatile defender. If Charlotte holds on to Kemba, SGA is the type of player that could share the court with both him and Monk. That would make for some pretty interesting rotations.

I love his facilitation and passing ability. He showed great vision at Kentucky and is good at finding the open man. He has pretty good handles for his size too. The rest of his offensive game is still a work in progress. He can get to the rim, but not as well as Sexton. His length helped get him in good positions around the rim in college, but that won’t be something he can rely on at the next level as easily. His jump shot is pretty solid too. He already has a solid mid range game and he made threes at a good clip in college, but he was always a catch and shoot guy from the outside at UK. Creating outside shots off the dribble will be key.

He doesn’t have the frame Sexton or Bridges do so I do worry about endurance his rookie year, but I love his heart and I think SGA has that killer instinct and desire to get better. It just might take a year or two to get there. He has all the tools to be Shaun Livingston which on the right team, is a great piece to have in your lineup.

Dwight Howard Traded to Brooklyn for Timofey Mozgov and Two 2nd Rounders


Just a day before the 2018 NBA draft, new GM Mitch Kupchak begins to make his mark on the franchise with a trade that may or may not signal a rebuild is on the horizon.

This trade marks the fourth team in four years for Dwight Howard. Brutal. While statistically, Dwight had a solid season for Charlotte last year, he just wasn’t the best fit for the team. He did add value to the team from a rim protection and rebounding standpoint, but his usage rate on offense was far to high and Dwight wasn’t comfortable not being a key option in the offense. Now he will go to Brooklyn where he will be the highlight player on a roster that lacks a ton of talent.

Coming the other way is Timofey Mozgov. A big man that Mitch Kupchak signed to a hefty contract in 2016 during the cap spike. It wasn’t too long ago that Mozgov was starting on a finals team with Lebron and actually contributing. Perhaps it was playing with the best player in the world that elevated his game, but since that 2015 season where he effectively went 10 and 7, he just hasn’t made an impact. Certainly not one to validate the contract. He comes over to Charlotte with two second round draft picks one that is the 45th pick in tomorrow’s draft and the other is a pick in 2021.

Thoughts on the trade:

The trade in my opinion is meh. Most of NBA twitter will probably see it as a win for Brooklyn by clearing an extra year of salary and getting the more talented player in return, but Charlotte does save money off the tax line this year and picks up a couple second round picks. The picks themselves likely won’t produce assets, but Charlotte was lacking 2nd round picks in general over the next few years and now they have some they can hold onto as future trade chips. It’s likely that 45 will go towards drafting someone tomorrow that will be looked at to fill a roster spot. Even though Charlotte has some wiggle room to spend in free agency, it’s minimal. Kupchak may opt to sit on the cap space and allow Coach Borrego to develop a young cheap player while he waits on some more contracts to either expire or be moved via trade.

I don’t think Mozgov will see that much time on the floor with Charlotte the next couple of seasons. Charlotte already has several guys that can occupy that five spot. Cody Zeller will likely be benefited with the open starting slot that Dwight Howard occupied and I think Willy Henrnangomez will be the one to see an uptick in minutes as his rotation partner. Even after those two get worked in, the Hornets also have Frank Kaminsky that can slide into the five spot when he’s not playing the four. Ultimately, Mozgov will be an expensive depth piece.

Can Kupchak Provide the Direction Charlotte Needs?

I feel like front office executives and coaches in the NBA are subject to more unfair scrutiny than their equivalents in any other sport. More than any other sport, one player in the NBA can directly impact the game and success of a franchise that other individuals, whether its baseball, football, etc, just can’t match. And in the era of the NBA super teams, very few franchises have a legitimate shot to win a title and small market teams like the Hornets have a very hard time jockeying for position to be among the elite. It truly is a very hard job for both a GM and a coach.

As hard as the job is and even though we understand the challenges attached, you can’t be complacent or settle for mediocrity. That’s why at the end of the 2017/2018 season, both Rich Cho and Steve Clifford were relieved of their duties as GM and Coach respectively.

Replacing both of those guys was the right move for the franchise. Both Cho and Cliff had some nice moments, but ultimately, each had flaws that made them too much of a liability to keep going forward. With Cho, his saving grace was his ability to make trades. The only trade that I truly believe he lost was when he dealt Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert for Miles Plumlee. To go through everything that was wrong with that deal would take a separate blog post and frankly, no one needs to relive it. Even if that was Cho’s low point in the trade game, he was able to rectify it by dealing Plumlee away a couple months later in a deal that got Dwight Howard in return.

While Cho’s trademark as the Hornets GM were the trades he was able to make, the reasons as to why he had to make trades to remain competitive were the reasons he was fired. Cho wasn’t able to draft well and he handicapped himself with bad contracts. He’s going to be remembered for two things during his time here. One is that he only drafted one all star and two starters in seven drafts and the second is that he signed Nic Batum to a 5 year/$120M contract. Ouch. For all of the things Rich might have done that were positive like signing Big Al Jefferson or drafting Kemba Walker, those two things will make up his legacy here in Charlotte and that’s just brutal.

Fans are definitely hoping that Mitch Kupchak will be able to stabilize this franchise and eventually build a roster than can compete and go on a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference. For an organization that hasn’t won a playoff series since the 01-02 season with Baron Davis, this seems like a tall order.

The immediate focus of Kupchak needs to be the upcoming NBA draft next week and based on his activity watching prospects at their pro days and the slew of prospects that have worked out in Charlotte over the past few weeks, I’d say that he’d agree with me. Given the atrocious cap situation that Kupchak inherited, getting this pick right at 11 is critical. There won’t be any spending room in free agency you can’t just depend on trades to present themselves to you. So in order for Kupchak to build this team while weathering this cap storm, he will have to capitalize on opportunities to acquire young controllable assets via the draft at pick 11 and frankly, at pick 55 as well.

A successful draft will certainly help ease Mitch’s time in free agency where he won’t have hardly any money to spend. If you’re confident that whoever you draft at 11 can come in and contribute right away, then you can take your time in free agency and find potential bargain deals or wait on potential trades to formulate.

This is where having a guy with Kupchak’s tenure will really help. Kupchak has been around long enough that he’s seen most every situation that the league has to offer and he’s made his fair share of mistakes working through them. Granted, operating in a gigantic market like LA compared to small market Charlotte is very different. The pressure to win in LA is much greater, but the pressure to deliver on a lottery pick has much more impact in Charlotte given that it’s not a desirable free agent destination. Trades and signings will certainly impact the direction that Kupchak wants the Hornets to head over the next few seasons, but this pick at 11 is the key into putting that plan into motion.

It’ll be interesting to see how Mitch plays this summer out for the Hornets, but having a guy who is a 10 time champion in the league as a player/executive, I have more confidence than ever, that this team will begin to trend forward. Excited for the journey.

Hornets Offseason Primer

It’s early June and the NBA season is winding down to a pretty anti climactic halt. For the 4th year in a row, we are watching a Warriors vs LeBron series, that the entire world saw coming as early as last June after part three of the same series ended. However, for the Hornets, the NBA season unceremoniously ended almost two months ago. It was an ending we all knew was coming. That stretch from Thanksgiving to New Years was brutal. In 19 games over that span, Charlotte was only able to total 5 wins. The writing was on the wall, but optimism reigned because in the back of our minds, we knew the schedule got much easier starting in January. The feeling that a run was in this team was possible, but at the end of the day, delusion and truth prevailed. An outcome of mediocrity and sub par have been the norm for this franchise more often than not and as fans, we should know better by now.

To the Hornets credit, since the season ended, the organization has been up front in admitting that change is needed and while other teams were in the playoffs chasing a championship, the front office has been active in taking steps forward.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be summarizing and giving my takes on the Kupchak and Borrego hires as well as previewing and recapping any Hornets activity relating to the draft, trades and free agency. It should be interesting to see how the Hornets operate given the fact that there is very little wiggle room with the salary cap and they hold a number of cumbersome contracts on the roster. That being said, it should be a fun few weeks.