Hornets Don’t Have to Tank; The Tank is Coming for Them



It is the singular word that can best sum up the Charlotte Hornets’ 2022-23 season.

This year’s campaign has not even reached the one-third mark, and yet for the Hornets, it feels like their aspirations of a playoff appearance have been over since before Thanksgiving. LaMelo Ball has only played in three games, Cody Martin has not played even three minutes, Dennis Smith Jr. and Gordon Hayward have both tallied double-digit absences, and even Terry Rozier was unavailable during a seven-game stretch for Charlotte.

The Hornets simply cannot catch a break health wise and find themselves fourteenth out of fifteen Eastern Conference teams above only the Detroit Pistons twenty-seven games into the season. Steve Clifford was brought in for his second tenure in the Queen City this off-season and not interested in a rebuild as his eyes were set on the playoffs. In an interview with Ashley ShahAhmadi, Mitch Kupchak echoed the same expectations for the team when his remarks implied that the Hornets should surpass last season’s win total of 43.

The organization has been uniform in their pursuit of the playoffs, at least in word, despite an offseason that saw their leading scorer in Miles Bridges charged with felony domestic violence. No outside additions were made to replace his production other than Dennis Smith Jr. and Theo Maledon just weeks leading up to training camp, both of whom struggled to find interested teams this offseason.

Even with a summer that left many fans begging for moves to be made, there were avenues forward for this roster. All-Star LaMelo Ball taking a leap in year three, increased opportunities from Kelly Oubre/PJ Washington/Jalen McDaniels to replace Bridges’ production, improvement defensively under Steve Clifford, and better play from the center rotation could have semi-absolved Kupchak and his lack of offseason movement. The one thing the Hornets could not endure was an injury-plagued season.

An injury-plagued season it has been.

Between the lack of additions and exponential injuries, an organization that spoke like one that was not actively pursuing the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes now has no further option. The Charlotte Hornets do not have to tank. The tank is coming for them. Maybe that is best for this franchise that has meddled with mediocrity for far too long.

The Hornets are thirteen games under .500 and cannot close out tight games of which they have lost nine when leading in the fourth quarter and OT.

This current iteration of the Hornets will not have to actively chase a bottom-three finish in order to receive the shared-highest odds of landing the No. 1 overall draft pick come June. It will likely happen naturally.

And now another wrinkle— this.

The 7-20 Hornets may get their guy back Wednesday night, but there’s far too much that needs to go right for them to get where they want to be.

So put your hands together Charlotte and pray that the ping-pong balls dance in your favor, because that is exactly where this season is headed.

About Joshua Balta

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