What is Wrong With the Charlotte Hornets?

The Charlotte Hornets have underperformed so far this season and with many different problems, it’s hard to identify just one main issue for their struggles.

The recent seven-game skid by the Charlotte Hornets has the fanbase swarming (see what I did there) for answers about what is going wrong with the team. Some of the buzz-worthy (OK I’ll stop) topics would include injuries, bad coaching, or lack of talent. One can easily argue any of these, so let’s go through them, break them down, and see if we can find the root of the problem for the reeling Hornets.

Injuries

I have a hard time blaming injuries as a legitimate reason for the Hornets skid down the standings. Trust me, I get that the Hornets are 1-12 without Cody Zeller and the play on the court has drastically declined on both sides of the ball without him, but everybody has injuries. Coach Clifford has often talked about one of the Hornets’ strengths being depth. Well, where has it been?

Roy Hibbert was very underwhelming in his stint in the starting lineup before being traded to Milwaukee. Other than Marco Belinelli and Jeremy Lamb missing a few weeks, have there been any significant injuries? Compared to the rest of the NBA I wouldn’t say so. You have to expect injuries to happen during the season, and you need to weather the storm if you want to be a playoff team.

Bad Coaching

A smaller group of people have pinpointed bad coaching as the issue and the main reason for the decline as the season has progressed. The offense frequently goes through cold streaks, and it seems to be very reliant on Kemba Walker having a great scoring night while distributing to others at a high level. Charlotte’s offense is very dependent on pick and roll, and if you have a good team that can defend and switch, it isn’t exceptionally difficult to stop this offense.

Still, it is good for the 14th best offensive net rating in the league, despite its simplicity. The injury to Zeller has really hurt the pick and roll based offense as Zeller is one of the best rollers’ in the NBA, and he’s near the top of the league in screen assists per game.

The bigger problem has been the defensive drop off. Steve Clifford’s Hornets have very often been in the top 5 in defensive rating. This year it has dropped down to 11th. Is that due to talent? Is it a lack of effort? Bad scheming? It is hard to tell.

The talent seems to still be there. The bigger problem is that it is 2017, and the Hornets average the most 3’s allowed per game. Players? Scheme? I’d say both. If it isn’t fixed, the Hornets will be watching the playoffs on their couch.

Lack of Talent

I believe this is the most widely held opinion by Hornets fan, and it seems to have the most merit. If you were to compare a team like the Hornets to let’s say the Phoenix Suns, do the Hornets really have much more talent? Would an average NBA Coach prefer Walker, Batum, MKG, Marvin, and Cody as a starting five? Or Bledsoe, Booker, Warren, Chriss, and Chandler? I’m not so sure. I at least think it is fairly close.

The fact of the matter is Nic Batum is a good player, and Cody Zeller has made a leap this year, but they should not be the 2nd and 3rd best players on a team with serious playoff aspirations. Kemba Walker is absolutely deserving of his first All-Star appearance, but unless he transforms into Lebron James, he won’t make it far with this surrounding talent.

So what should the Hornets do? I suspect one thing everyone can agree on is that staying put would be a bad idea. The team is already out of the playoff picture and reeling. Most fans want a trade, and I believe they are right. It is worth taking a risk. Staying put would likely mean a first-round playoff loss or missing the playoffs altogether.

I think it is worth swinging for the fences because being stuck in the middle of the East is the worst place to be. Being in the 7-10 range equals no playoff success and no high draft picks. Likely the Hornets would have to give up future assets to really make a move that is noteworthy (sorry Miles Plumlee), especially with the limited cap resources available. Whether it is a bigger name like Serge Ibaka or Brook Lopez, or a solid role player like Lou Williams or Wilson Chandler, that’s for the trade machine geeks. The thing that we can all agree on is that a change is needed.

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