It seems like just a few moments ago, reports were circulating that Kemba Walker was willing to take less than a maximum offer in order to remain in Charlotte. Now that Walker has departed by way of Boston, the Hornets franchise was left scrambling to pick up the pieces from years of mismanagement and the results so far have not been very pretty.
In an ESPN article ranking the future of all 30 NBA teams, the Hornets found themselves ranked at the very bottom. The team holds the shameful distinction of owning 13 of the last 18 last place finishes.
In spite of the franchise’s extremely bleak state, Kemba never demanded a trade or give any indication that he wished to be moved. In fact, when asked about the topic, Walker has always said that he wished to remain with the team. For example, when asked about potentially moving to a big market in a 2018 interview, Walker said, “These guys believed in me.” He continued by saying, “I couldn’t care less about big markets. That’s not who I am. I want to make this place big. I want to be in the playoffs every year. I want to make Charlotte pop.”
As free agency began to loom, the Hornets were still considered the favorites for Walker. However, that all changed when the front office only offered their All-Star point guard a five-year deal worth around 160 million dollars. Not only is that number $60 million shy of the maximum that Charlotte could have offered; it is also worth around three million dollars less annualy than the deal Walker signed with the Celtics.
The front office justified its offer to Walker by stating that team owner Michael Jordan was unwilling to go into the luxury tax for a team that has failed to make the playoffs for the past three seasons; which is understandable. However, if this was the Hornets’ rationale all along; then it makes no sense for the team to have not traded Kemba while he was still on arguably the most tradable contract in the league with a cap hit of only $12 million. A team like the Lakers in 2018 would have loved to trade for Walker as they still would have owned the cap space to acquire LeBron James and another star. In fact a deal involving Walker in exchange for Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball was actually briefly discussed.
Instead, the Hornets acquired Terry Rozier in a sign-and-trade deal with Boston involving Walker and a future second round pick for the Hornets. Rozier is coming off a poor season in Boston after failing to adjust to a bench role following his breakout in the 2018 Playoffs filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving but still does offer some much needed help in the backcourt.
There is just one problem however, Rozier was signed to a completely inexplicable three-year-58-million dollar contract. Despite his amazing run as a starter, Rozier has yet to produce a season of shooting above 40 percent from the field in any of his first four seasons. He was a reserve in his first two seasons and struggled mightily adopting back to a bench role in his last season. Paying players well above market value is the type of thing that leads the Hornets back to bottom of the Future Rankings year after year. No other competent team in the league would have given Terry Rozier that contract based on his body of work .
Also departing from the team is second leading scorer Jeremy Lamb who signed a three-year-deal with the Indiana Pacers and backup guard Tony Parker who decided to retire.
Rookie big man PJ Washignton will likely have trouble getting minutes at the four with Michael Kidd Gilchrist, Marvin Wiiliams and Miles Bridges all needing minutes there.
In summary, this off-season was about as close to a worst-case scenario as possible. The Hornets are projected by Vegas to be the worst team in theAssociation next season with an over/under of 23 wins. With no high-end talent on the rosters as well as a lack of young players with star potential, Charlotte is entering year one of it appears to be a monumental rebuild.