Charlotte Hornets Dark-Horse No. 1 Pick Candidate?

Charlotte Hornets, NBA Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

There were some franchises in the NBA that had a rough 2022 offseason, but what the Charlotte Hornets endured took the cake. Anything that could have gone wrong for them did as they had by far the worst offseason of any team in the league.

Despite winning 10 more games over the previous season, Charlotte decided to part ways with head coach James Borrego. The team pinpointed Kenny Atkinson as his replacement and for six days, he held the job until he decided to return to the Golden State Warriors as the top assistant for Steve Kerr.

Steve Clifford, who coached the team from 2013-2018, was named the head coach instead. Clifford went 196-214 in his five seasons as head coach and made the postseason twice. It was one of the best stretches in the history of the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets and he will likely become the winningest coach in franchise history at some point this season, as he is only eight wins behind Allan Bristow.

Alas, it will be a struggle to get those eight wins based on how the season has gone thus far. This roster was hit hard in the offseason as Miles Bridges, who broke out last season, is not currently with the team.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Charlotte Hornets Updates

Bridges remains a restricted free agent after being charged with domestic violence and child abuse in the offseason. While he pleaded no contest and avoided jail time, his NBA future remains up in the air. Montrezl Harrell and James Bouknight are two more players who were arrested this offseason.

Without Bridges, the Hornets’ outlook during the 2022-23 season became clouded. He was the perfect running mate for point guard LaMelo Ball, who has already ascended to All-Star status. Part of the reason that the team has struggled to this extent is that neither of them has been on the court yet this season.

While Ball is at least on the roster, he is currently sidelined with an ankle injury. He sprained his ankle on October 10th in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards. The injury was only expected to sideline him for about two weeks, but he has yet to return to the court and it has been a month. Could this be part of the team’s long-term plan?

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Charlotte Hornets Updates

There are a lot of teams who are already focusing on the 2023 NBA Draft as there are two generational prospects expected to declare for the draft, Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.

Charlotte traded away their 2023 first-round pick, but it is top-16 protected, so if they continue losing games, they would at least reap the benefits of having a top pick. Could that be their intention this season?

There are some solid veterans on the team such as Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee. But, without Ball leading the way, this is one of the bottom-tier teams in the league. It would not be shocking if they are milking the ankle injury that he suffered a little bit, waiting as long as possible before letting him back on the court.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Charlotte Hornets Updates

This is a franchise that could use some good luck and tearing everything down to make a run at the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft wouldn’t be the worst idea. Without Bridges, this is a team lacking long-term star power alongside Ball and in the NBA, stars are who win games.

Currently 3-10 on the season, the Hornets are well on their way to bottoming out. The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are the only teams with fewer wins than the Hornets this season, putting them in prime NBA Lottery position.

While Charlotte didn’t go to the extent that other franchises did this offseason to rebuild, as the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs made big trades, they are losing at a higher rate than both of those franchises.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Charlotte Hornets Updates

We will see tanking as we have never witnessed before this season and the Hornets are going to be a dark horse in that race as Ball’s seemingly minor ankle injury could be a blessing in disguise for the long-term outlook of the franchise.