The Charlotte Hornets currently sit 10th in the Eastern Conference, and despite their 21-40 record, they’re still in the playoff mix.
Currently only 5.5 games back of the Magic in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot, the Charlotte Hornets remain alive–at least theoretically–in the playoff race. Luckily for the Hornets, who are 5-5 in their last 10 games and currently on a two-game losing streak, they aren’t the only ones struggling. The Magic are also 5-5 over that span, and the seventh-place Nets are 4-6. The Milwaukee Bucks have all but wrapped up the first seed, and as it sits now the Toronto Raptors will be the second seed. Even though they’re still in the race, though, the Hornets have a decision to make: tank for a higher draft pick, or continue pushing for the final postseason spot.
Many support tanking for a draft pick which in return would help speed up the team’s rebuilding process.
We’ve seen many times in NBA history where a team would “tank” without admitting that they are “tanking,” when clearly they are. One of the best recent examples is the Philadelphia 76ers, who bottomed-out for years and “Trusted the Process.” Their tank job resulted in drafting studs such as Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and in 2017 they took Markelle Fultz, who they have now traded to acquire even more draft picks. Despite the 76ers’ success, though, tanking doesn’t always work. Considering the Hornets are a team with a shaky draft history to say the least–they drafted Adam Morrison third overall in 2006, yet he started just 28 games and only two seasons in Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be used as a second example of the franchise’s poor drafting.
Another problem with tanking has to do with the franchise’s current players. Essentially blowing a whole year of their careers, tanking seems a huge risk for nothing more than a chance to land a future stud. With that being said, if tanking is not the path the Hornets are fully committed to taking, then should they actually push for the playoffs? Looking past popular opinion, there’s a simple reason why Charlotte should try and push for a playoff spot. That reason is experience.
Experience is key with young players, especially in the Hornets’ case. 13 of the players on the current roster are under 25 years old or younger. Grabbing a playoff spot likely isn’t possible at this point, but that doesn’t mean the players shouldn’t try. It can only help their development, and if they manage to somehow make it or at least come close to the postseason, it could drastically increase the chances that a star free agent could come to the Queen City. There’s no doubt that the Hornets have shown a lot of potential this season, and they may just be closer to the proverbial “Promised Land” than most people think.
This past offseason, the Nets were able to land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, in part due to talent and potential they displayed last season.
It’s clear that the Hornets shouldn’t lay down just for the sake of laying down, and while it may or may not lead to buzz them all the way into the playoffs, it would help the youngsters not only gain experience, but also boost the chances of landing a star this offsea on. The odds are clearly against the Hornets right now, as they rank 11th in remaining strength of schedule, with opponents left holding a .514 win-percentage. Meanwhile Brooklyn ranks 14th and Orlando ranks 27th with one of the easiest remaining schedules. Despite these odds, if the Hornets can somehow catch some lightning in a bottle, they have 21 games left to get the job done. It’s not likely, but if the rest of this season has been any indication, Charlotte should give us quite the encouraging finish.