Despite LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets seem destined for mediocrity

LaMelo Ball and Devonte ‘Graham
Photo: Getty Images

The “mediocrity treadmillIs a term coined by former Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard in 2011. It’s all about the limbo of professional basketball – being good enough to squeeze into the playoffs but not good enough to win, but not good enough bad to earn a top 5 pick and select a serious game changer. And yet, 10 years after the birth of the metaphorical “treadmill”, the Trail Blazers haven’t finished their training.

During the 2010s, the Blazers only made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs three times, despite eight playoff trips. They only made it to the conference finals once and were swept away by Golden State, who had neither Klay Thompson nor Kevin Durant available. While no one denies that the Blazers have been a good team for a decade, they are nowhere near a championship-caliber club with their current squad. They would need another superstar to team up with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum before they can compete with the best in the West. However, since Portland is not a big basketball market, big name free agents tend to look away from Rip City.

The Charlotte Hornets are the next team to start running on this treadmill. While players had more player minutes in their first three years than any other team in the league, unless several young Hornets players see a meteoric rise in the level of play, the team will be stuck near. from the lower end of the Eastern Conference playoffs. every year.

Is LaMelo Ball a baller? Yes. Do Miles Bridges and Devonte ‘Graham have potential? Yes. Can Gordon Hayward still be a key part of a team’s success? Yes. But even if every player on this team reaches their potential, would you take them off the Nets or the Sixers or the Bucks? No, and if you do, you are wrong. The Hornets are still one or two big additions away from being a threat in the Eastern Conference, and since Charlotte is only the 21st tallest American Sports Television Market – exactly one spot ahead of Portland – they’re unlikely to land any real game-changers.

If you think this is far-fetched, tell me the last time a player who made an All-Star team in the last season chose to go to a team outside of the Top 15? of the NBA. Before responding, re-signings don’t count, and LeBron James has chosen to return to Cleveland either since growing up in that area. I get it? So … can you think of one? Who was the best signing in the small market of the 2010s? Al Jefferson in Charlotte? Paul Millsap in Atlanta? Darren Collison in Sacramento? Jrue Holiday in New Orleans? You get the point. This has not happened recently. Therefore, a team like the Hornets should be built primarily through the draft.

LaMelo Ball’s selection was good – maybe even excellent – but that pick is actually the selection that keeps the Hornets from competing. With Ball, Charlotte is good enough to stay out of the draft lottery every year. Avoiding the raffle has always been a bad way to rebuild. Since 2010, 33 players selected from the top 10 have achieved an Average Replacement Player Value (VORP) of at least 1.0. Between choices 11 and 20, that number drops to 18. In fact, only one season (2011) saw more players with an average VORP of 1.0 or higher drafted between picks 11 and 20 than picks 1-10. And even that is a major outlier in a league that has become so heavy and star-dependent .

The Charlotte Hornets were a fun team to watch in 2021. They have some great and interesting characters to cheer on, but the future of the Hornets looks bleak. Even Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has publicly stated that he wants the Mavericks to be “really bad┬╗After the retirement of Dirk Nowtizki in order to rebuild more efficiently. It seems like the best way to go. While you might still get lucky in the draft like Milwaukee finding Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in 2013, or Indiana finding … Kawhi Leonard (damn it is unfortunate) with the 15th pick in 2011, he’s much more likely that a team will find a legitimate game changer in the top 10 picks. Charlotte has done enough to avoid a Top 10 pick in the next 3-5 years, and that’s exactly why they won’t be successful in the NBA.

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