Why the Charlotte Hornets Won’t Return to the Playoffs

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Jeremy Lin of the Charlotte Hornets dribbles the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the 2015 NBA Global Games China pre-season basketball match in Shanghai on October 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets came out of nowhere to win 48 games and claim the six seed in the Eastern Conference. With contributions from Kemba Walker, Marvin WilliamsAl Jefferson and new acquisitions Nicolas Batum, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lin, draft pick Frank Kaminsky, and Courtney Lee (who they traded for at the deadline), the Hornets became a legitimate Eastern Conference threat; all of this occurred with former number two pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appearing in only seven games due to injury.. However, despite the breakout season, the Hornets are destined to fall out of the playoff picture for the upcoming NBA season.

Why the Charlotte Hornets Won’t Return to the Playoffs

The Hornets have lost too much to contend 

This summer, a third of the Hornets roster hit unrestricted free agency. With Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, and Al Jefferson all headed for free agency, the Hornets thought that they could only realistically keep two of them, so they decided to start finding their replacements early on. On draft night, the Hornets acquired Kings sharpshooter Marco Belinelli to replace Lee in their lineup, who later went on to sign a four year deal with the New York Knicks. Belinelli, while known for his shooting ability, has been a below average perimeter defender throughout his entire career and will be an awkward fit in Charlotte. If he starts, Belinelli will be the three point shooting threat on the perimeter, but he won’t be able to fill in the holes defensively between Walker and Batum. While a good fit offensively, Belinelli isn’t a good replacement for Lee; the Hornets also did a poor job replacing big man Al Jefferson.

Big Al, Big loss

Losing Courtney Lee isn’t going to be easy for Charlotte to swallow, but it may be even harder to swallow the loss of Al Jefferson. While he wasn’t his usual self last season, Jefferson is a low post threat, and he hits the boards. While under the radar his entire career, Jefferson, when himself, is arguably a top ten center; but the Hornets replacement for him isn’t. The Hornets replaced Jefferson with former Laker and Pacer center Roy Hibbert, who inked a one year deal with the team. Hibbert, when at his best, was a lethal two way threat; he could play in the post, put up the hook shot, and was one of the five best defensive big men in the game. However, he’s a completely different player now and nowhere near the player he once was. He isn’t the post presence he once was, and while still above average, isn’t the defensive demon he once was. Hibbert isn’t going to make Charlotte better, and if he can’t produce defensively, the Hornets may have to turn to young big men Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky to man the paint. Hibbert, like Belinelli, isn’t the player that his successor was, and the same goes for Ramon Sessions.

A big Lin for Brooklyn 

In addition to Lee and Jefferson, the Hornets lost sixth man Jeremy Lin. Lin served as Kemba Walker’s backup, but he was arguably the NBA’s best backup point guard last season. He revived his career last season in Charlotte, and was a threat all year off the bench. His play in the playoffs was part of the reason why Charlotte was able to take the Miami Heat to seven games in the playoffs. Lin ended up signing with the Brooklyn Nets on a three-year deal to run the show, and he will do just that. It is a great situation for Lin; he will be the go to scorer on offense behind Brook Lopez. And if he can play with the same passion and aggression that he played with last season, Lin could be setting himself up for another big pay day when his contract expires. Lin’s replacement in Charlotte will be Ramon Sessions, who signed a two year deal with the club. Sessions, while once a scoring threat, isn’t the same player he once was. He’s an inconsistent shooter from the perimeter and doesn’t play with the same motor that Lin plays with. Lin bolting for Brooklyn will prove to be a big loss for the Hornets.

What the Hornets did do 

Though they lost Lee, Jefferson, and Lin, the Hornets were able to retain forwards Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. Batum, while brought back on a hefty 5 year/120 million dollar deal, was a must have for the Hornets in their minds. He was an elite two-way player last season due to his ability to play from the outside and the inside. On the defensive end, he would guard the other team’s best player. Williams was resigned on a 4 year/ 54.5 million dollar deal. After a rough 2014-15 campaign, Williams bounced back very nicely last season. He averaged just under twelve points and just over six rebounds a game, and his versatile two-way play proved to be very valuable off the bench. Re-signing Batum and Williams were both good moves, but the Hornets have lost too much to remain a legitimate threat in the East.

The reality for the Hornets 

This offseason, the Hornets lost three crucial players from last year’s squad. With Courtney Lee, they are losing a valuable three and d player; with Al Jefferson, they are losing one of the better post up, offensive big men in the NBA. And with Jeremy Lin, the Hornets are losing one of last seasons best scorers off the bench. While they re-signed two key players from last season, the Hornets may have chosen what players to keep poorly. They retained both Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams, but just those two returning won’t get Charlotte back in the playoff picture. The Hornets may have also been unwise to give Batum a near max deal. They could’ve used that money to re-sign Lin, Lee, and Jefferson. The Hornets’ poor roster and money moves this offseason will cost them. The Hornets will be on the outside looking in come April, as they will not be appearing in the NBA Playoffs.

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