As the Hornets losing trend continues, is it already time to look to the future?

By Chase Whitney 

December 13, 2022

Photo: John Minchillo / AP

Through 27 games, the 2022-23 NBA season has gone about as poorly for the Charlotte Hornets as any front office member, coach, player, or fan could’ve hoped for.

Unfortunate injury luck is mostly to blame for Charlotte’s 7-20 record as the team completes the first third of its schedule with Cody Martin playing just one minute, LaMelo Ball a mere three games and Gordon Hayward making it to 11 before fracturing his shoulder. Tack on eight missed games for Terry Rozier, and it becomes clear why the Hornets have to scratch and claw on a nightly basis just to be competitive.

Considering the Hornets are 13 games below .500 and have lost 16 of their last 20 games, the watchability of the team has improved in recent weeks as they’ve played in numerous close contests. Over the last six games, the Hornets 111.1 offensive rating ranks 19th in the NBA, which is up from a league-worst 107 on the season, bolstered by Terry Rozier. The veteran guard has scored a season-high 29 points twice in the last three games and is shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range in the month of December after shooting an uncharacteristically low 28.6 percent in November. If Rozier is fully back to form, the Hornets offense regains one of the league’s elite floor-spacers and off-ball scorers.

For better or worse, this upcoming stretch for the Hornets could seal the fate of their season. Charlotte is currently five and a half games behind 10th-place Miami, but the Hornets’ margin of error is so slim with an injury-riddled roster that it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to surpass playoff-contending teams like Chicago, Indiana, Miami or Toronto down the stretch. If the Hornets can turn things around and pick up some wins in the next week, it would go a long way towards salvaging the hopes for a competitive season. 

On the flip side, some Hornets fans may not be hoping for a competitive winter and spring with generational prospects Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson and Amen Thompson sitting atop the 2023 NBA draft class. Charlotte’s early season misfortune has led to the second-worst record in the NBA and the third-worst point differential. But in the eyes of some, it might be worth it if these losses give the Hornets a few extra lottery balls come May 2023.

Tanking has never benefited the Hornets; the most infamous example being when they missed out on the No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and settled on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after going 7-59 in the 2011-12 season. It was only after the 2019-20 season the Hornets got some lottery luck, landing the third overall pick (LaMelo Ball) with a 6.7 percent chance finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference. A bottom-three record in the NBA gives the Hornets a 14 percent chance at the number one pick. 

Luckily for the Hornets, their next opponent will also be without its franchise point guard. The Pistons 2022 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham will undergo season-ending surgery on his shin. Detroit is the lone squad in the East with a worse record than the Hornets right now, creating a prime opportunity for Charlotte to snap a five-game skid. 

Check out the remaining 2022-23 Charlotte Hornets season schedule.

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