There’s no such thing as thinking too far ahead in the abbreviated and accelerated 2020-21 NBA season. Ink is still drying on most free-agent and rookie contracts, but players are already in training camps…
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The Charlotte Hornets appear ready to accelerate their post-Kemba Walker rebuild. But in terms of talent, that might be a different story, which general manager Mitch Kupchak admitted ahead of the draft.
“We’re not good enough right now to win a bunch of games, to get into the playoffs and to advance,” Kupchak said, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “… We need to upgrade every position.”
Kupchak has since engineered upgrades at multiple spots by taking LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 pick and luring Gordon Hayward to Buzz City by way of a four-year, $120 million deal in free agency. The gears are turning, and it isn’t impossible to envision this club fighting for a ticket to the play-in tournament. Anything beyond that, though, is wishful thinking without another impact move.
Freeing Kevin Love from Northeast Ohio could be that transaction.
Stranded on the wrong side of LeBron James’ latest departure, Love is a five-time All-Star who’s struggling to make meaningful contributions to the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers. But move him to a team with some win-now aspirations (as modest as they might be), and his impact should immediately perk up.
He’s an expert passer, an offensive release valve as a stretch big and a crafty post scorer who can punish smaller defenders on a switch. His outlet passes combined with Ball’s hit-ahead looks could give the Hornets an exciting, uptempo approach. When Charlotte couldn’t get out and run, Love could work pick-and-choose (pop, roll, slip) magic with Hayward, Ball, Devonte’ Graham and (if he isn’t needed in the trade) Terry Rozier.
Buzz City barely made a peep last season. Give this group a starting five of Graham, Ball, Hayward, Love and PJ Washington, and the Hornets will be humming.