The Charlotte Hornets need to find a basketball savior this week, but that is too much to put on the shoulders of the No. 11 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Still, they sure do need one. A team that was 10 games under .500 last season is now stuck in an elaborate salary-cap maze of its own construction. One more dead end in that maze – in other words, one more non-playoff season – and general manager Rich Cho should and likely will be gone. Coach Steve Clifford might follow him out the door.
So this is it – make-or-break time, especially for Cho, starting in Thursday’s draft. He’s got to find somebody.
It either has to be via that No. 11 pick the Hornets own or else a trade. And the trade can’t involve any Plumlee brother -- unless the current one is leaving town.
Somebody needs to step in immediately as a rotation player and make this team better. That’s why a guy like Duke’s Harry Giles makes no sense for the Hornets. They have no time to wait for him to develop.
General managers have a relatively short NBA shelf life even when their teams reach the NBA Finals three years in a row (hello, David Griffin). When their team just took three steps backward – as the Hornets did last season – the GM dangles by a single silver thread that could be easily cut anytime owner Michael Jordan decides to pick up the scissors.
And who would blame Jordan, really, if one more bad season led to the dreaded “Let’s Clean House And Start Over” scenario? The Hornets have done that once under his ownership watch – they had a two-year dumpster fire from 2011-13 in which they went a combined 28-120.
What emerged from those ashes? Two spoonfuls of promise, followed by a double scoop of mediocrity.
In the NBA, you must be either getting better or getting worse. Mediocre teams do “senior-friendly” water aerobics in a pool while the best teams fly by on freestyle relays. There’s never a big splash on the horizon for those mediocre teams – just some choreographed movement that gives you the illusion of going somewhere while you stay in one place.
Want a good definition of mediocrity? The past four Charlotte Hornets teams have had a combined record of 160-168.
And the Hornets are, by definition, exceedingly mediocre. The NBA team from Charlotte hasn’t won a playoff series since 2002. The Hornets’ past four teams have a combined record of 160-168.
They aren’t terrible.
They aren’t great.
They aren’t relevant.
Which brings us to this NBA draft. What should the Hornets do?
There is no way to say definitively at No. 11 because you don’t know who the first 10 picks will be, although I will offer several options in a separate column publishing soon (Hint: It sure would be nice if Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk would drop to 11).
What we do know, though, is that the pressure is on for Cho. He needs to get a little lucky -- some of the Hornets’ players like Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller have to improve on their own -- and he needs to get this offseason right.
Because if he doesn’t – and the Hornets stink again – this will turn out to be the last draft Cho will ever supervise as Charlotte’s GM.