Following crushing back-to-back home losses against lowly Chicago and the Lakers this past weekend, the Hornets season is in serious trouble. There appears to be no path back to relevancy for Charlotte this season, but what does that mean for the long-term future of the Hornets?
Cody Zeller suffered a torn medial meniscus in his left knee vs. Golden State on Wednesday night. This is awful news for many different reasons. The obvious is that it severely effects the frontcourt depth and Johnny O’Bryant will have to step in and play minutes at center now. Additionally, Dwight Howard will have to start playing more minutes, which is not a positive for Charlotte.
Kemba and Cody haven’t played significant minutes together this season, but when they have, it’s been as good as past seasons. It’s been much better than Kemba and D12 sharing the floor together.
The Hornets will take a hit on both ends of the floor without Zeller.
Frank Kaminsky was also injured in the loss to the Warriors, as he sprained his right ankle. Kaminsky is unlikely to play tonight in Oklahoma City and should be considered questionable for Houston on Wednesday. Treveon Graham played some backup power-forward minutes for Charlotte Friday and Saturday night, and will continue to do so until Kaminsky returns, which could be at least another week.
Jeremy Lamb suffered a shin contusion against Chicago on Friday night and didn’t return to the game. Lamb was out Saturday vs. the Lakers and he’s listed as questionable for tonight in Oklahoma City. Lamb’s absence tonight would be a huge blow to the Hornets chances against the struggling Thunder, but it does mean more Malik Monk.
Nic Batum is experiencing pain in his left elbow constantly and he says that it’s severely limiting him. This is obviously the same left elbow in which he tore a ligament during the preseason. Batum elected to rehab the elow instead of opting for surgery, and this news of constant pain he’s experiencing seems to cloud whether or not that was the correct decision. The Hornets medical staff has a history of rushing players back from injury. Most notably, bringing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back from a torn labrum in his right shoulder in February of 2016 – nearly two months ahead of the expected timetable to return – that saw MKG suffer the exact same injury. This spotted history for the medical staff in Charlotte is bothersome.
We have no insight on whether or not the Hornets would consider shutting Batum down as of this time, but it’s something that would seem logical for the team to consider.
This team is bursting at the seams with injuries.
Time to trade Kemba?
With the Hornets sitting at 9-16 and facing a very difficult week that takes them on the road to Oklahoma City and Houston, and then returns home back-to-back games vs. Miami and Portland, it’s time to start asking the difficult questions.
Barring an unexpected surge from Charlotte, the season seems lost. Injuries have crippled the Hornets, the Eastern Conference is stronger than many expected, and there seems little reason for this roster to scrap for an 8th seed at this stage. With 1.5 years left on Kemba Walker’s incredibly valuable contract, is it time for the front office to seriously considering trading him (among others)? It would initiate the re-build phase that a faction of the fan-base is beginning to view as the necessary move.
The Hornets have effectively no way to improve this roster as currently constructed. The team owns zero additional future draft picks and the chest is barren of players contributing on valuable rookie contracts. Kemba Walker is the only real asset Charlotte owns, and it’s time to look at cashing that chip in.
Logic assumes Charlotte will lose at Oklahoma City and Houston this week. Logic also assumes the Hornets lost one of the two at home vs. Miami and Portland this weekend. That would make the Hornets 10-19 and almost assuredly out of the playoff conversation.
The end appears to be near, in many different ways, for the Hornets.