Nobody expected much from the Charlotte Hornets coming into this season. The organization’s decision to sign Gordon Hayward to a massive max deal was viewed as a mistake. LaMelo Ball being selected with the third overall pick was seen as risky. The outlook was bleak.
Fast forward 36 games – and the Hornets are now one of the most impressive teams of the year thus far. Sitting at 18-18 on the season, Charlotte is sixth in the East and looks to be a talented young group on the come-up.
Hayward has been a natural fit. Ball looks like a future superstar. The Hornets are rolling.
So what has been the key to the franchise’s notable turnaround?
This week, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer spoke out about the secret genius who helped take the Hornets from the league’s basement to a position of legitimacy.
“The nice thing about Charlotte is that they have so many good young players,” he said.
“They hired Mitch Kupchak, the old Lakers GM three years ago and pretty much all his picks have been good. He picked Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, LaMelo – great first round picks. Second round: Devonte Graham, fantastic pick. Cody Martin, good player. He’s just knocking out picks left and right.
“Mitch Kupchak, he hits doubles when he hits doubles, singles when he hits singles and he got a home run with LaMelo Ball.”
The real star of All-Star weekend. https://t.co/jAMuWDI2Vl
— Game 7 (@game7__) March 9, 2021
Kupchak got a lot of hate during the end of his Lakers run because he was forced to push Jim Buss’ agenda, and that mired many people’s opinions of him. However, it’s important to remember that he oversaw the construction of one of the greatest runs in Lakers’ history as well. He is a great basketball mind.
Obviously a lot of this stems from what a star Ball turned out to be. The Golden State Warriors’ decision to lie and not select him in this year’s draft will no doubt haunt them. But Kupchak still had to have the good sense to take him – and he did. Let’s not forget that team owner Michael Jordan also had some very strong feelings about the pick.
At the end of the day, the Hornets are on track to become of the NBA’s most promising young teams, and it’s good that Kupchak is finally getting the credit he deserves for his role in that.
Jennifer Withers Hoey is a former Business Development Manager who transitioned to writing about sports. With valuable connections all over the West Coast, she has used those contacts to break some of the most interesting stories pertaining to the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Ducks, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Seattle Supersonics (RIP), and more.