The 25-47 Wizards finished the 2019/20 season with a lower winning percentage than the 23-42 Hornets, but because the Wizards were ahead of Charlotte in the standings as of March 11, they earned an invite to the 22-team restart in Orlando. The Hornets, having been left out of the restart, are at a significant developmental disadvantage as a result, in the view of general manager Mitch Kupchak.
“All those young players got to Orlando and started practicing. It was almost like their second year,” Kupchak told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “If nothing comes about for us, and we start our season in December or whatever, when our players step on the court that will become the beginning of their second season. For the teams in Orlando, when they step back on their court, it will be basically the feeling of a third season.”
While the teams in Orlando have been able to participate in group workouts, intra-squad and inter-squad scrimmages, and eight seeding games apiece, the Hornets have been limited to individual workouts in recent months. Kupchak tells Bonnell that there has been good attendance at the team’s practice facility, but suggests it’s not easy to keep players motivated when their options are so limited.
“We’re trying to keep them, as best we can, interested,” Kupchak said. “Just imagine that all you can do is take jump shots for five months. That’s all you’re allowed to do. That’s going to get boring. It’s hard to keep their interest.
“… We’re hopeful that there will still be some structure coming our way,” Kupchak continued, referring to ongoing plans for OTAs for the league’s bottom eight teams. “But it’s been tough. Our young guys understand that health-and-safety is No. 1. But as a young person with a game like basketball that you love to play, it’s hard. They want to work, they want to get better.”
Here’s more on the Hornets:
- Not participating in the restart may negatively impact the Hornets’ player development, but it’s improving their draft outlook. Charlotte will hold better lottery odds than the Wizards because the bottom eight teams were locked into their spots prior to the restart. Additionally, as Bonnell writes for The Charlotte Observer, the Hornets are now assured of receiving the Celtics’ second-round pick, which was top-53 protected. It’ll be either No. 56 or 57.
- In a mailbag for The Observer, Bonnell addresses questions about Malik Monk‘s remaining upside, the idea of DeMar DeRozan as a potential Hornets trade target, and the possibility that Jalen McDaniels will take on a larger role next season, among other topics.
- Within that same mailbag, Bonnell identifies a dynamic wing player, a rim-protecting big man, and a long-range shooter as the Hornets’ biggest offseason needs.