Michael Jordan has taken a well-earned beating to his reputation as a team-builder since the beginning of his tenure as a front-office man in 2006.
The comedy of errors that started with drafting Kwame Brown number 1 overall have cast a pall over a Charlotte franchise that has only made the playoffs twice under Jordan’s leadership. Not only has Jordan whiffed repeatedly on draft picks, but he also overpaid everybody from Tyrus Thomas to Nicolas Batum in efforts to surround Kemba Walker with a competitive roster. Many people have taken the news of Gordon Hayward’s 4-year $120 million deal as a continuation of head-scratching moves that have kept the Hornets from relevance.
I think it’s perfect.
Charlotte got their man when they took LaMelo Ball with the number three overall pick in the NBA draft. The Ball family needs no introduction, but for LaMelo in particular his hype has at times overshadowed what he actually does on the court. Many people only remember the viral Chino Hills tapes when he was shooting 40 footers and clearly uninterested in defending. His non-traditional path went away from the cameras when he spent time playing professionally both domestically and overseas. If you understand LaMelo’s basketball career to this point you’ll understand why the Hayward deal makes more sense than anything else the Hornets could do right now.
👀 LaMelo Ball's passing! pic.twitter.com/AflLkp3DO2
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 3, 2019
Ball is a special passer that may even be able to hit more angles than his also elite-distributing brother in a halfcourt setting. He can score, but his shot needs to be ironed out to hit NBA threes consistently. Like Lonzo, he may get to an area where he is a respectable long-distance shooter but it will not be right away. While he develops it is essential that Michael Jordan surround him with guys who can really go. Ball has played a lot of basketball all over the world but has yet to be in a place of stability and winning culture for the entirety of his career. If he is as special as Charlotte hopes he will be Jordan had to ensure that he wasn’t going to groom his young guard in a dumpster fire.
Say what you want about Hayward’s contract but if you look at the Hornets core from a pure basketball perspective we may have a heartbeat in Charlotte for the first time under Jordan. The core now consists of Ball, Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, and Vernon Carey Jr. I’m sure there are people who are laughing at this setup but what I see is a roster of real basketball players with upside that will all benefit offensively from a playmaker like Ball. All of this and there still be more moves made to upgrade what we see currently. This is the first time in Ball’s career that he will be playing with comparable talent throughout his entire roster. Think star quarterback who ends up with elite receivers. I’m not saying that Charlotte will be in the Eastern Conference Finals, but to say that they are a fringe playoff team in the East is not a stretch.
Nobody’s ultimate goal is to end up getting swept by a powerhouse in the first round but every franchise has to start somewhere. Jordan got Hayward, which gives the Hornets added versatility on both ends and a guy that can get to his own shot in the halfcourt. We don’t know if Hayward will ever look like he did in Utah, but what we do know is that when healthy he’s good for 20 points a game on solid efficiency. Despite the comparisons to Nicolas Batum because of the perceived overpayment, Hayward is a much better basketball player than that.
The latest on Gordon Hayward: "you could argue he is the No. 1 free agent on the market," says @ZachLowe_NBA, naming the Pacers, Knicks and Hornets as possible destinations. @Paul Pierce34: says there's no way Hayward leaves $34 million on the table without another deal in place. pic.twitter.com/GJbzQa5g4c
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) November 21, 2020
Charlotte has been an underachieving franchise that lacks the appeal to bring in free agents so Jordan will have to continue to think outside of the box to improve this young roster. Bringing in Hayward means Charlotte may be able to play meaningful basketball right away and build a culture of winning and playoff seasons for the start of LaMelo’s career. In four years when Hayward’s contract concludes their entire young core will be in their prime. How they will spend these next four years now changes with the addition of Hayward if he can stay healthy. The Hornets now have a base to build with for the first time in the Jordan Era.