Hornets mailbag: Is Charlotte considering moving on from the LaMelo Ball era?

The first full weekend of the NBA playoffs are already in the books, leaving a few lasting memories and sparking intrigue surrounding the remainder of each opening-round series.

Around here, that also usually means one thing: Another disappointing campaign by Charlotte’s pro basketball team is finally in the rearview mirror.

While 16 teams begin chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the Charlotte Hornets are already in offseason mode, attempting to piece together a strategic puzzle that starts with landing a new head coach. Who will guide the Hornets next is among the flurry of swirling questions surrounding the franchise’s direction and prospective outlook heading into 2024-25.

In this latest mailbag, we answer reader queries about whether the Hornets are ready to move on from star point guard LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges’ future, qualities to look for in the next coach and more.

Hornets’ offseason approach

Danny asks on X, formerly known as Twitter: Which do you think is more likely for the Hornets’ front office this offseason ? Taking a conservative approach and sticking with this current roster or adding real supporting pieces to the team through trades/free agency?

Somewhere in between if they’re smart. This team isn’t good enough yet to make overly aggressive moves and shake up a roster that isn’t ready to contend. But the team’s brass also can’t just sit back status quo and say, ‘We were injured for two seasons and we can just bring back the same crop of guys at a piece here or there. I think we’ll be OK.’

They need to change things somewhat. But that doesn’t mean doing something overly drastic. That doesn’t make much sense.. There has to be some kind of fine balance and between being aggressive. Because sitting back and doing nothing won’t cut it for a franchise in need of a boost.

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball listens to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024.
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball listens to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024.

LaMelo Ball

Jay Torres asks on X: Are the Hornets ready to move from LaMelo?

Right now? Not at all. And for two reasons. The first being it’s too early to give up on a player with his kind of skills, paired with his global reach marketing wise. Ball’s offensive abilities are unquestioned and as he goes the Hornets go. They haven’t had a player like him and continuing to tap into his talents and vibrant personality can aid in their attempts to push the franchise to a different level. Plus, they haven’t seen what he can do in a full season just yet.

Secondly, even if the Hornets were ready to part company with Ball, they wouldn’t get back equal value in return due to the number of games he’s missed in four seasons and amount of money he’s owed on his max rookie contract extension. Ball needs to have at least one healthy season to convince any executive to put their job on the line and bring him on board considering his injury history.

So, no, LaMelo isn’t on his way out of town. He’s not going anywhere.

Hornets ownership

Whisper in the Wind asks on X: What signs of optimism can Hornets fans cling to that things will actually be different under new ownership/GM/coach going forward?

You mean besides Brandon Miller? It begins with the new owners. Undoubtedly, Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin have a different energy, a different enthusiasm, and have brought a totally new vibe to the organization since taking over last August. They’re usually seated in the front row at games taking in action mingling, which is preceded by earnest chats with players, fans and staff to get the gist of the atmosphere and what’s on people’s minds.

Schnall and Plotkin also have an aggressive mindset. They helped push the trades at the deadline back in February, particularly the PJ Washington deal. And that could bode well for a franchise that has to be smart, but also have a bold move that makes sense up their sleeve. Schnall and Plotkin also want to improve the guest experience, which is why renovations are taking place at Spectrum Center beginning this summer. Hey they have to have some reason to show for the increase in ticket prices right?

Charlotte Hornets Miles Bridges leans back an listens to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024.
Charlotte Hornets Miles Bridges leans back an listens to a question during an interview with the local media at Spectrum Center on Monday, April 15, 2024.

Miles Bridges’ future

Mike B. asks on X: Are they retaining Miles Bridges?

That’s the plan and definitely his hope. Although he’ll be an unrestricted free agent and can choose his destination, he reiterated during his exit interview that he doesn’t want to go anywhere else. And from this vantage point, given he’s said it to The Observer multiple times, Bridges’ is all in with the Hornets. Since the NBA is a business, though, there’s always the chance of a knee-buckling curveball and some other team offers him a boatload of money.

However, the Hornets hold the upper hand because they can offer him a longer term deal. Having his Bird rights also allows the Hornets to go over the salary cap to re-sign him if necessary. When adding it up, it equates to a very strong chance Bridges is back for more in 2024-25.

New head coach

Super Suavesky asks on X: What type of coach are they looking for? A specific structure or style?

Steve Clifford’s successor will have to be a jack-of-all-trades. He’ll have to be good at player development because the Hornets have a young crop that must continue to grow and blossom. The new coach must also connect with Ball and command respect in the locker room — and on the court. A willingness to work alongside Jeff Peterson, the Hornets vice president of basketball operations, and the team’s ownership.

These qualities are non negotiable. Remember, this will already be Ball’s third coach in five seasons and the Hornets have to get it right. If they don’t the consequences could be disastrous.

Tre Mann’s fit

Jamil asks on X: Tre Mann said something along the lines of how versatile he was. Is this true, and what role should he have going forward?

Mann turned out to be a very nice find in the trade for Gordon Hayward, which also landed Dāvis Bertāns and Vasilije Micić, and the Hornets showed their belief in him by starting him at point guard for an injured Ball following his arrival. It already feels like a departure of the norm from the last few seasons. The Hornets shuffled in backup point guards since drafting Ball, going with options like Dennis Smith Jr and Frank Ntilikina behind the star guard. But with Mann, they may have finally solved a piece of the roster puzzle.

The Hornets can use Mann in a variety of lineup combinations with Ball eventually to see what kind of pressure that puts on the defense. Mann has the chance to really be a major contributor on a fully (or close to it) healthy roster.

NBA Draft

J. Jonah asks on X: Do you think the Hornets should draft a big SG?

If ever there was a draft to take the proverbial “best player available” it’s this one. When the Hornets are on the clock, should the top guy on their draft board excel at shooting guard, then by all means. But to simply reach and grab someone at the position just because isn’t the smartest decision. There’s always free agency and the mid-October waiver wire once cuts take place after training camp to scour for a backup shooting guard.