The greatest player in NBA history has shaken off his brilliance as a scorer and transformed himself into a front office question mark. His critics consider some of his personnel moves disastrous. His defenders say he just needs time. Most agree Michael Jordan’s impact on the Charlotte Hornets has been, for the most part, mediocre, and he has to take responsiblity for the Hornets failures. Simply put, Jordan’s draft picks and free agent signings fall into the category of good (Kemba Walker), average (Michael Kidd Gilchrist) and what the hell is he doing (Lance Stephenson)?
If Jordan has proven anything it is that NBA front office success is complicated. It is more than summoning up desire and will and creating villains to slay. The NBA is in the talent acquisition business. Acquiring talent, particularly within the confines of a small market team with an uninspired fan base and small revenue streams is not the same thing as hitting a game winner in Cleveland over Craig Ehlo.
Jordan bought the Bobcats in March 2010 after owning a minority stake in the team since 2006. Since then, they have been to the playoffs twice and have not won a playoff game. They drafted Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris. Harris, (17 points, 8 rebounds), was traded on draft night. They drafted Michael Kidd Gilchrist with the number two pick instead of drafting Bradly Beal or Harrison Barnes.
In 2012-13 the Bobcats won 21 games and Jordan made his biggest impact when he convinced seven footer Al Jefferson to come to Charlotte as a free agent. Subsequently, the Bobcats won 43 games and went to the playoffs. The Bobcats lost to the Heat. The Heat had the better team and were aided by an injury to Al Jefferson. Jefferson was, at best, 60%, and the Bobcats didn’t have another scorer to help Jefferson out.
But for once, a loss wasn’t a Michael Jordan devastation. Jordan was on the right track, understanding his team was young. He had so many recent draft picks. What he needed now was a veteran and in the offseason he signed Lance Stephenson, overpaying him $9 million dollars because Stephenson had a great season in 2013-14. It was a disaster from day one with Stephenson’s salary choking away oxygen. He couldn’t shoot, he was frustrated, he’s a tough teammate at best, and he broods. Jordan had to fix things and traded Stephenson to the Clippers which released an enormous weight particularly since Jordan acquired Spencer Hawes who will space the floor for Walker.
Jordan wasn’t done. He traded for Nic Batum, a long and athletic small forward defender who makes threes. He got rid of Gerald Henderson who had been an underachiever and brought in Jeremy Lamb, another underachiever but one who has length, can make three point shots but is allergic to defense. He signed Jeremy Lin who is on his third resurrection. Same goes for Tyler Hansborough.
To this group of veterans, Michael Jordan added rookie Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin, a perimeter scorer who can rebound and add punch coming off the bench.
The Hornets, if healthy, have the offensive talent to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They check all the boxes: drivers, spot up shooters, a beast down low, multiple defenders, a clutch scorer. Last season they were 28th in points, 30th in three point shooting and 7th in defense. Improve the first two means they’ll get to the playoffs.
It was hard to miss Michael Jordan this week. He put on a shooting clinic, beating Jimmy Butler at his camp and his stroke and his confidence was the same old M.J., M.J. the scorer, and M.J. the competitor, and M.J. the greatest of all time.
Charlotte doesn’t need that M.J. in the front office. They need Michael Jordan the executive who can build something form scratch, nurture it and develop playoff basketball in Charlotte, North Carolina.
photo via getrealphilippines.com