How to Fix the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and the NBA’s Most Desperate Teams | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

How to Fix the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and the NBA’s Most Desperate Teams | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Gordon Hayward #20, PJ Washington #25, and LaMelo Ball #1 of the Charlotte Hornets walk to the bench during a timeout during the game against the Sacramento Kings on December 19, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this image, User accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Registration/Current Status: 9-25, 14 East

Step 1: Embrace the tank

Making the playoffs was always going to be difficult for Charlotte in an improved East, a task that became nearly impossible after LaMelo Ball missed 24 of the team’s first 27 games with an ankle injury.

Even with Ball, the Hornets are just 3-7. They have three wins over teams with winning records this season.

Charlotte’s focus must now shift to developing the young talent on its roster and playing for a good draft pick, one they are tied for the best chance of landing. Scrapping and clawing to make the play-in tournament won’t do much for the future of the franchise. Landing a player like Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson would.

This is not a complete destruction, but a one-year reset.

Step 2: Start the fire sale

As bad as these Hornets are, other lottery-bound teams like the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder could do better jobs in the tank during the final months of the season. If Charlotte stays healthy and gets some healthy ball for the rest of the campaign, this team could be small also good.

Veterans with expiring contracts like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee will be easier to move, especially with both making $12.6 million or less.

Shedding the remaining contracts of Gordon Hayward ($31.5 million in 2023-24) and Terry Rozier ($74.7 million over three seasons) would take another desperate team looking to win now (hello, Los Angeles Lakers), but can help clear up some endless cap space if you roll for an expiring contract.

Step 3: Don’t give up on PJ Washington

Washington should thrive in a starting role this season, becoming a solid shooter and defender during a contract year.

While he’s averaging a career-high 14.8 points per game, he’s doing so on the worst true shooting mark (52.0 percent) of his career, while his rebound, assist, steal and block percentages his are all down from last season.

Paying him next summer won’t be fun, as still lists his real-time contract value this year at $22.1 million. If Charlotte can re-sign him for less than $20 million per year, they probably should, though.

Washington has struggled to play around top guards like Rozier and Oubre, making just 35.6 percent of its shooting from the former and 24.2 percent from the latter. However, when taking shots from Ball, Washington is up to 51.3 percent, including a 54.5 percent mark from three.

Unless another team offers a first-round pick, the Hornets must hold out and eventually re-sign their 24-year-old forward.

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