Hornets’ GM Mitch Kupchak was the guest on Sam Farber’s Hornets’ Hive Podcast that was released Thursday. During his appearance, Kupchak said something that gave fans pause.
When asked when he expects the moves he’s made as general manager to start translating into conference championships and the Hornets being a perennial playoff team, Kupchak said Charlotte is ahead of schedule, but added that injuries to Gordon Hayward may have slowed the process.
“I think we’re a little bit ahead of schedule from what I would’ve imagined a year ago. I don’t think we’re dramatically ahead of schedule. We’re still a very young team. Unfortunately, our best player the last two years has missed a lot of time. That’s Gordon Hayward. We’re not going to really advance without Gordon. So, it’s important that he gets back and when he gets back, he works his way back into the lineup and gets his feel and confidence back.”
Hayward averaged 19 points per game last year and is averaging 16 points per game this season, but if you’ve watched the contests he’s played in there are often spurts when he disappears. At times it also looks like he’s lost a step.
LaMelo Ball has been the player who has the Hornets “slightly ahead of schedule,” in the words of Kupchak. Ball, the 2021 rookie of the year, took his game to a new level this year and made the All-Star team. LaMelo has averaged 20.7 points and seven assists this season. Miles Bridges has also upped his game, averaging 20 points per game and is a candidate to win Most Improved Player.
In the 48 games Hayward has played in this season Charlotte is 26-22, so his impact on the sub-.500 Hornets is integral, but I have to disagree with Mitch that he’s the best player on the team and the stats agree.