The Hornets’ decline is easy to pinpoint and hard to solve. The team has a young superstar in point guard Chris Paul and a relatively young all-star in forward David West. Most of the supporting cast, however, is old and expensive. In each of the last three off seasons, the team has spent lavishly on role players who haven’t produced much. Peja Stojakovic, Morris Peterson, Antonio Daniels and James Posey make a combined $32 million a season, but their production isn’t much more than what a few development league players could provide. In other words, bad personnel decisions in recent summers will doom the Hornets to playoff mediocrity for years to come. Paul, a transcendent talent, deserves better.
Although Utah and Detroit were run out of the playoffs quickly, both teams have the salary cap and roster flexibility to retool quickly and contend again. San Antonio and New Orleans are stuck with what they have for next season; their fans will just have to hope for the best.
Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.