The Charlotte Hornets had a nice and auspicious season, winning 43 games, their most in six years, and making it to the play-in tournament, where they got waxed by the Atlanta Hawks.
Still, basketball junkies in North Carolina have plenty to look forward to in the foreseeable future, as the team possesses some ascendant young players such as LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges.
Next season, the Hornets’ head coach will be Kenny Atkinson, who reportedly agreed to a four-year deal on Friday.
Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson has agreed to a four-year deal to become the new coach of the Charlotte Hornets, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 10, 2022
At first glance, it looks like a solid hire, as Atkinson inherited a bunch of cast-offs with the Brooklyn Nets and molded them into a playoff team within three years.
What he did was good and attractive enough for the Nets to land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant that summer.
But perhaps the Hornets could’ve done better than Atkinson.
Atkinson May Be OK But Lackluster
Atkinson started his coaching career with the New York Knicks in the 2008-09 season under head coach Mike D’Antoni.
After four years in the Big Apple, Atkinson moved on to the Atlanta Hawks before he returned to the New York City area to coach the Nets.
At the time, the Nets were still reeling from the disastrous trade that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to town but surrendered multiple draft picks to the Boston Celtics, two of which became Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Brooklyn’s best player at the time was center Brook Lopez, who was in the prime of his career but was thought to be soft.
The team won just 20 games that first season under Atkinson, but by the 2019 campaign, it had some blue-chippers such as D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen.
The Nets won 42 games that year, and although they lost soundly to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, they served notice to the rest of the league.
Brooklyn went into the following season with the services of Irving (Durant was recovering from a torn Achilles), yet he played just 20 games, and the team went just 28-34 before being swept in the first round of the postseason.
There doesn’t seem to be any real intrigue when it comes to Atkinson and what he brings to a team.
He could end up getting the young Hornets into the playoffs, just as he did with the Nets, but could he get them further later on down the road?
Unless Atkinson has a vision and leadership skills that we haven’t seen yet, the Hornets could be looking for another new coach in a few years when they are ready to take the next step towards being contenders.
A Better Choice?
A man who was rumored to be a candidate for the Charlotte job was Atkinson’s former head coach, D’Antoni.
D’Antoni may not be a championship coach, but he was the architect of the run-and-gun offensive system that helped replace 1990s/early 2000s slowdown ball with modern-day up-tempo ball.
Kenny Atkinson is probably the better hire for the long term future success of the Hornets. But MDA will unlock LaMelo in ways perhaps no other coach can. MJ, you’ve made plenty of wrong decisions before. At least this one will be fun as hell. Please go MDA.
— ✨🦦America Is Musty🦦✨ (@DragonflyJonez) June 6, 2022
Such a system could’ve allowed Ball to spread his wings and develop into the best version of himself while giving men such as Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier space to down tons of 3-pointers.