Jason’s final record on his early NBA picks
112-99-3 ATS (–1.51 units vig)
26-23-1 Totals (–0.21 units vig)
3-1 Series (+2.0 units)
Profit: 4.09 units
So the Charlotte Hornets want to sign LeBron James. Get in line; everybody would love to sign the best basketball player in the world. But it would certainly be the biggest story of the summer if LeBron shows up in Carolina blue next season. Imagine buying the Hornets right now at 75-1 to win the 2014-15 NBA championship and having LeBron fall in your lap. That would be the basketball betting equivalent of draining a 3-pointer from 90 feet.
Even if we assume James doesn’t defect, Charlotte might still be worth a look – but only because the price is right. Every once in a blue moon, you’ll get a team like the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, who won the title at opening NBA odds of 30-1. Could the Hornets be that team in 2014-15?
This is the Eastern Conference we’re talking about, mind you. The former Bobcats have already shown the ability to make the playoffs in the East. Thanks largely to the arrival of center Al Jefferson (22.7 PER), Charlotte destroyed the basketball odds last year at 43-39 SU and 47-32-3 ATS, making the ‘Cats the No. 7 seed in the conference – and the most profitable team in the league.
They’ll almost certainly be a better team next year. Jefferson is still in his prime at age 29, and he’s got a quality running mate in 24-year-old point guard Kemba Walker (16.8 PER). All the other core players are young twentysomethings; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12.0 PER), Bismack Biyombo (13.3 PER) and Cody Zeller (13.1 PER) all have room to grow, although we may have already seen the best of Gerald Henderson (13.1 PER) as he enters his sixth NBA campaign.
Then you’ve got the reinforcements. Owner Michael Jordan wants to add a superstar to this lineup, and while James might be out of his reach, the Hornets have enough cap room to sign anyone who’s looking for an upgrade in responsibility, and is willing to play in a small market – as Jefferson was last summer. Maybe someone like Lance Stephenson (14.7 PER with the Indiana Pacers). Charlotte might also be able to get a useful, disgruntled veteran like Zach Randolph (18.3 PER with the Memphis Grizzlies).
But wait, there’s more. Charlotte owns three picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, at Nos. 9, 24, and 45. As you may have heard, it’s a very deep draft this year. The Hornets could even be fortunate enough to nab Julius Randle (24.5 PER with the Kentucky Wildcats) with the ninth pick. Randle’s draft stock is slipping because of concerns over his possibly injured right foot, but if Jordan really wants to land a superstar, Randle could be his best shot. Other possibilities being mentioned include Nik Stauskas (22.7 PER with the Michigan Wolverines) and Dario Saric, who plays on the Croatian national basketball team.
Otherwise, any or all of these draft picks could be used as part of a trade package, either to move up in the draft or to acquire a proven big-name talent. How about, say, Kevin Love (26.9 PER with the Minnesota Timberwolves)? He wants to get out of Dodge, and the Hornets might have the right combination of draft picks and young players to get the job done. The risk would be that Love would leave next year as a free agent, but if the culture has truly changed in Charlotte – and all indications are that it has – why would Love walk out that door?