The current state of Charlotte sports

Story by Jacob Phillips, Online Editor

With the hiring of new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, the unknown status of QB Cam Newton and the new management of Dave Tepper, there are more questions than answers for the Carolina Panthers. 

Just like the Panthers, Charlotte’s other professional sports franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, also have more questions than answers right now. The Hornets recently hired a new coach and GM, they lost their franchise player and awarded big contracts to players who are undeserving of them. 

This is the current situation of Charlotte sports. It’s all one hot mess.

Both teams appear to be headed towards a rebuild mode. The Panthers fired Ron Rivera in December and could possibly part ways with Cam Newton not knowing if he will ever be truly healthy again as the inconsistency of Kyle Allen has proved he is not a suitable replacement. With the Panthers season finishing with a record of 5-11, fans look to the off-season for answers. 

On the other hand, the Hornets let Kemba Walker walk out the door and head to Boston in the off-season, they acquired former Celtic Terry Rozier in exchange, but he’s not a franchise player. It is unknown how the Hornets will be in the future, with a solid young core of Mile Bridges, PJ Washington, Malik Monk, and Devante Graham things look good. Unfortunately, all these players with the exception of Devante Graham have been inconsistent all year. The Hornets don’t seem like they’ll be getting a high draft pick sitting at 15-28, a team that was thought to be horrendous has seemed mediocre once again.

So why has pro sports in Charlotte been stuck in the realm of mediocrity? Neither franchise has won a championship in their league. In fact, the most successful pro sports team in North Carolina is the Hurricanes up in Raleigh as they have won one Stanley cup trophy.

One reason to blame would be that Charlotte is a small market sports city. Athletes want to go to a city where there is a large market to build their brand, which is why every off-season in the NBA rumors of players going to a team in New York, Los Angeles or Miami always seem to surface. The past NBA offseason proved this idea as players like Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard headed to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Hornets paid all-star money to a mid-tier level point guard, it was the only way they could get him here with the market size Charlotte is.  

Another reason that the city has seemed to never be on top when it comes to sports is that their recent draft picks haven’t turned out to be as good as hoped. Aside from Christian McCaffery, neither franchise has drafted that superstar player to build around since taking Kemba Walker and Cam Newton in 2011. Now the time for both of those guys has seemingly come to an end with Cam’s injury history and Kemba heading off to Boston, it is unclear who will step up. For the Hornets, they have drafted good players like Miles Bridges and Devante Graham, but they are both too young to tell what their future will bring. From 2011 to 2016, only two of our draft picks remain on the roster today.r. On the Panthers end, finding game-changing talent has been tough because nobody has stepped up for them with the exception of McCaffery of course. Without him, the Panthers are a team that is at best a 3 win team. The Hornets have more promise if their most recent draft picks end up being as good as hoped but until then their draft record is still seen as a joke. 

If either team wants to succeed and be on top with the best of their leagues then they MUST take the time to put themselves in a winning situation. The Hornets must continue to play the young guys to further their development, which means cutting the time of veterans like Nic Batum who makes 25 million dollars to score three points a game. They also must look for a way to get rid of these horrendous contracts including Batum’s and Biyombo’s or ride them out until they expire. With those contracts taking up so much cap space, no top free agent will even consider Charlotte. For the Panthers, it’s pretty simple, build around McCaffery. He is a star and will be one for years to come, so if you can put the proper pieces around him the panthers will be successful. They also need to resolve their quarterback situation and find a way to stay healthy during the season. 

Both teams have a chance to pull their franchises out of their pit of mediocrity if they are smart and do what they need to be successful. Until then, fans of the Hornets and Panthers can look forward to more years of average at best football and basketball.