Not too long ago, the Charlotte Hornets were buzzing towards an upward trajectory, making the play-in tournament two seasons in a row, with plenty of room to grow to spare. Sure, the Hornets flamed out in the very first game of those play-in appearances (their loss to the Indiana Pacers in 2021, specifically, was extremely disappointing), but with LaMelo Ball leading the way, better things were surely yet to come for the team in Queen City.

Alas, the Hornets' 2022-23 season was doomed before it even got a chance to take off the ground. In July, Miles Bridges became involved with some serious off-court troubles due to his involvement in a domestic violence case, leading to serious questions as to whether he would ever suit up in the NBA yet again. And with Bridges' season-long absence, the Hornets lost the leading scorer of their 43-win 2021-22 team.

But not only did they kick off free agency in the worst possible way, they proceeded to lose LaMelo Ball to an ankle injury to begin the year. Not too many teams can survive the loss of a 20-point scorer, so losing Ball made the Hornets' uphill climb an even steeper one.

Fast forward to April and the Hornets have become one of the worst teams in the league, securing the fourth-best odds to nab the number one overall pick come June. That will be a golden opportunity for the Hornets to add yet another blue-chipper to their ranks alongside Ball, Victor Wembanyama or not. But turning a franchise's fortunes is too much responsibility to place on a rookie's shoulders, even if they're as huge as Wembanyama's.

Thus, these are the three major offseason fixes the Hornets must make to, at the very least, be in contention for the 2024 NBA playoffs.

1. Acquire a go-to scorer to replace Miles Bridges

The Hornets are not a marquee free-agent destination. So amid the uncertainty surrounding Bridges' situation this past offseason, the Hornets were unable to find a suitable replacement in time. Instead, they were forced to rely on members of their current roster to step up and fill a 20-plus points per game void, and that proved to be a recipe for disaster.

The Hornets, which put up the eighth-best offense in the NBA during the 2021-22 season, fell off a cliff in that department this season. Through 80 games, the Hornets have put up a meager 108.5 offensive rating — the worst in the NBA.

Simply put, the Hornets need some scoring punch, especially from the wing, and they will need to exhaust all avenues to find a suitable Bridges replacement one year later.

Adding a player in the vein of Kyle Kuzma would do wonders for the Hornets offense, giving them another 20-point scorer who can score from everywhere on the court. They could also pursue Jerami Grant, someone who fits like a glove in any team with contending ambitions thanks to his ability to space the floor and defend multiple positions.

The Hornets, at the moment, are over the projected 2023-24 cap when taking into account their current cap holds. Should they renounce those, they could have as much as $40+ million in cap space, which should be enough to sign an impact player in free agency. Of course, circumstances will be easier if they manage to find a taker for Gordon Hayward's onerous expiring deal.

When push comes to shove, the Hornets could even bring Miles Bridges back, although such a decision would most certainly come with a strong backlash.

At the end of the day, the Hornets must not enter the 2023-24 campaign without a new go-to scorer on the wing.

2. Figure out their starting center situation (a.k.a. roll with Mark Williams)

Ever since they traded away Mason Plumlee, the Hornets' starting center situation has been a mess. It seemed like all the stars were aligning for a late-season breakout for rookie Mark Williams, but a thumb injury derailed his ascent. And now, to end the year, the Hornets' situation has become extremely confusing, resting one of Williams, Nick Richards, and Kai Jones on alternating nights to help the team assess their futures.

But the Hornets decided to invest a lot in Williams when they traded away the pick that ended up being Jalen Duren. They should then stick to their guns and give the young center as much of a shot to prove them right, especially when the center out of Duke has shown flashes of being a solid rim-running rim protector.

3. Pray to the injury gods

Does this count as an offseason fix? It could. After all, LaMelo Ball suffered multiple ankle injuries, the worst of which was a fracture that ended his season prematurely. As Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors would attest to, ankle problems are no joke, and there's a possibility that this could linger as the years go on.

But Curry managed to overcome the ankle troubles he had early on in his career, thanks to a strict training regimen that helped relieve his ankles of undue stress.

Perhaps the Hornets could hook Ball up with Curry's trainer (Dell Curry, Steph's father, has strong ties to the Hornets franchise) to ensure that he won't suffer yet another season as snakebitten as his 2022-23 campaign.