Unless you have your own blog or site, or are a paid contributor to a specialized, professional site (such as an online magazine or news site), I don't think there are any better options for posting articles online & earning money.
As far as most traffic coming from other hubbers, most of my traffic comes from Google & other search engines, or readers sharing my articles. I don't get much traffic from hubbers. I think most hubbers don't know I exist -- which is fine with me, as search engine traffic is what I want. Additionally, I have never shared or promoted my work on social sites or elsewhere for that matter. I am very happy with my search engine traffic and the passive income I earn here.
HP is not perfect, but they have come a long way in raising the overall quality of articles on the site. They have instituted new writer boot camp, unfeaturing, & the QAP, which puts human eyes on all articles before they're allowed to be published. IMHO, these controls are why HP is basically the only article-posting site left. All others have gone out of business or are dying -- they are/were worse in terms of quality, so you wouldn't have wanted to use them, anyway.
HubPages is an "anyone-can-contribute" site for both amateur & pro writers alike. That is just the fact of the matter. Quality controls are eliminating much of the crap that some try to publish. I frequently run across people online who hate HP because they can't seem to pass muster and get published. That is a good sign, but the controls are not perfect.
I wouldn't worry too much about the HOTD choices. Most visitors to HP don't even see the HOTD; instead, they land on articles pertaining to whatever subject they were Googling. HOTD is mainly for hubbers -- it's a motivation carrot. I had a HOTD once, and the traffic to it increased dramatically that day -- all from fellow hubbers. It is nice to be recognized & I love getting visits from fellow hubbers, but HOTD is mainly an internal thing. Not much of anyone else sees them.
This is purely an assumption, but I think HP staff is overwhelmed & profits are down. Hubbers can nominate hubs for HOTD, & it wouldn't surprise me if a decent-looking one comes across the HOTD desk, a staff member quickly queues it up, not really having time to go over it with a fine-tooth comb.
HP does not cater to pro writers. Most pro writers don't need HP or want to fool with writing for low pay.
What other sites are you considering? What are the "so many options?"