State of the Union
The Charlotte Hornets are coming off a 23-42 COVID shortened season and a 9th place finish in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets ranked 28th in offensive rating and 25th in defensive rating, producing a 27th ranked net rating of -7. The team is devoid of top end star talent and an identity. They were led by a point guard duo in Devonte Graham, who had a breakout year, and Terry Rozier, whom they traded for and signed to a large deal last offseason. The lone bright spot for this team is the young, quality talent on the roster like Graham, Rozier, PJ Washington and Miles Bridges. However, this team has no star level talent that can help take it to the next level. They have been chasing an 8th seed in the eastern conference for what seems like forever, and are stuck in the land of mediocrity. The team has a chance to land a top talent in the draft this year with the third pick, however. The team is guaranteed to walk out with one of Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and Deni Advija, and could be the first step towards a real rebuild in Charlotte. With Nicolas Batum all but guaranteed to opt into his $27 million-dollar player option, Charlotte will not figure to be much of a player in free agency. The team should look to be a dumping ground for bad contracts in the coming years and acquire draft assets to retool through the draft. However, owner Michael Jordan has had a penchant to try and compete for a postseason berth, regardless of the middling results. Until Charlotte completes a total tear down and rebuild, they may be stuck in NBA purgatory.
Salary Cap Analysis
-Current Cap Room: ($11,880,486)
-Max Cap Room: $49,808,796
-Projected Cap Room: $13,619,514
-Path to a Max: Unlikely, as this would have to involve Nicolas Batum opting out of his player option or moving off of Cody Zeller and Malik Monk and taking no salary back.
-Best Contract on the Books: Devonte Graham. One of the lone bright spots on the roster, Graham really popped last year and looks like a real NBA point guard. As a second-round pick, he’s under contract this coming year for basically the minimum. One of the best contracts in the league.
-Worst Contract on the Books: Nicolas Batum. Batum’s productivity has cratered over the last two years. He is on the books for over $27 million next year player option (which he almost assuredly will opt into), and his on-court value is nowhere near that number. Luckily, it’s the last year of his deal and the Hornets get his deal off the books next year.
-Team Needs: Star talent, Wing Creation, Shooting, Center
-Potential Offseason Targets: Montrezl Harrell, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Aron Baynes, Jakob Poeltl, Harry Giles, Christian Wood
The Big Question
Are the Charlotte Hornets finally embracing the rebuild? With the 3rd pick in this draft, the Hornets have the ability to grab a cornerstone talent with star potential. However, the team should be trying to get as many bites at the apple as possible. Trying to make win now moves this summer could hamper the team’s ability to add real, star level talent in next years loaded NBA draft. Will Michael Jordan bite the bullet and embrace the rebuild for another year? It would be the smart decision. This team has no business competing for a playoff spot, and with a loaded western conference next year, they could have a real shot at another top 3 pick next year. That doesn’t mean do not do nothing this summer, however. There are players that they could sign that fit with the timeframe and could be complimentary to the current roster. Taking a chance on a Christian Wood/Harry Giles could be a smart decision or throwing an offer sheet at Bogdan Bogdanovic or Jakob Poeltl could also be a smart move while not compromising the rebuild. In this year’s draft, they could come away with a super playmaker in Lamelo Ball, a score first big wing in Anthony Edwards, a freak athlete center in James Wiseman, or a talented point forward in Deni Advija. Really ending up with any of the four is a great haul for the Hornets. Assuming Ball and Edwards are gone, I really think that Charlotte could go with Advija. It’s just so hard to find big wings with great ball skills and can run the pick and roll. Players like this are a premium in the NBA. They don’t come along often.
-3rd Pick: Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Deni Advija, James Wiseman
-32nd Pick: Desmond Bane, Jahmi’us Ramsey, Zeke Nnaji
-56th Pick: Ashtan Hagans, Udoka Azubuike, Skylar Mays, Reggie Perry
Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.