2016 NBA Off Season Preview: Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets

2015-2016 Record: 48-34
Projected Maximum Cap Space: $39,830,474.00

Players under contract for 2016-2017

F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13,000,000)
G Kemba Walker ($12,000,000)
FC Spencer Hawes ($5,543,725)
FC Cody Zeller ($5,318,313)
FC Frank Kaminsky ($2,730,000)

Player Options

G Jeremy Lin ($2,235,255)

Restricted Free Agents

G Troy Daniels

Unrestricted Free Agents

FC Al Jefferson
GF Nicolas Batum
F Marvin Williams
G Courtney Lee
G Jeremy Lamb
FC Tyler Hansbrough
G Aaron Harrison
G Jorge Gutierrez


2015-2016 Recap

Thanks to a balanced attack that was top ten in the NBA in both scoring and defensive points per game, the Hornets marched to it's best record since the NBA brought the franchise back to Charlotte in 2004. Unfortunately, the Hornets will have to wait at least another year to win their first playoff series since 2001-2002. Steve Clifford has proven that he is the best coach this franchise has had in years.

Players Under Contract

It all started with Kemba Walker, who had his best season as a pro. He shot over 40% from the field, a victory for him, and averaged 20 points per game. More of a scorer than a facilitator, he did his best poor man's Damian Lillard impression and has become one of the better scoring guards in the NBA.

If you glance at the stat sheet, you might think Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has not lived up to his #2 overall draft pick status. The Hornets love the intangibles and defense he brings to the squad and resigned him to a big contract before the year. Unfortunately he suffered an injury during the off season and only appeared in 7 games before reinjuring the same shoulder. If Kidd-Gilchrist can bounce back, he has the potential to score 15 points, grab eight rebounds and play All NBA level defense.

Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky are two former lottery picks who have still yet to produce like lottery picks. Zeller did have his best year to date, setting career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and shooting percentage. That field goal percentage was especially impressive, 52%, up from 46% as a sophomore and 42% as a rookie.

Kaminsky was a situational big man off the bench as a rookie, but showed the kind of stretch four ability the Hornets wanted when they drafted him. With Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams out of the picture, expect his minutes to rise.

Linsanity is long gone, but Jeremy Lin has settled in quite nicely as a legit backup scoring guard. He was tied for fifth on the team in scoring, and led a good Hornets second unit. He will likely opt out and hope for a bigger pay day.

Spencer Hawes is still under contract for two more years. With less big men on the roster, he might get more minutes, but is still a waste of $6 million.

Free Agents

Charlotte traded peanuts for Nicolas Batum last offseason, in hopes that he could bounce back to All Star form, and he definitely delivered. Batum proved to be a fantastic fit with Kemba Walker, and actually led the Hornets in assists. He also poured in his usual brand of offense (second on the team in scoring), rebounding and defense. Batum will likely land a max contract, and the Hornets should be the one to pay it. They should not let him get away.

Steve Clifford phased out Al Jefferson as the year went on, and Big Al had his worst season to date. His lumbering, offensive only game is a bad fit in today's NBA landscape, and his best seasons are likely behind him. With young big men ready to claim minutes, it is doubtful that Jefferson will be back.

Marvin Williams never became that superstar that scouts hoped he would, but has developed into a very solid rotational player. Williams had his best season since 2008-2009, starting 81 games and averaging 8 rebounds a night. The Hornets could resign him as a veteran presence for Kaminsky and Zeller.

Courtney Lee was a shrewd pickup, and he helped stabalize a troubling shooting guard spot. He is a good defender, and does not need the ball in his hands to be successful on offense. He has expressed interest in returning to the Hornets, but should have plenty of suitors on the open market.

Jeremy Lamb is still only 23 years old, but has not quite developed as hoped. His season in Charlotte went similar to his seasons in Oklahoma City, as he was a backup only who struggled to consistently score. He is worth a shot as a developmental prospect, but Lee should be a bigger proirity.

Free Agent Targets

Assuming the Hornets resign Batum for the max, they could have money to offer another large contract to a free agent. The biggest needs on the team are additional scoring and front court defense.

Dwight Howard is what he is at this point, but what he is one of the best rebounders and defenders in the NBA. He would be a great fit next to the young offensive minded power forwards.

If the Hornets want to stay in that $8 to $10 million range for a big man, they could opt to try to bring back Bismack Biyombo, bring in Joakim Noah, or gamble on the upside of Festus Ezeli. Teams will always have to overpay for size and defense, and the Hornets might have to do the same.

If the Hornets want to add some relatively cheap shooting, guys like Ryan Anderson, Randy Foye and OJ May could be options.

Trade Proposal

Charlotte Hornets trade FC Spencer Hawes and 2016 first round pick to Brooklyn Nets for future second round pick.

The Hornets swung a blockbuster trade for Nicolas Batum last year, and will likely make minor moves this time around. The Hornets would probably prefer the $6 million in cap space over a late first round pick. The Nets, who are rebuilding and need picks, could opt to take on some salary for a chance to land a youngster.

NBA Draft

The Hornets will be picking 22nd overall. This is the point in the draft where teams just go with the best player available in hopes of landing someone who can help out in the rotation. Charlotte could be in the market to develop a guard here, so someone like Wade Baldwin IV, Patrick McCcaw or Malachi Richardson could make sense here.

Charlotte has historically drafted upper classmen with solid college resume's. Brice Johnson has been a popular mocked pick by me. He is a Carolina native who can really rebound and run the floor. Taurean Prince is another senior who could make sense as a 3 and D backup for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

In Summary

Led by the scoring of Kemba Walker, all around game of Nicolas Batum and solid coaching of Steve Clifford, the Hornets had their best season in the decade plus they have been back in the NBA. However, things could fall apart quickly. Batum and several other key contributors are unrestricted free agents, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist needs to prove he is over his shoulder troubles.

The Hornets should have max money, but free agents have historically stayed away from the city of Charlotte. The best bet would be for Charlotte to try to resign Batum, Williams and Lee and use extra cap space to supplement the roster with defense and shooting. A starting five of Kaminsky, Williams, Kidd-Gilchrist, Batum and Walker should be good enough to return to the playoffs and challenge for the Southeast division title.

Jonathan Carrano

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