The Charlotte Hornets have a fairly dismal set of options in this year’s free agency, but that doesn’t mean they can’t gain value by finding the right player. Here are five players that might benefit the Hornets to sign in free agency.
Longtime readers may remember last year’s version of this article, which both served as my debut on FanSided and reflected the dismal nature of the Hornets’ options last offseason. The options this year are, well, equally if not more dismal. If the Hornets re-sign Kemba Walker, they’ll be looking at having no options other than the mid-level exception, and there’s a fairly likely case where they aren’t even willing to use that in order to evade the luxury tax. If the Hornets don’t re-sign Walker and renounce all the cap holds they have on the books that they can, they still don’t have enough salary cap space to pay a single player more than the mid-level exception, barring something unexpected like one of Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist failing to pick up their player options. In other words, the Hornets have to find capable players at multiple positions with only at most the mid-level exception and minimum contracts to work with.
And even beyond that, they’re working with a limited number of roster spots too. They have ten players under contract that will likely be retained through next year. They have the draft rights to Arnoldas Kulboka, who has had a good season in Europe, the 12th overall pick in the upcoming draft, and a pair of later second-round picks. They could easily fill their roster to the minimum required number without ever touching free agency. If they retain Kemba Walker, they could even make a move along the lines of waiving and stretching Bismack Biyombo to open up money and still be at fourteen players on their roster, a place where they stayed for most of last season in order to minimize costs. And even then if they elect to use the roster spot, players like Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky would likely be higher priorities. As a result, the Hornets are unlikely to be aggressive in the free agent market, having neither the money nor the roster space to do so.
There are, however, two cases in which I suspect they will go into free agency: The one in which they don’t retain Kemba Walker, and the one in which they retain Kemba Walker and decide to pursue being as competitive as possible while simultaneously determining that neither Lamb nor Kaminsky is an effective choice for a final roster spot. In those cases, the following are options.