Hornets have $20m in cap space
Charlotte has all five starters under contract
May. 01, 2014 @ 11:17 PM
The Charlotte Hornets enter the offseason with all five starters under contract and nearly $20 million in cap space.
After winning 43 games last season, the Hornets are an attractive option for an established veteran, or two, looking for a fresh start.
Center Al Jefferson and point guard Kemba Walker are the heart and soul of the franchise, and both are signed for the next two seasons.
Those two years are a window of opportunity for the Hornets to become an NBA contender.
If the franchise is floundering two years from now, Jefferson will probably look elsewhere for employment and Walker may do the same.
But with $20 million to spend this summer, it's more likely that Michael Jordan and his employees can lure another big fish.
Paul Gasol is big enough.
He's 7-foot and can post up or face up. He's also played in four NBA All-Star Games and has won two championships with the Lakers.
Gasol would make it more costly to double team Jefferson, and could be the first option on the block when needed.
Gasol, 33, would also gobble up the budget. He made $19.285 million for the Lakers last season.
Jefferson wore down and eventually broke down (foot injury) at the end of the year. Charlotte wasn't going to win the playoff series against Miami either way, but if Jefferson was at full speed it's probably not a sweep.
The Hornets need to be deeper in the post so Jefferson's minutes can be managed as the postseason approaches.
Marcin Gortat (6-11) is also a free agent this summer. He averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Wizards last season, and his presence would allow the Hornets to shave minutes off Jefferson's legs in the regular season.
Gortat's price tag is probably half what Gasol can demand on the open market, and that would leave enough cap space to recruit a scorer on the wing.
Charlotte started Gerald Henderson at shooting guard and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward most of last season. While both are terrific athletes, they're also sub-par shooters by NBA standards.
Charlotte needs to sign a shooting guard who can stretch the floor and take some of the scoring pressure off Jefferson and Walker.
Jodie Meeks comes to mind. He had a breakout season for the Lakers after Kobe Bryant was lost for the year. The 26-year-old Meeks (6-4) averaged a career-best 15.7 points in 70 starts and made 40.1 percent of his 3-point shots.
Because Jefferson is unstoppable in the post one-on-one, and is willing to pass it out when he draws a double, Charlotte needs to surround him with as much 3-point shooting as possible.
Bringing in a two-guard good enough to push Henderson into a sixth man role would be an upgrade to the talent pool.
Half of Charlotte's top six reserves are locked up. Shooting Gary Neal, power forward Cody Zeller and center Bismack Biyombo are all under guaranteed on contracts for next season, but point guard Luke Ridnour, shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and forward Anthony Tolliver are free agents.
Charlotte made a lot of wise personnel decisions last season, and the result was twice as many wins.
The Hornets aren't far off from being a title contender, but as it stands they don't have enough offense.
If they address their weaknesses as well as they did last summer, they should be able to reach 50 wins and carry homecourt advantage into the first round of the playoffs in 2014-15.
Last year's record: 43-39
Top returners under contract for 2014-15: C Al Jefferson ($13.5 million), PG Kemba Walker ($3.45m), SG Gerald Henderson ($6.0m), SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($5.02m), PF Josh McRoberts ($2.77m), PF Cody Zeller ($4.03m), SG Gary Neal ($3.25m), C Bismack Biyombo ($4.09m)
Free agents: SG Chris Douglas-Roberts, PF Anthony Tolliver, PG Luke Ridnour, PG Jannero Pargo