The Charlotte Hornets like the roster that won 48 games last season. So the first two days of free-agency they scrambled to retain two of those core pieces.
Friday they agreed to pay Nic Batum $120 million over five years once the NBA’s moratorium on signings ends July 7. Early Saturday evening, they similarly came to terms with Marvin Williams.
A source familiar with the agreement said Williams, 30, will sign for four years and $54.5 million. The last year on that contract will be at Williams’ option.
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The Vertical first reported the Hornets’ agreement with Williams.
These moves make for a potential starting five next season of Kemba Walker at point guard, Batum at shooting guard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward, Williams at power forward and Cody Zeller at center.
The Hornets have already lost two other members of last season’s rotation. Center Al Jefferson is leaving for the Indiana Pacers and Jeremy Lin is headed to the Brooklyn Nets.
Williams’ new contract is a sizeable raise from the $7 million annual salary he got the last two seasons in Charlotte. But Williams’ contract could be structured in a cap-friendly way, fitting into a potential "Early Bird" exception. That could allow the Hornets to add another player with cap space before making Williams’ signing official.
Bird rights allow a team to re-sign its own players in excess of the salary cap.
These huge raises for Batum and Williams are reflective of the spike in the NBA salary cap in general for next season. Thanks to lucrative national television deals, each NBA’s cap will spike from $70 million last season to just over $94 million next season. There will be a similar rise in the cap for the 2017-18 season.
Williams was a great fit in the one-in, four-out offensive system coach Steve Clifford prefers. That style needs a power forward with 3-point shooting range. Williams made 40 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.
He averaged 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in what might have been the best of his 10 NBA seasons. Williams came to training camp in exceptional shape last October and claimed the starting job at power forward. Then Kidd-Gilchrist tore a labrum in his right shoulder, and Williams became the Hornets’ top defensive player, alternately guarding power and small forwards.
A stat that reflects Williams’ versatility: He finished the season with 521 rebounds and 152 3-pointers made. Only other NBA players to reach 500 rebounds and 150 3s last season: Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Indiana’s Paul George, Houston’s James Harden and Cleveland’s Kevin Love.
He was also great in the locker room, not necessarily a constant vocal leader, but helping to set a standard for work.
Williams signed with the Hornets as an unrestricted free agent two years ago after playing for the Utah Jazz. He was originally the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft, selected by the Atlanta Hawks.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell