The Charlotte Hornets’ off-season could be just as intriguing as the season that preceded it.
Coming off a 43-39 record and an unanticipated playoff appearance, the no-longer Bobcats will have three picks in the June 26 NBA draft, including a lottery pick (ninth overall) and another first-rounder (24th). They will have at least roughly $13 million in room under the salary cap to pursue free agents or trades.
Plus, the Hornets have seemingly improved their profile as a destination for players. They’re a team on the rise with an appealing coach in Steve Clifford. And in center Al Jefferson, they have a proven low-post scorer around whom others would want to play.
With the No. 9 pick, they could add a scorer like Michigan’s Nik Stauskas or Creighton’s Doug McDermott. Or they could consider a big man like Arizona’s Aaron Gordon.
One area player who could be of interest is former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston. He’s probably not a candidate at No. 9, but could be gone by No. 24. He would offer the shooting range the Hornets desire.
Then free agency opens July 1. The Miami Heat has a trio of stars in LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, each of whom could opt-out of his contract. But they’ll likely stay together or go to larger markets than Charlotte. There are other logical targets, such as Washington’s Trevor Ariza or Utah’s Gordon Hayward, who could fill roster holes.
Plus, the assets the Hornets hold could facilitate impact trades. While acquiring a Kevin Love might be a long shot, adding a wing scorer, like Orlando’s Arron Afflalo, would make a difference.
This all should make for a summer of possibilities.
Making this sort of trade would be complicated because the Hornets would have to satisfy both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Love, since he’d have to sign an extension to justify the risk. But he’d be terrific as a complementary scorer to Al Jefferson and one of the NBA’s top rebounders.
The Orlando Magic guard is a proven shooter/scorer (averaged 18.2 points last season on 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range). The Bobcats most obvious need is wing scoring, particularly from a player who can stretch the defense from 3-point range. He could be available with the Magic focusing on the development of Victor Oladipo.
Yes, this is a long shot, but it might be worth a call. Gordon doesn’t seem particularly happy as a New Orleans Pelican and that franchise has invested heavily in two players (Gordon and Tyreke Evans) who seem somewhat redundant. The question becomes whether Gordon is worth about $15 million each of the next two seasons.
He seemed to regress between his rookie and second seasons, averaging 9.5 points on 40 percent from the field. Maybe that was a function of the Golden State Warriors adding Andre Iguodala at small forward. The Warriors are taking a hard look at their roster; maybe they wouldn’t ask too much in return for Barnes.
The ex-Charlotte Bobcat didn’t have much of a role with the Los Angeles Clippers last season. He’s under contract the next two seasons at $4.25 million annually. He’s versatile, smart and a career 40 percent 3-point shooter. Seems like the kind of player Hornets coach Steve Clifford could use.
He’s a restricted free agent, which can be problematic. Also the Hornets already invested a lottery pick in power forward Cody Zeller. But Monroe averages 14 points and nine rebounds for his career. And the Detroit Pistons spent big on Josh Smith, who is somewhat redundant to Monroe.
The former Duke star and NBA All-Star was traded off the Chicago Bulls to the Cleveland Cavaliers in part because he turned down a contract extension. He wasn’t a good fit in his half-season in Cleveland and it’s hard to tell if that reflects more on him or the Cavaliers. His numbers (14.3 points on 42 percent shooting) were his worst in seven seasons.
He’s obviously a talent at shooting guard, averaging 13.8 points on 49 percent shooting this past season for the Indiana Pacers. The question would be his salary expectations and potential personality issues. He needs to better manage his emotions to be a better teammate.
He has an early termination option that could make him unrestricted this summer. The questions abound: Would he want to be in Charlotte, particularly considering he’d take a significant pay cut by not re-signing with the New York Knicks? And Cllifford’s occasional concerns that the ball “sticks” (doesn’t move quickly enough) could only multiply with Melo around.
A big (6-foot-8), athletic small forward who averaged 16.2 points per game last season, he’d offer something very different from the defense-centric performance the Hornets get from Kidd-Gilchrist. The problem is he’s a restricted free agent. Seldom do teams choose not to match offer sheets for quality restricteds.
He’s solid as both a scorer and defender at small forward. He’s coming off his best of 10 seasons as a pro, having averaged 14.6 points on 46 percent shooting on a Washington team that won a playoff round. If the Hornets go after him, they’ll have competition; the Wizards want to retain him for sure.
Sessions did good work in his 1 1/2 seasons as a Bobcat and was highly respected among teammates and coaches. The trade to Milwaukee was nothing like giving up on Sessions. He said after the trade he’d be receptive to signing again in Charlotte.
The Hornets need a backup point guard and ex-Bobcat Livingston had a terrific season with the Brooklyn Nets. It could be appealing to have a bigger option at the point who can also defend shooting guards, as Livingston frequently did last season.
While he’s different from Livingston, he’d offer some of the same qualities as a backup to Kemba Walker – a veteran who can also play shooting guard, both offensively and defensively. Hinrich’s experience would be a good fit with a Hornets team looking to win a round of the playoffs.
LeBron James/Chris Bosh/Dwyane Wade
Speaking of long shots, all three Miami stars can terminate their deals to become unrestricted this summer. More than likely they’ll be back with the Heat. James would be great in Charlotte (or anywhere). Bosh probably doesn’t make sense with Al Jefferson here. Wade is wearing down.
No. 9 pick
Ennis showed great court vision in his one season of college basketball. He’s not a great shooter, but he makes big shots, as in the buzzer-beater against Pittsburgh. He’s not really strong enough for the NBA yet, but that’s not uncommon among rookies.
He’s a very good athlete at power forward – explosive and, to use one of Hornets coach Steve Clifford’s favorite expressions, a “multiple-effort” per play guy. Gordon needs to become more skilled offensively to round out his natural gifts.
The Hornets need more scoring and long-range shooting from the wing positions. McDermott would help address that. But he figures to struggle defensively at small forward, where many of the NBA’s best athletes play.
A versatile power forward with shooting range out to the college 3-point line, Payne could be a good complement to Jefferson. His shooting range figures to make him a good “pick-and-pop” option. He also has a 7’4” wingspan and is a generally solid defender.
A fine long-range shooter (44 percent from the college 3-point line and a quick release), Stauskas is somewhat reminiscent of Dell Curry. But he’s also adept at driving to the rim. He could help the Hornets right away.
No. 24 pick
He used his time well in the D-League, showing he can be a productive scorer against older, more physically developed players. He’s also a pretty good defender. The issues that cost him his college eligibility will surely come up in job interviews.
At 6-foot-5, Micic would offer a contrast in size at point guard with Walker. He doesn’t have Walker’s explosiveness, but his height and strength come in handy defensively. His downside is he’s not particularly quick or athletic.
He led the Huskies to the national championship in his final college season, just the way Hornets point guard Kemba Walker did. They have similarly explosive scoring ability in the pick-and-roll.
Glenn Robinson III
A particularly athletic small forward (his father and namesake was an NBA All-Star), Robinson will be the target of a lot of NBA lob passes. But he was sometimes passive offensively, coming in generally as the Wolverines’ third option.
He demonstrated last season that he can score at the top level of college basketball. There is a question what position he’s suited to play in the NBA. At just under 6-foot-9 he’s a bit short to be a post player, but that’s more his skill set.
No. 45 pick
He’s a combo guard who can push the ball to the rim with great quickness. Has late-first round talent, but some teams might be hesitant to take him earlier while he recovers from a torn ACL. His very slim body needs additional strength and bulk.
Fair is a versatile scorer, although at 6-8 he might not be as effective offensively scoring in the lane against NBA size and athleticism.
James Michael McAdoo
McAdoo didn’t improve much season-to-season at North Carolina. He has promoted himself to NBA teams as a top-flight defender. He needs a better mid-range jump shot, but he benefits from a 7’2” wingspan.
Think of McGary as a bit like ex-Hornet Brad Miller: Not an explosive athlete, but a savvy center with good hands who knows how to score in traffic and pass out to open teammates. He could be long gone before pick No. 45, but you never know.
He’s a physical, if somewhat undersized, power forward who measured out around 6-foot-8, but has a 7-foot-1 wingspan. Averaged over 10 rebounds per game last season and has good scoring touch around the basket.