Charlotte Hornets

Josh McRoberts opts for free-agency; Charlotte Hornets want to re-sign him

Power forward Josh McRoberts has opted to become an unrestricted free agent in July, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate an exit from the Charlotte Hornets.

Hornets general manager Rich Cho made it clear Wednesday that the team will look to re-up McRoberts, who started 78 games for the team last season.

“Josh is a big part of our team. We definitely want to re-sign him,” Cho said at a pre-draft news conference. “He helped Kemba (Walker), he helped Big Al (Jefferson). He’s such a good passer, a connector, a great teammate.”

When McRoberts signed with the then-Bobcats last summer, his agent negotiated a clause giving McRoberts the choice to test free agency in the summer of 2014. McRoberts made just more than $2.6 million last season, a bargain for a starter. He would have made $2.77 million next season had he played out his contract. That would have made him the third-lowest paid Hornet among 10 players under contract.

It seemed a given McRoberts would explore free agency after a strong season. He averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists and shot 36 percent from 3-point range.

McRoberts immediately upgraded the then-Bobcats’ ball-movement after the team acquired him from the Orlando Magic in February 2013. He drew enthusiastic praise from coach Steve Clifford, echoing what team owner Michael Jordan projected for McRoberts in the preseason.

“The success of this team is McRoberts – how well he connects the dots,” Jordan told the Observer in October.

McRoberts, a 6-foot-10 forward from Duke, said the day after the Bobcats were eliminated from the playoffs that he hoped to remain with the franchise for many years. He knows Clifford and the front office value him.

So this is ultimately about McRoberts testing his market value entering his eighth NBA season. The Hornets have the resources to make a competitive offer; they will have at least $13 million in space under the salary cap when free agency begins July 1.

Also, should McRoberts sign elsewhere, the Hornets have a fallback position in power forward Cody Zeller. The then-Bobcats used the fourth overall pick to select Zeller in the 2013 draft.

Zeller had a slow start last season, but improved rapidly in the last two months of the season. He averaged six points and 4.3 rebounds last season and was named second-team all-rookie by the NBA.