Charlotte Hornets fans are concerned about the team’s player payroll and have creative thoughts on a solution.
They also want to know what should top the next general manager’s to-do list.
Those were the primary takeaways when I asked readers, via Twitter, for questions for a Hornets mailbag. The Hornets are already closing in on the projected luxury-tax threshold for next season, which means some sort of salary cap-friendly deal would be wise. Also, the Hornets need a new general manager, and the goal is to have one in place by the end of this season.
On to your questions:
Q. What should the new general manager’s priorities be?
A. Here are, in order, the top three items I would put on the next general manager’s to-do list:
1. Find out if Kemba Walker want to be here, if the immediate future involves a major rebuilding.
2. Decide if Steve Clifford is the right coach for this situation (including if he wants to oversee a rebuild).
3. Explore trades that might be out there to move the Hornets a little further away from the dreaded luxury-tax line.
Q. What state do you think the franchise will be in next season if the Hornets hire Mitch Kupchak versus Gersson Rosas? Are they choosing between two different immediate futures?
A. Very understandable question, since Kupchak is viewed as an old-school basketball guy, and Rosas comes from the newer analytics background. As far as the immediate future, I think the problems the Hornets face (see above) are more about process than philosophy. It would be more the long-term plan that could indicate a divergence in approach.
Q. How big of a roster turnover can we expect the Hornets to make this off-season? Will they start to build around young pieces such as Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon and Willy Hernangomez?
A. The extent that they could/will remake the roster is somewhat beyond their control. To make major changes, they need one or more trade partners, and there aren’t a lot of teams this coming summer with much space under the salary cap.
I do think Monk and Bacon will play more next season, because (unless something changes radically) the Hornets won’t have the flexibility to add much in free-agency. Hernangomez is a bit different, in that the Hornets are deep at center with Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller. But that leads to the next question …
Q. Should the Hornets consider waiving Howard, using the stretch provision this summer? That should save around $16 million against next season’s cap, and it’s obvious he’s not in our future.
A. That’s a creative thought to use the stretch provision. Howard is owed nearly $24 million next season. Hypothetically, that could be stretched so that one-third counts against the Hornets cap next season and in each of the following two.
I agree that Howard probably isn’t destined to be here beyond next season. However, if I’m owner Michael Jordan, you have to give me a compelling reason to pay Howard not to be a Hornet. Jordan signed off on waiving Tyrus Thomas in 2013 and counting his contract as the Hornets’ amnesty player. But that was specifically to sign free-agent center Al Jefferson.
Q. Do you give this core (Walker, Nic Batum and Howard) one more shot next season fully healthy, or do you cut bait with them and Clifford, and start fresh completely with a new general manager?
A. The problem is guaranteed contracts in the NBA make it difficult, if not impossible, to just blow up a veteran group and start over on the fly. I suspect plenty of the current veterans will be on next season’s roster, regardless of the next general manager’s plan to rebuild, because that rebuild could take several seasons.
Q. Would it be wise to move back in the draft if we can get a team to take one of our bad contracts? Or do we keep our pick in the 9-to-11 range and hope for the best?
A. I think the next general manger should definitely explore what another team is willing to do to acquire the Hornets’ pick. However, I’m not confident a pick late in the lottery is so valuable that another team would take on a major contract, without sending back a contract the Hornets might not particularly want.
Q. Why do you think Charlotte hasn’t been much of a free-agent destination? With Jordan as owner, an up-and-coming city, and the fact you can be a star anywhere, why hasn’t there been more of a push to get big-name players here?
A. I think Charlotte is a great place to live (and I’ve been here since 1988). I think Jordan offers the Hornets some additional brand identification, too. However, I don’t know that either of those things count for much to a 20-something basketball player in high demand.
Charlotte is appealing because it’s a clean, affordable mid-size city suitable for raising a family. It’s not flashy the way New York or Miami or Los Angeles is. Jordan might still have the greatest basketball resumé of all-time, but he last won an NBA championship 20 years ago.
Living in Charlotte is an acquired taste. Walker, for instance, loves it here. But Jordan as the owner isn’t in itself a compelling reason for a free agent to be a Hornet. So I don’t think it’s realistic to expect this to be a thriving free agent destination.