When the Charlotte Hornets signed power-forward center Tyler Hansbrough Wednesday, they totaled 15 guaranteed contracts for a maximum 15 roster spots.
That likely means, barring trades, the Hornets have set what their regular-season roster will be.
The Hornets had an eventful off-season. They added seven new players, which means they have remade roughly half their roster.
Ten thoughts on this new group:
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Who was the most important addition?
Tyler Hansbrough gets a lot of attention here for his North Carolina ties and Jeremy Lin has fans everywhere, but it’s not close: Nicolas Batum is the most important piece of this remake.
The Hornets plan to run much of their offense through Batum, the small forward-shooting guard they acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers in trade.
Batum was the third or fourth option in Portland, filling in around stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. In Charlotte he’ll have much more responsibility to score, pass and lead. He’s also a versatile defender who can guard every position but center.
What was the theme of this remake?
The Hornets were among the NBA’s smallest teams last season and the worst 3-point shooting team in the league. By-and-large, these changes addressed those two flaws.
They replaced 6-4 shooting guard Gerald Henderson with 6-8 Batum. They added 7-foot Spencer Hawes as a backup center and they added 6-6 Aaron Harrison as an option at point guard.
Batum, Lin, Jeremy Lamb and rookie Frank Kaminsky all improve the Hornets’ outside shooting, which has been an issue the past several seasons.
What is the weakness on this roster?
There is no true rim-protector. The Hornets chose not to make a $4 million-plus qualifying offer to restrict backup center Bismack Biyombo’s free-agency. He then chose to sign with the Toronto Raptors.
It’s understandable the Hornets didn’t want to pay Biyombo that much, considering his offensive limitations. But they will miss his 1.55 blocks and 6.4 rebounds per game. He provided a defensive presence in the low post that hasn’t really been replaced.
How do they make this group of big men work?
This is just a guess, but I suspect Marvin Williams will play a lot more small forward next season and Hansbrough will be asked to guard some centers.
Williams has played most of his NBA career at small forward, so that isn’t much of a reach. For Hansbrough to get playing time, he’ll need to be an aggressive rebounder-defender. Hansbrough’s strengths are toughness and physicality, and the Hornets need more of both.
Will Hansbrough play much?
I don’t think that’s a given. He comes in on a one-season contract after playing a minor role with the Toronto Raptors last season (3.6 points and 3.6 rebounds).
The Hornets are more vested in developing Kaminsky and Zeller, younger players they selected with lottery picks. Hansbrough will have to work his way into the rotation.
The best competition of the preseason will be ...
At shooting guard behind Batum. Lamb, Troy Daniels and P.J. Hairston will all be looking for playing time (although Hairston can also play small forward).
Daniels had a strong summer-league performance in Orlando. Lamb wants to show he can play after being buried on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench. Hairston struggled in Orlando.
The challenge now is ...
On the coaching staff. It’s not easy to assimilate seven new players into a 15-man roster. Hopefully there will be strong attendance at the team’s pickup games in September. Training camp and the preseason will be extra important with so many new faces.
Who might shine in this new group?
I try not to draw big conclusions from summer-league performances, but I like what I saw in Orlando from Kaminsky. Everyone knew he had 3-point range, but he also demonstrated an ability to get to the rim off the dribble and get to the foul line.
He has to adjust to NBA-level defense, and that won’t be easy. But he will be hard to guard.
Will Aaron Harrison make a difference?
Probably not in the short run, but that isn’t the point. He’s a worthy experiment. He played little point guard before summer league, but demonstrated a knack for getting to the rim off the pick-and-roll.
At 6-6 he could eventually be that big option at the point this franchise last had in Shaun Livingston. Exploring that potential is worth tying up a roster spot this season.
What will Lin add?
Versatility, size and 3-point shooting. Clifford says he might play Lin and Kemba Walker together some. It will be Lin’s job to create offense for the second unit, whether it be getting to the rim, hitting 3s or finding open shooters.
He has now played five NBA seasons for three different teams. That’s a lot of experience that can be applied to this new role with the Hornets.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell