Charlotte Hornets 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board
The continued buzz forming around the new Charlotte Hornets has grown increasingly louder after a wonderful 2014 draft haul. Now no longer associated with a stained Bobcats nickname that was synonymous with futility, the luck of this franchise has already begun to turn around.
With the first day of July comes NBA free agency, and Charlotte is armed with some cap space and is now quite the intriguing destination.
While every other team may be fantasizing about landing LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Superman, Air Bud or whoever else teams can think of, Charlotte would be wise to stay the course and go after the right guys. The Hornets can be one of those below-the-radar teams that we look at in the middle of August and think "wow, they really knew what they were doing!"
First-round picks Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston filled some big needs, as did the trade of second-round pick Dwight Powell and the $2 million left on Brendan Haywood's deal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Alonzo Gee, which will clear up even more space.
Signing Al Jefferson was deemed questionable by many analysts last season, but he gave Charlotte a legitimacy and turned them into a playoff team. This is an up-and-coming roster with a great head coach in Steve Clifford, some great basketball minds within the organization such as Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, and a fanbase truly excited to embrace the new brand. Charlotte should have no trouble luring free agents.
Let's get into it. Here are some bodies that Charlotte should look to go after on the open market.
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It was time for him to go following the drafting of Elfrid Payton to be the franchise's new point guard, but one team's scraps could definitely be Charlotte's treasure.
Aside from some spotty play courtesy of Ramon Sessions, Kemba Walker has not had a reliable veteran backup point guard to show him the ropes at the NBA level. Three years in, Charlotte is currently without a second point guard on the roster at all after the Luke Ridnour acquisition failed miserably.
General manager Rich Cho is well aware of this and will look to sign not one, but maybe even two point guards on the free agency front. Aside from Nelson, there is a deep crop of veterans at the position such as Shaun Livingston, Greivis Vasquez, Sessions, Mario Chalmers, Patty Mills, Darren Collison, Devin Harris and D.J. Augustin. All could be had for cheap, and with so much money to play with, it would not hurt Charlotte at all to look at bringing in two of those guys.
Nelson is a particularly smart fit because he has been through it all. He is the consummate professional and a solid three-point shooter. His style would contrast with and complement Walker's perfectly, and the two could also conceivably share the court together allowing Walker to play off the ball and attack more instead of always having to operate in his traditional role.
It is a solid bet that Cho will explore this option, and Nelson could likely be had for a bargain. He is not the player he once was, and this should be an easy signing with minimal damage to the team's wallet.
It is hard to really understand why Jordan Hill has not played a bigger role on a team yet in his NBA career.
Hill is coming off a career year for the lowly Los Angeles Lakers, during which he made some marked improvements yet still couldn't get himself a featured role. He played just 20.8 minutes a night, a career high for the 26-year-old.
Take a look at his numbers per 36 minutes: 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 blocks. He also shot 55 percent from the floor and averaged just one turnover.
Charlotte could still use some depth in the paint, and Hill is a big athletic body who could take some minutes from all the youngsters on the roster. Vonleh, Cody Zeller and especially Bismack Biyombo are not enough alongside Al Jefferson. He needs some more veteran talent to ease the load.
Hill has enough size to adequately play center for brief stretches during the game, and his tenacity would fit right in with what Charlotte tries to do. Hill pounds the offensive glass relentlessly and showed off an improved mid-range jumper this past year as well.
Hill probably wouldn't cost much for Charlotte to make a run at, and it may be time to pull the plug on the Biyombo experiment. Hill would be a big upgrade at that spot and a reliable veteran presence amongst all the young guys.
Over the past two seasons with the Bobcats, Josh McRoberts has gone from a guy clinging to his spot in this league to a bona fide talent ready to cash in.
Of course, you can't forget about your own guys.
Charlotte has been adamant that it is not losing sight of McRoberts as a priority and fully expects to be in the running to retain his services. He started all but four games for the club this past season and exhibited some skills that go far beyond the stat sheet. From his much-improved outside shooting to his 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, McRoberts' departure would be tough to stomach.
McBob's ability to stretch the floor really opened up the lane for Jefferson to go to work, and it also helped that he turned into such a capable passer. He was a huge reason why Jefferson put up the numbers that he did, and there is not a team in basketball that wouldn't be thrilled to have a McRoberts on its roster.
The question remains if McRoberts may have priced himself out of Charlotte's plan. Some team may fall in love with him and offer him more than he is worth, in which case Charlotte will have to think long and hard about just how much he is worth.
Although the front office said that drafting Vonleh had nothing to do with McRoberts, at some point the team will have to face some harsh realities. If Vonleh and Zeller are to reach their full potential, McRoberts' presence will eat into their playing time and development.
The best thing for the Hornets to try to do here would be to bring him back for a three-year deal that wouldn't break the bank. Odds are probably about 50/50 at the moment, but Clifford and everyone in the organization would love to bring back McRoberts.
Charlotte likely has enough in the tank to convince Luol Deng this can be a contending team if he jumps aboard.
Deng did not have his best season, and was overall just not his normal self after being traded to the Cavaliers early last season. He is a fierce competitor, at heart and it isn't right watching him play for a cellar dweller.
Charlotte would be wise to pursue the proven veteran who could provide Clifford with the defensive intensity he seeks from his players, as well as giving the team a versatile all-around scorer on the perimeter.
As successful as Charlotte was last season, the team was still devoid of much talent on the wings. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could stand to learn a ton from Deng, as could rookie P.J. Hairston. Charlotte benefited as a whole from adding Jefferson's veteran prowess last year and having a talented leader who could provide an example to the younger guys. Deng can do many of the same things at a different position.
Clifford is the same type of coach as Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls, making the transition for Deng almost seamless. The Hornets play a very similar style, and with Deng in the fold they will have some added scoring punch they need.
Deng has to be one of the top targets for Charlotte unless he asks for too much money. This will likely be the last big payday of his career, and if Deng is mostly looking to cash, in then Charlotte may not be his ideal destination.
The last thing Charlotte can afford is to fill up all of its cap space on an older veteran. The Hornets need to stay the course and understand they are on a great path and now are just looking for strong complementary pieces. Deng would be the perfect piece to that puzzle.
This would conceivably be the biggest get for Charlotte this offseason.
He will likely cost a lot. His presence would also mean it would be wise for Charlotte to explore a trade of Gerald Henderson both to clear up more money and playing time.
But, it would be worth it.
If McRoberts leaves, Parsons could replace all of what he left behind and then some. He is a tremendous distributor and all-around scorer. Parsons can hit from the outside, finish at the rim, hit the glass and defend a couple different positions.
You can't go wrong with this signing because he fits in anywhere.
Parsons is also just 25 years old and would be another strong piece for Charlotte's future. The most likely way for the Hornets to get their hands on him would be if the Houston Rockets are successful in their pursuit of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony or maybe even Kevin Love. Should that happen, their chances of bringing Parsons back would be slim to none, so it would knock his price tag down a tiny bit.
It should be noted that Parsons is a restricted free agent, the only one on this list. Houston can match any offer made to him but most likely would be unable to do so if they sign a bigger star.
It says a lot about who he is as a player that Dwight Howard left the bright lights of Los Angeles playing alongside the likes of future Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol just for the chance to team up with his good buddy in Houston. He is the type of guy everyone loves playing with and is just the type of unselfish all-around talent to pair with Walker, Jefferson and the rookies.
Walker and Jefferson could still play the same way they have been, only at the end of the night they will look at the box score and see a quiet 18-20 points from Parsons. He is efficient and smooth, making him a perfect complementary perimeter scorer. Everything he does is within the flow of the offense.
He would have some adjustments to make on defense because Houston doesn't believe in that end of the floor. However, there is no reason to believe he wouldn't learn quickly. If Charlotte wants to give Parsons over $10 million a year, they should do it with no reservations.