Best Bargain-Bin NBA 2014 Free-Agency Options for Charlotte Hornets
Very quietly, the Charlotte Hornets are in position to strike in free agency once again.
The Hornets have plenty of cap space to work with, and if this feels a little like Groundhog's Day, you'd be correct.
Charlotte was able to nab Al Jefferson to the surprise of many last year, and at least so far, that jump into free agency has paid nice dividends. Once again, Charlotte is coming on strong, as they signed restricted free agent Gordon Hayward to a max offer sheet, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Restricted free agent Gordon Hayward has agreed to a four-year, $63 million maximum contract offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
A player option for the fourth year of the deal and a 15 percent trade kicker are expected to be included in the offer sheet, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Both would be considered incentives to dissuade the Jazz from matching the sheet, but Utah officials have remained adamant they will match any sheet for Hayward – including a max offer.
While the Hornets will wait to see if Utah matches on Hayward or if a player like Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza is available to fill their need for a starting small forward, here are some bargain-bin signings they could make after a bigger piece is brought in.
The Charlotte Hornets currently have no one on contract to play backup point guard, which obviously isn't ideal, even though starter Kemba Walker has been very durable in his first three years.
After ranking 24th in offensive efficiency last year, according to Basketball-Reference.com, the Hornets could use some extra offense from the bench, so finding another guard who can play pick-and-roll basketball with the young big men and create scoring opportunities should be a huge priority.
Although he's not a big name, Brian Roberts has shown that he's capable of being a suitable starting point guard in case of emergency and a solid backup off the bench.
With just two years in the league, Roberts should continue to improve despite his age (28), and his shooting would be a big plus for a roster that doesn't have enough of it as is. He is a 37.2 percent three-point shooter on his career, and he's a weapon late in games thanks to his 94 percent free-throw shooting last year.
While he won't wow you with his explosiveness or athleticism, Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated explained what makes Roberts special:
A pick-and-roll specialist in a pick-and-roll league. Roberts doesn't have the playmaking chops that would allow him to run an offense full-time, though his ability to read and navigate his immediate surroundings makes him a fine scorer off the dribble. His pick-and-roll game is predicated on minor advantages: Changes in pace, a well-balanced shot, comfort in going both directions and just enough sizzle to keep defenders guessing.
Plenty of backup point guards are available in free agency, but Roberts is one of the best. He'd be a nice fit in Charlotte.
Again, Charlotte will need to address its backup point guard situation one way or another, and adding some perimeter shooting and scoring with the ball would accomplish multiple needs.
Although he's far removed from his days as an All-Star point guard, Mo Williams can still heat up quickly and swing the course of a game fairly easily. While he's small and challenged defensively, he is trustworthy with the ball and can run an offense smoothly.
In a backup role with the Portland Trail Blazers, Williams averaged 14.2 points and 6.3 assists per 36 minutes, which would be solid numbers if he were obtained on the cheap. He had a down shooting year, but he's a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter and should still have at least a few good years left in him at age 31.
While higher upside options are probably available, Williams has experience joining new teams and taking on a large role if necessary. He's not far removed from being one of the better sixth men in the league, so this would be a solid pickup for Charlotte so long as he is comfortable in a clear backup role.
Given the Hornets' struggles to create offense outside of Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, signing a player who has made a career out of creating solid scoring opportunities would make sense.
The Charlotte Bobcats ranked 23rd in three-point percentage and 25th in total makes, so finding three-point shooters off the bench in addition to Gary Neal should be a priority.
Enter Anthony Morrow, one of the best three-point specialists the game has ever seen.
That may sound like hyperbole, but Morrow shot a blistering 45.1 percent from behind the arc last year and is a career 42.8 percent shooter. This is what he does, and in today's NBA, players like him deserve playing time. Here's Tom Ziller of SBNation.com with more:
Shooting has never been more important in the NBA, and there are few shooters better than Anthony Morrow. Ergo, Anthony Morrow is important! A career 42 percent from beyond the arc, Morrow has racked up triples at every stop. The problem is that's pretty much all he does. Still, he'd be a huge boon for teams needing range.
Morrow is definitely limited, but you can stomach his weaknesses when you surround him with good defenders in a strong system. He has never really had that before in his career, and Charlotte should be able to provide that for him.
Just having a three-point threat to spot up on the same side of the floor while Al Jefferson does his thing on the block makes plenty of sense, even if it's only for 15 minutes per night.
You simply can't leave Morrow open, and that makes him a valuable player for this roster, especially after losing one of the team's best three-point shooters in Josh McRoberts to the Miami Heat in free agency.
Kent Bazemore is one of the many players impacted by the lack of free-agency movement so far, as he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:
It’s really testing my patience; it’s been a little nerve-racking. Everyone is trying to make room for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony so guys like myself, we have to wait patiently to see if they have enough room to even get us on the roster or offer us some money.
While it may take some time for Bazemore to be signed by Charlotte or anyone else, there's a reason why he should be popular in free agency.
Bazemore is a great on-ball defender and solid locker-room guy, and his shot really started to come along in his late-season stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. Teams everywhere are searching for three-and-D guys, and at age 25, Bazemore is young enough to become a strong one in the near future.
In addition to his defensive abilities and good size on the wing, Bazemore is a solid ball-handler and can play a few different positions in a pinch. That versatility makes him a great option off the bench and a particularly strong fit with Charlotte, as the team could use someone to back up multiple spots.
Bazemore was born and raised in North Carolina, so perhaps a homecoming is in order. With his work ethic, attitude and commitment to defense, he'd be a nice addition to Charlotte's wing rotation.
Although it doesn't look like the Hornets have a need in the frontcourt, it might makes sense to find a contributor to replace Josh McRoberts if first-round pick Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller aren't quite ready to fill the void.
Andray Blatche may be a good addition, although he would be much more expensive than the others on this list. In the case that Charlotte strikes out elsewhere, though, he could solidify the power forward position while also backing up Al Jefferson and Bismack Biyombo at center.
Right now, Charlotte can't afford an injury to Jefferson. While that's true of most teams and their stars, Blatche would at least help to keep the Hornets afloat if Jefferson were to miss some games.
More importantly, he could offer up a nice set of skills at the 4. Blatche is a perimeter player stuck in a big man's body, and although sometimes he falls in love with his jumper a little much, his mobility and passing are similar to that of McRoberts, albeit not quite on the same level.
Blatche can score on the block, which would help a very post-oriented team. He'd likely need the mid-level exception, but if Blatche gets passed over due to character and defensive concerns, he'd be worth a shot for Charlotte's frontcourt as a versatile player at the 4 and 5.