How Do Charlotte Hornets Spend Their Money If Gordon Hayward's Offer Is Matched?

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How Do Charlotte Hornets Spend Their Money If Gordon Hayward's Offer Is Matched?
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The Charlotte Hornets may have given Gordon Hayward a max offer sheet, but that doesn't mean they're putting all of their eggs in one basket. 

 ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports the details on the deal: 

The Charlotte Hornets and restricted free agent Gordon Hayward have agreed to a four-year offer sheet at the projected maximum of $63 million that Hayward is expected to sign Thursday at 12:01 a.m., according to sources close to the process.

For all intents and purposes, the Utah Jazz will have three days to match the offer and exercise those rights of first refusal starting as soon as the calendar shifts over to Thursday. Verbal agreements are tantamount to ink this time of year, especially when worded so strongly. 

While landing the swingman would be ideal for the former Bobcats, there are a few different routes that the rising Eastern Conference squad could travel down should Hayward's old team decide to match his deal. After all, the Jazz have steadfastly maintained that they'll do exactly that throughout the offseason. 

As Jody Genessy writes for the Deseret News, the fact that a max is on the table isn't going to change anything: 

Multiple sources have insisted the Jazz both anticipated that Hayward, a versatile 6-8 swingman, would receive a hefty offer and that Utah management would match it.

That point was reiterated again late Tuesday when another person with knowledge of the situation told the Deseret News that Hayward agreeing to a max deal with the Hornets is a 'non-issue for the Jazz.'

In other words, Utah will match.

OK, fine. 

The Hornets may have gotten their primary target to agree to terms with them, but restricted free agency is still what we're dealing with here, which means all the power ultimately rests in the hands of the Jazz. 

So, let's assume that Utah goes ahead and agrees to match the max deal and rosters Hayward throughout the foreseeable future. Even if there's a player option for the final season of his four-year deal, he'd still be playing in Salt Lake City through the end of the 2016-17 campaign, at a minimum. 

What do the Hornets do then? 

 

No. 1 Option: Chandler Parsons

USA TODAY Sports

Sure, Charlotte runs the risk of experiencing the same thing all over again, but it's worth taking that chance to gain the services of such a promising young talent. 

Chandler Parsons, just like Hayward, is a restricted free agent, and there's a solid chance that the Houston Rockets would match any offer sheet he signs. Yes, even a max deal, if that's what it takes for him to come to terms with the Hornets. 

However, there's no guarantee of a match from general manager Daryl Morey, as he still has his sights set on bigger targets. If Chris Bosh ends up joining the team, for example, it's time for the the Rockets to wave goodbye to the small forward who treated them so well on his rookie-scale deal. 

Parsons is only 25 years old, though his next birthday is just prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign. He's still got plenty of time to improve, and the contributions he's already making fit in perfectly with the skill set that Charlotte could use. 

Ideally, the small forward the Hornets end up with is a player who's capable of serving as a secondary or tertiary offensive option behind Al Jefferson every night and Kemba Walker on some. He should be a capable three-point shooter to help space the court for a team that drained more triples than only five other teams in the Association during the 2013-14 season, per Basketball-Reference.com.

If Parsons can facilitate, he'll help out the Hornets even more, as Walker is the only plus-distributor in the starting five. 

And, of course, defense matters in Steve Clifford's impressive system. If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be displaced from the starting five and turned into a defensive specialist off the bench while his offense catches up to his point-preventing prowess, the replacement better be able to lock down on the less-glamorous end. 

Well, Parsons entered the NBA as a player who was good at everything and great at nothing. He'd become a jack-of-all-trades during his lengthy tenure with the Florida Gators, failing to establish one niche but looking good in virtually every facet of the game. 

Now he's great at a few things. ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon explains:

The arrow is going up for Parsons. At 25, he’s just entering his prime. His scoring, rebounding and assist totals have increased in each of his three NBA seasons, averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as the Houston Rockets’ third offensive option last season.

The ability to distribute the rock from the 3 is highly beneficial, but so too is Parsons' three-point shooting.

Highlighted by a game against the Memphis Grizzlies when he went an astounding 10-of-14 from downtown (or a 6-of-6 outing against the Brooklyn Nets), the small forward shot 37 percent from beyond the arc while taking 4.7 attempts per game in 2013-14. That's coming off a season in which he took 5.2 attempts per game and made them at a 38.5 percent clip.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, Parsons is one of only 19 qualified players to top four attempts and 37 percent in each of the past two seasons.  

And as for his defense, let's just look at the impact he had on the Rockets. 

Parsons held opposing 3s to a below-average player efficiency rating of 14.6, per 82games.com, though he struggled when he was asked to guard shooting guards or power forwards. His defensive game is still growing, and positional versatility isn't out of the question down the road, especially when he's not forced into exerting more energy to cover for a liability like James Harden

"Parsons has better defensive tools than [James] Harden, but suffers from the same lack of concentration, particularly off the ball," wrote Mike Prada of SBNation.com during the opening of the 2013-14 campaign. But it's hard to believe Parsons' defensive liability is more of an individual issue than a systemic one. Once he's under the tutelage of Clifford, Parsons should thrive on both ends of the court.

Not "will," but "should." 

But again, Houston can just match any offer. So if the Rockets are left experiencing deja vu, what's next? 

 

No. 2 Option: Trevor Ariza

USA TODAY Sports

Though Trevor Ariza, 29, is four years older than Parsons, doesn't possess nearly as much upside and can't serve as a main offensive option while facilitating for his teammates, he's still an intriguing option for the Hornets. 

After all, there's no better three-and-D specialist on the market. 

Ariza may not be on that list of 19 that Parsons occupies, but that's only due to him receiving far less playing time during the 2012-13 season. He still shot 36.4 percent from downtown on 3.7 attempts per game that year, and he blew those numbers out of the water during the follow-up campaign. 

Last season, Ariza connected on 40.7 percent of his looks from three-point land, and he did so while taking 5.7 attempts per game. Any guesses how many players in the Association matched or exceeded those numbers? 

Two.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, only Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did it, though Ryan Anderson was on pace to do so before injuries shortened his season to the point where he couldn't qualify.

That's it. 

Ariza is one of the better perimeter marksmen in the league, and that's an asset that the Hornets could certainly use. And, of course, his defensive proclivities fit right in with the system being employed in Charlotte. 

Once more per Basketball-Reference.com, the Washington Wizards allowed 107.1 points per 100 possessions when he was sitting on the bench. When he played, though, that number dropped down to 103.7. For perspective purposes, the former would rank No. 16 in the league, while the latter checks in at No. 5, making for a pretty substantial difference. 

"I don’t know. It would be nice to come back here, but again, who knows what’s going to happen," Ariza told Michael Lee of The Washington Post during a May interview about his potential return to the nation's capital. "That’s not...I don’t have to [return]. Wherever I’m wanted. Whoever wants me on their team, I guess."

Well, the Hornets should want him if the restricted free agents can't be had. 

 

No. 3 Option: Luol Deng

USA TODAY Sports

Opinions seem to vary rather widely when it comes to Luol Deng. 

Is he the fringe All-Star he was with the Chicago Bulls a few years back, meaning his numbers declined because he was forced into an offensive role he wasn't capable of handling before being traded to a bad situation with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Is he washed up, left worse off because Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau overused him in the rotation and let the minutes pile up far too often? 

Given his age (29) and the fact he thrived last time he was surrounded by more talent, I'm in the former group. The Hornets should be as well, seeing as his defensive skills would be quite valuable, especially when accompanied by solid work as a spot-up shooter. 

The last time Deng got to play a full season with Derrick Rose was back in 2011-12, when he shot 36.7 percent from downtown on four attempts per game. Every season after that, he was pushed into a larger offensive role, and a tendency to force up shots made his percentages decline rather dramatically. 

He wouldn't have that role in Charlotte.

Sure, offense is needed for the team to become elite, but he'd still be a third fiddle to Jefferson and Walker on most nights. Regardless, he wouldn't be counted on for heavy scoring burdens but instead functioning as a floor-spacer who can also help carry some of the facilitating load. 

Who's Charlotte's best option if Hayward stays with the Jazz?

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Deng is the last of the stellar options for Charlotte, though. 

Beyond him, the Hornets are left dealing with less intriguing small forwards of the Paul Pierce caliber, or they could pursue Lance Stephenson. However, "Born Ready" fits in at the 2, which isn't as much of a need, and his ball control isn't ideal for the current system. Plus, there's the antics, which could turn a peaceful locker room into less of a positive, if not an outright negative. 

Regardless, Charlotte is brimming over with opportunities, even if the Jazz match the offer sheet Hayward has agreed to sign. Optimism should abound in Michael Jordan's organization. 

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