Nicolas Batum, Hornets Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2016

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 29: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 29, 2015 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice:  Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
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After a surprisingly strong season from the Charlotte Hornets, they took a step toward securing their future by re-signing swingman Nicolas Batum to a five-year, $120 million deal, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Batum confirmed the news on Twitter:

Charania provided more information:

Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com noted the Dallas Mavericks could've made a competitive offer to sign Batum—but for fewer years:

Per the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus, the L.A. Lakers were also after him:

His signing will be a big boost for the Hornets, and it is a relative bargain of a deal, according to the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps:

Batum was eligible for a maximum contract of $153 million over five years from Charlotte, per ESPN.com's MacMahon and Marc J. Spears.

Charlotte surprised quite a few NBA followers when it acquired Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh last offseason. While injuries and poor shooting plagued the versatile Frenchman in 2015-16, he was an upgrade for Charlotte's rotation, providing a three-point threat that was sorely lacking in the past.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, Batum's usage rate climbed to 21.4 percent, a significant increase over much of his time with the Trail Blazers. He responded with a career-high 14.9 points and 5.8 assists per game, in addition to 6.1 rebounds. He was a hit with his teammates as well.

"He's got an incredible basketball IQ," said Marvin Williams of Batum in November, per Sports Illustrated's Kenny Ducey. "He knows where guys are supposed to be, he knows where guys like the ball, which is why I think he makes his teammates better. He's a hell of a player. I've competed against him for a lot of years now, so it's kind of fun to play with him."

Batum also built a strong rapport with head coach Steve Clifford, going so far as to say Clifford's extension in November would likely play a role in his decision about whether to stay in Charlotte, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: "He trusts me. He believes in me. So that could be a big factor."

Not only are the Hornets keeping around one of their better players, they're also hedging their bets at 2-guard with Jeremy Lamb on the bench.

While Lamb will earn $7 million annually over the next three years, that will be the going rate for a rotational wing player as the salary cap continues to rise. Charlotte likely doesn't plan on building around Lamb at the 2. Losing Batum would have meant needing to find another shooting guard either via free agency or in the NBA draft.

The timing of this move is also helpful for Charlotte since it can focus more of its efforts on re-signing Al Jefferson. Keeping their core players together, along with the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from shoulder surgery, for the start of next year will make the Hornets a possible top-four seed in the Eastern Conference.