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:
Nicolas Batum @nicolas88batum
We got a deal! #BuzzCity 🐝2016-7-1 08:02:16
Charania provided more information:
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Nicolas Batum holds a player option in the fifth season of his new Hornets deal, sources tell The Vertical. $120M.2016-7-1 07:59:37
Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com noted the Dallas Mavericks could've made a competitive offer to sign Batum—but for fewer years:
Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon
Mavs could have made a competitive offer to Nic Batum. Max for them was 4 years, $114M. Hornets gave him 5 years, $120M.2016-7-1 08:16:30
Per the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus, the L.A. Lakers were also after him:
Eric Pincus @EricPincus
If Lakers land Batum - that's a very good get - skeptical that they will - Mozgov is a fallback center - serviceable2016-7-1 04:22:40
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:
Tim Bontemps @TimBontemps
Batum gives the Hornets a pretty significant discount on a per year basis. Could allow them to keep an extra FA. https://t.co/JsGD4K3jhB2016-7-1 08:02:25
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.