At the suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets had a record of 23-42 which puts them at 10th in the Eastern Conference and 23rd in the league. Despite the negative record, many look at the Hornets as having a positive season. As a rebuilding team, their focus was not on winning games but on developing young talent. The Hornets have discovered that they have a talented and surprisingly deep young core with the emergence of Devonte Graham, PJ Washington, the Martin twins and Miles Bridges. They have also discovered their backcourt moving forward in Graham and Rozier. While they are without an elite talent to lead the team, they should be happy with the progress of the team this season. The Hornets will look to build on their current roster by signing or trading for a star in the next few years and will hope to make the playoffs within the next couple of seasons.
Currently, the Charlotte Hornets have 9 players with guaranteed contracts for next season. They only have one player with an option. Nicolas Batum has a $27 million player option for next season. I expect him to take this option with open arms, especially considering the financial status of the league due to the pandemic. Batum has had a disappointing season and despite the weak free agency class, there is no way he would be able to get a contract worth anywhere near that amount. Their unrestricted free agents going into free agency are Dwayne Bacon and two-way player, Kobi Simmons. Their unrestricted free agents are Bismack Biyombo, Willy Hernangomez, Shelvin Mack, Brian Roberts and Marcus Paige. Charlotte projects to have around $22-24 million in cap space, which is subject to change due to the pandemic’s effect on league revenue. The Hornets will also have a $4.7 million room exception available.
Depth Chart -
The Charlotte Hornets are early in their rebuild, and with this weak 2020 free agency class, I don’t expect the team to go after any major free agents until at least next year’s offseason when they have more cap space available and their young talent has had more time to develop. The main focus of this free agency period should be to sign a backup point guard and try to sign a quality center allow them to move on from Cody Zeller. The Hornets are one of the front runners to sign Clippers center, Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers can only offer $6 million at the moment which is below his overall value. Charlotte is an ideal landing place for Harrell. Not only will he reunite with former college teammate, Terry Rozier, but he would also be able to return to his home state of North Carolina. Signing Harrell would allow the hornets to maintain the fast-paced game-style while keeping their team young as Harrell is only 26. Harrell can replace unrestricted free agent, Bismack Biyombo for a similar price and would be a more productive player who can make an instant impact on the team in a starting role. For their backup point guard position, the Hornets could look to sign Emmanuel Mudiay, an unrestricted free agent from the Jazz. Mudiay has bounced around the league, producing solid bench minutes at all of his teams so far. Signing Mudiay would give the Hornets a solid backup point guard that keeps the team young and cheap, solidifying the point guard position for the next several years. The Hornets should also look to resign young player, Willy Hernangomez, to continue to provide quality backup center minutes alongside Cody Zeller.
The Charlotte Hornets have the 8th projected pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Hornets will look to draft with this pick to continue assisting in their rebuilding process. There is no distinct order at the top of this draft so it is hard to know who will be available at 8. With the 8th projected pick in the 2020 NBA draft, the Hornets should look to draft Onyeka Okongwu, a 6’9” power forward out of USC. Okongwu is a strong and powerful post player who is an elite rebounder. He is an unpolished player but shows a lot of upside in almost all areas of his game. He can be an elite interior player on both ends of the floor and can become a quality bench player that is able to fit into whatever role that is required of him. He can also give a much-needed boost to the Hornets defence which has left a lot to be desired this season.
The Hornets will enter the offseason as one of the teams with the most salary cap available, but I do not project them to make any major moves. I expect them to add to their young core by signing young players like Emmanuel Mudiay and drafting Onyeka Okongwu. They also look to sign one of the top centers in this free agency, Montrezl Harrell, to become their starting center of the future. The Hornets can take this team into next season with 8th seed aspirations in the eastern conference and hope to make major signings in the loaded 2021 free agency period.
Projected Depth Chart 2020/21 Season –