Charlotte Hornets 2021 Offseason Outlook


Overview


The Charlotte Hornets completed the 2020-2021 NBA season with a record of 33-39 which placed them at 10th in the Eastern Conference and equal 19th in the league with the San Antonio Spurs. They qualified for the play-in tournament but lost their game against the 9th seeded Indiana Pacers. After being one of the least talented rosters in the NBA, the Hornets finally have hope. They have added the rookie of the year to this franchise and LaMelo has given this fanbase a lot of excitement. Along with LaMelo, a lot of players on this team took great jumps in their development including Bridges, Rozier, Hayward and Washington. The Hornets appear to have their backcourt set so they will likely spend this offseason trying to upgrade their frontcourt. They have a lottery draft pick and some money to use in free agency so they will likely be able to do so and go into next season with the expectation to improve.


Salary Cap


Currently, the Charlotte Hornets have 7 players with guaranteed contracts for the 2021-2022 NBA season. They have no team or player options to make decisions on but do have some non-guaranteed salary to consider. Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, and Jalen McDaniels all have $1.7 million non-guaranteed contracts which I expect to become fully guaranteed. All of these players fit in well with the team and have become important role players over the course of the season. For such a low price, it would be smart to keep these players or waive them to sign to longer deals. Either way, these 3 guys should be back on the roster next season. Malik Monk, Devonte’ Graham and Brad Wanamaker will all be restricted free agents along with Nate Darling and Grant Riller who will be two-way free agents. The Hornets will only have two unrestricted free agents in Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo. Due to the Hornets likely being under the salary cap, they will only have access to the $4.9 million room exception available to them.


Depth Chart 2020-21 Season–


2021 NBA Draft


The Charlotte Hornets will have the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft along with 2 late second-round picks. With this pick and during this offseason, the Hornets will be looking to get their frontcourt set for the future so will ideally be looking for a big they can pair with PJ Washington to become their starting frontcourt in the coming seasons. With the 11th pick in this year’s draft, the Charlotte Hornets should look to target Kai Jones, a 6’11” center out of Texas. Jones is an athletic center with great size that can spread the floor. Along with his impressive offensive skills, he projects to be able to effectively guard multiple positions, making him a great asset for a switching system. He does need to improve his consistency and decision-making skills, but his raw talent is enough to get him picked this high in the draft and he should be able to make an instant impact to this young team and possibly even get a starting spot in his very first season.


Free Agency


The Charlotte Hornets will have some cap room going into the 2021 free agency period and have a few different options with which to use it. If they choose to bring back Malik Monk, they will effectively remove any options for bringing in external free agents but if they let him walk, they can look elsewhere to strengthen this team. Due to the disappointing free agent pool along with Monk making a significant enough jump in his 4th season, I think the Hornets will loo to bring him back for another several seasons. They can either continue to develop him with their young team or package him with some other young assets to bring a star player to their squad either this coming season or the next. On that note, expect to see Devonte’ Graham back in a Hornets jersey next year as he has shown some great improvement playing behind Rozier and Ball and can develop into a great sixth man for this team moving forward. They will likely also bring back Brad Wanamaker as a veteran guard presence. While he doesn’t impact the team too much, they clearly traded for him for a reason, and we will see that moving into next season. Finally, the Hornets could look to use their room exception to bring in a veteran guard like Alec Burks who can help add some scoring off the bench and help to develop their younger guards in Ball, Monk and Graham.


Summary


The Charlotte Hornets have had an exciting season after looking like another team destined for a long a painful rebuild. They have a lottery pick to use to add another young talent to their frontcourt and will have to decide whether to bring back their young restricted free agents or use their cap space to go after external free agents. Ultimately, Hornets fans can be excited going into next season no matter which direction the front office chooses to go. They have some young talented players who will take another jump and can be hopeful that they can get some playoff experience come this time next year.


Projected Depth Chart 2021/22 Season –