by Brad Kirby
As the NBA season is winding down quickly, it is time to start talking about the future of our beloved Hornets. The Charlotte Hornets, this past season, provided the fans of Charlotte with a 48-34 record that surpassed our best number of wins in a season since basketball returned to the Queen City in 2004. This past season was truly a great accomplishment for our Hornets as they exceeded all expectations. Our hard fought playoff series against the Heat displayed how close we were to being a true contender in the Eastern Conference. This team is moving in the right direction and are so close to competing for the Eastern Conference and getting national respect all over the league.
The General Manager of the Charlotte Hornets, Rich Cho, made many bold moves this past offseason and season that had Charlotte poised to bounce back into the playoffs after missing the playoffs the year before. The big additions in the summer, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, and Frank Kaminsky, provided the Hornets with huge offensive sparks and leadership qualities. Courtney Lee, an introduction at the trade deadline, contributed a significant part to the Hornets playoff run due to the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist during the season. If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were a part of the playoff run, I believe this team could have made a huge run all the way till the Eastern Conference Finals due to his improvement on the offensive side of the ball and his 100 percent effort he puts on the defensive end. With our trust in Rich Cho and the coaching skills of Steve Clifford and his staff, we are poised to bring pieces together that will develop into a cohesive team.
With the draft approaching and the NBA Combine going on today, can we find a gem at pick number 22? If you are asking me, I believe we can. The Hornets will most likely stay at pick number 22 but if they decide to trade up in the draft look for them to target a player like Buddy Hield. He could contribute right into the lineup for the Hornets. To move up into the top 10 of this draft, the Hornets would at the least need to package their first round pick, Cody Zeller and Jeremy Lamb to have any chance of sniffing the top 10. Would it be worth it? Yes it would. The Hornets hopefully will have many appealing options to select from in the first round. This draft they will not have a second round pick due to the Jeremy Lamb trade last offseason in June. Now let’s dive into the predictions for the 22nd pick.
I believe the Hornets Front Office will have a mindset to select the best player available on their board when it’s our time on the clock. The Hornets have no certain position to fill which is why they may go in the direction of choosing the best player on their board. On June 23, 2016, I believe the Charlotte Hornets will be selecting from one of these 4 players below ranked from my favorite to least favorite player.
Brice Johnson: Power Forward: University of North Carolina
If you want a very well polished AP All-American senior, here is your guy. The 6-foot-10 Johnson averaged 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds this past season. Every given night he was a double-double machine. He provided the Tar Heels with a big low-post presence on both sides of the ball and a pretty good mid-range jumper. Brice Johnson could easily make a huge impact for the Hornets right of the bat and make Time Warner Cable Arena erupt after his fascinating dunks and unbelievable blocks into the stands.
Diamond Stone: Center: University of Maryland
If you want an Al Jefferson 2.0, here is your 6-foot-11 replacement. Could Diamond Stone be a diamond in the rough? I believe he can. Stone has all the qualities of a true center. He has an outstanding skill level that cooperates well with his very strong body and long arms. This past season, Stone was a true freshman and provided the Terrapins with 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Diamond Stone would be an outstanding fit for the Hornets because they play with their bigs very well in the paint. If we draft him, Diamond Stone could own the paint in the upcoming years.
Thon Maker: Power Forward/Center: International
If you want 7-foot-0 enthralling prospect, here is the pick. Thon Maker has all the talent to make a massive impact at the next level. Maker, a 19 year old who hasn’t played a college or overseas game, is a mystery worth the risk. His game is sensational and can translate to the NBA perfectly. He has a high running motor and pretty good shot that can stretch to the three-point line. Maker, if drafted by the Hornets, would be well-liked among our fans due to his willingness to work hard, his mobility, and his competitiveness every day.
Malik Beasley: Combo Guard: Florida State University
If you want a Mr. Do it all, here is the guy you may want. Beasley, a 6-foot-5 true freshmen, made a big impact for the Seminoles this past season dropping 15.6 points per game and hauling in 5.3 rebounds to go along with that. Beasley is a very explosive player who can knock down a shot from anywhere on the court and explode for a dunk from anywhere in the paint. He has all the tools and attributes to make a impact right away in the league. If he was drafted by the Hornets, he would a provide a huge spark off the bench and give Buzz City many minutes every night for the upcoming years. We have been linked to him in the draft process so don’t surprised if you hear his name called on draft night.
Eight other intriguing players who could be Hornets on draft night:
- Cheick Diallo: Power Forward: University of Kansas
- Taurean Prince: Small Forward: Baylor University
- Demetrius Jackson: Point Guard: University of Notre Dame
- Malachi Richardson: Shooting Guard: Syracuse University
- Malcolm Brogdon: Combo Guard: University of Virginia
- Wade Baldwin IV: Combo Guard: Vanderbilt University
- Damian Jones: Power Forward: Vanderbilt University
- Timothe Luwawu: Shooting Guard: International
With the conclusion of the NBA Draft predictions, now it’s time to talk about the upcoming summer of free agency in the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets have only seven guaranteed contracts next season. Currently, the Hornets have eight players from last year with no finalized team for next year. Those eight players with no home are Nicolas Batum, Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin, Marvin Williams, Troy Daniels, Tyler Hansbrough, and Jorge Gutierrez.This upcoming summer the cap rises to about 92 million dollars due to the new television deal. With this increase in the cap, Cho and company will have approximately 44 million dollars to spend this offseason . Now let’s dive into predictions for our very own free agents who all want to return to Buzz City. Then, we will discuss free agents who are primed to be Charlotte Hornets.
Batum, a very pivotal figure for the Charlotte Hornets last year, will be a big investment for the Charlotte Hornets this upcoming summer. Clifford and Cho have stated how Batum is the teams No.1 priority which means we will see Batum in a Hornet uniform next year no matter the price he commands. Many fans including me don’t agree that Batum is worth close to the max deal but in the NBA today he will receive it from a team that is desperate. With this move, it would put Charlotte with 24 million dollars left to spend on others.
Jefferson, an aging center who has defensive liabilities but very classy old school moves, said he wants to return to Charlotte. In his end of year conference, Jefferson stated how he would take a massive pay cut to return and money wouldn’t be an issue because he wants to retire in Charlotte. At this stage of Al’s career, he would be a good role player off the bench for the Hornets. What does a massive pay cut mean to him? No one knows but the possibility of Al returning to Charlotte for a very low contract of about no more than 3.5 million could happen but not very likely.
Lee had a good time in Charlotte but it doesn’t look like the Hornets picture him a part of their plan next season. He came into a situation at the trade deadline where the Hornets needed him to get big minutes and he played his role well. Lee will probably want to take on a larger role with a contender and get above 8 million. The asking price for Lee will be too much and the Hornets will have to say good bye.
Lin, one of the best back up point guards in the league last year, has stated how he would like to return next season. The Hornets would like to resign him but the asking price of Lin is yet to be determined. Lin could make a lot of money at another destination which is why the Hornets are afraid they might lose him this summer. I think Lin will command too much money for the team to invest on him which will give us more money to look at other positions.
Last season, Williams had an exceptional year up until the playoffs. Williams, a perfect stretch four for the Hornets last season, wants to continue his career in Charlotte next season. I believe Cho will offer him a mid-tier contract and Marvin might accept a discount to stay here. If Marvin wants over 7 million dollars he might be gone.
Key Free Agents who could be Hornets at the end of the day
Hassan Whiteside: Center: Miami Heat
Whiteside, who is a 26 year old Gastonia, North Carolina native, would be a picture-perfect fit for the Hornets. Hassan is the player the Hornets need to solve the puzzle. He is a shot blocking sensation and powerful dunker that could provide the Hornets with rim protection, athleticism, and nice touch in the paint. Whiteside is going to require a max deal but the risk is worth it to haul him in to be a Hornet.
Dwight Howard: Center: Houston Rockets
Howard, the elephant in the room, is a favorite to be signed by the Hornets this off-season. Many fans are very conflicted with the idea of Dwight joining the team this summer because of his recent years in the league. Howard lately has had many ups and downs due to his lack of a good fit on a team. He is a 30 year old player who is out to prove his doubters he still has his Superman left in the tank. Howard would fit well in Charlotte because we play a in and out system which is what Dwight needs. If the Hornets miss on Whiteside, Howard could be the missing piece the team is looking for. I believe Howard would sign in Charlotte for about 15 million.
Harrison Barnes: Combo Forward: Golden State Warriors
Barnes, an under utilized player in Golden State, needs to a have bigger role next season. Barnes has all the tools to be an All Star but needs a new scenery for that to occur because he plays with the likes of Curry, Thompson, and Green. If the Hornets decide to let Marvin Williams walk, Barnes could be truly considered by the Hornets. The forward will command a big contract this summer. If the Hornets go after him, it sure does help he played his college ball in Chapel Hill.
Festus Ezeli: Center: Golden State Warriors
Ezeli, a 23 year old, could be a big steal in the upcoming free agency class this summer. This year, he has been a rotation player for the Warriors. Ezeli would like to be a more impactful player next year so I’d be surprised if he stayed in Golden State. His athleticism combined with his terrific defense would provide the Hornets with the big man they need. He would be a way cheaper option than Whiteside and Howard if the Hornets went in this route.
Seth Curry: Combo Guard: Sacramento Kings
Curry, the younger brother of Stephen, had a big tear at the end of the last season. If the Hornets let Lin walk, here is your guy. Curry plays phenomenal defense and can put the ball in the hoop quickly. If given the opportunity to play here, I’m sure he would love to return his home town this summer and make an impact for the Hornets next season.
At the end of this summer, the Hornets will hopefully be heading in a better direction. With a magnificent draft pick and some outstanding free agent additions, this team could leap all the way up to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals or even the NBA Finals in a heartbeat. I hope you all enjoyed and agreed with this Buzz City.