Hornets Offseason Predictions 2016


Rich Cho’s Season Has Only Begun

Nearly seven months ago I predicted the Hornets would win 44 games and finish sixth in the East. Most called this prediction overly optimistic and a few called it naive. In the end, Charlotte surprised us all by totaling 48 victories, finishing just a game out of the third seed despite a myriad of injuries to key players and a drastic change in their style of play. It was without question the most successful post-relocation season in Charlotte NBA history. Now it’s up to Rich Cho and the team’s front office to continue this success and propel the team to the next level.

Batum is Everything

When Charlotte traded for Nic last summer, there was no question about the player’s talent or fit; it was Batum’s impending unrestricted free agency status that loomed over the entire season. Credit the Hornets for making his return feel more inevitable than it should and Nic’s postgame remarks after Game 7 sounded like a guy who plans on being back. The hope is that both sides have something on the table the minute free agency kicks off in July. They’ll need to make it quick. Why?

The Hornets have to structure their offseason plans around Batum for two reasons:

  1. He’s one of the team’s top three players along with MKG and Kemba Walker and his abilities as a point forward are a perfect fit alongside them.
  2. His near $20 million cap hold needs to be addressed before the team explores alternative options.

For those unfamiliar with cap holds, unrestricted free agents count against a team’s cap sheet until they either sign with another team or are renounced by their current one.

Batum will turn 28 next December and is in the beginning of his prime. Inking a deal that pays him near max money into his early 30s does make sense from the player’s perspective, especially a wing. Alternatively, Nic could gamble on himself with a short term deal or a player option after two seasons but as we saw last offseason, even with new CBA cash around the corner, players are much more likely to take the safe money – especially if it’s in the vicinity of $20m per.

Ultimately, Nic seems happy in Charlotte and comfortable with the coaching staff, front office and ownership. Expect His Airness to pony up with the largest contract ever signed on his watch as an owner: 5 years, $100 million with a player option in the 5th year. Little Ayden Richard Batum will be living that bon vivant 4LIFE.

PREDICTION: Batum Returns on a near max contract

Bon Voyage, Big Al

Jefferson finished the season in a quintessential Big Al sorta way. He shot 50% against Miami and manufactured offense when the Hornets couldn’t buy a bucket. But he was also in less than great shape and contributed to Charlotte’s atrocious postseason paint defense.

Coach Clifford received a blessing in disguise when Jefferson went down with an injury slash suspension midseason, discovering that a Cody Zeller/Marvin Williams frontcourt (especially when combined with MKG at the three) was much more effective at both ends of the floor.

Big Al turns 32 next January and his inability to get into or stay in shape does not bode well for his future play. Renouncing his rights frees up a valuable $20 million in cap space for Charlotte to use on Jeremy Lin (player option) or Courtney Lee (updated, see below) both of whom will need to be re-signed via cap space (no Bird Rights). The Hornets could also use the $20 million in conjunction with another move (salary dumping Spencer Hawes and/or Jeremy Lamb) to bring in Dwight Howard.

Either way, I fully expect Jefferson to be playing elsewhere next season. Thanks for the memories Big Al. We’ll always have the 2013-2014 Bobcats season.

PREDICTION: Jefferson is renounced, signs elsewhere

Key Secondary Guys

Of the three key secondary free agents (Williams, Lee, Lin), only Marvin ($9.1m cap hold) can be re-signed over the cap.

[UPDATED: The Hornets have Full Bird Rights for Lee, Early Bird Rights for Marvin and non-Bird Rights for Lin. So the team can go over the cap to sign Lee but given situation outlined below, I still believe he’s the least likely to return.]

Technically Lin isn’t a free agent yet but he’ll surely opt out of his $2.2 million player option in July; even so Jeremy’s cap hold will be less than $3 million so the Hornets will have some wiggle room to wait (if) they re-sign him.

Lee’s cap hold ($10.8m) complicates things for his return and with MKG healthy and Jeremy Lamb being groomed for a larger role, he’s my bet for least likely to return of the three.

Marvin will turn 30 in June and has logged a decent amount of miles. The elbow injury prior to the Miami series explains his disappearance on the offensive end. He was a key cog all season for Charlotte and a fantastic fit when Clifford goes small at the five with either Zeller or Kaminsky. I could see the Hornets offering a one-year $12 million deal and Marv taking it. Why that much and why one year? More on this later.

Lin is the most interesting of the three in many ways. He’s clearly found a home with Clifford as a third guard. MJ loves him and Lin’s off the court ability to attract East Asian/Asian-American interest in the team can’t be denied.

Given his consistent struggles with turnovers and his jumper (one of which did improve this season) I would be surprised if another team were to offer him their starting gig. Something in the neighborhood of 3 years, $21 million seems about right for J-Lin. He’ll get consistent minutes and a positive environment to showcase his talents. Consider him Kirk Hinrich in teal (or a more likable Ramon Sessions).

PREDICTION: Marvin and Lin return, Lee walks

A Big Handsome Payday

Cody enters the final year of his rookie deal next season that will pay him a little north of $5 million. The following season he’s scheduled to count over $13m via cap hold. Cho won’t let it come to that. Charlotte has extended their Lottery picks in back to back seasons (Kemba, MKG) and I fully expect them to do the same with Zeller this summer.

Fortunately Cody is still under the radar enough that Cho can likely get a deal done, even in the current cap environment, for something less than his on-coming cap hold. Again, just like Marvin, this is important and I’ll cover it more below. Something like 4 years, $40 million makes sense for a skilled, mobile seven footer like Zeller.

PREDICTION: Cody signs a four year extension lower than his 2017-2018 cap hold

Rounding Out the Roster

Troy Daniels, Tyler Hansbrough, Jorge Gutierrez are unrestricted free agents. Daniels is the most valuable and is likely to be retained if the numbers are right but don’t expect Charlotte to break the bank if another team shocks him with real money.

Aaron Harrison has a league minimum non-guaranteed option that could be picked up if the Hornets like his progress. Exhaustion plagued Kemba in the Playoffs; if Harrison isn’t ready to play, expect the Hornets to pursue a veteran 3rd PG later in free agency.

Charlotte owns the 22nd pick in the Draft and could find a developmental big man or rotation player late.

The Hornets traded their 2nd Round pick to Oklahoma City as part of the Jeremy Lamb deal.

PREDICTION: Charlotte supplements their core with a third PG and backup Center.

Focus on 2017-2018

Make no mistake, the Hornets will compete in 2016-2017. With a (fingers crossed) healthy MKG, Kemba and Batum and one of the league’s best coaches and GMs – Charlotte has assembled a solid foundation on which to build. Next season should be about building on the previous one, trying to earn homecourt and win a round in the Playoffs; then pushing the momentum forward towards the summer of 2017. Why?

Because (if you buy my predictions above) the Hornets will have all of their key guys under contract that summer with an additional $26 million in free cap space. If they can prove to a key All-Star free agent that they’re only one player away after next season, they have a shot of luring a top tier guy to the Queen City. Then the fun really starts.

Until then, enjoy the offseason Hornets fans…


Concern Grows As Bobcats Lose To Nets


Charlotte Bobcats vs Nets 2/16/10

Trying Not To Panic, Here

The Charlotte Bobcats appeared to still be on All-Star break as they lost 103-94 to the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  AP recap here, box score here.

I’m just going to cut right to the chase: this was a terrible loss and I’m concerned.  Here’s all you need to know: coming into the game, the Nets were 4-48, with only one road win.  They are the worst-shooting and lowest-scoring team in the league.  But in defeating the Bobcats for the second time this year, the Nets never trailed.

In the early going, Raymond Felton and Nazr Mohammed had no answer for Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, respectively. Courtney Lee got into the act as well; he ended up leading the Nets with 21 points.  The Nets ended up shooting 52% on the night.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats couldn’t get anything going.  Everyone gets an “F” tonight.  Poor effort, poor execution, didn’t play any defense, got outrebounded, missed open shots, etc.

This now means that the Cats have lost 4 out of their last 6 dating back to the Portland loss on February 1st.  And let’s remember that those two wins are nothing to be too proud of (2 point win over Washington, lucky 1 point win over Minnesota).

Suddenly the Cats look like they are in serious need of a shot in the arm.  I had been hoping that the return of Tyson Chandler could provide that, but it hasn’t happened.  If anything, he looks as bad as ever, with four turnovers and 3 fouls in 18 minutes off the bench tonight.

Boris continues to look lame and uninspired, DJ’s playing with no confidence, Flip hasn’t been reliable, opponents seem to have figured out how to slow Jackson down, and Gerald looks tired.  It’s not good, folks.

I understand that a trade is unlikely with the impending sale of the team, but if the last 6 games are any indication, the Cats need to shake things up a little.

Next game is a tough one; hosting the Cavs at the Cable Box on Friday night at 7PM ET.

-Dr. E

2008 Draft Haunts Bobcats in Loss to Nets


Lopez Dominates, Augustin Sits in New Jersey’s First Win of the Season.

The Bobcats have done a great job of illustrating the many different varieties of “EMBARRASSING” thus far during the ’09-’10 NBA season.  There have been road blowouts, home blowouts, needing three overtimes at home to beat the Knicks but tonight’s apathetic approach towards the winless Nets might be the most painful.  Just seventeen months ago, Bobcats management made the questionable decision to draft D.J. Augustin over Brook Lopez and this game demonstrated that it was the second worst draft day decision in franchise history.

AP recap here | Box score here

1. Fact: Michael Jordan Sucks in the Draft Room

Brook Lopez is a force in the middle for the Nets.  He’s currently averaging 18pts and 9rb and a little over 2 blocks a contest.  He has the best low post game of any center in the Eastern Conference and if weren’t for the fact that his team stinks, he’d be a sure-fire All-Star in just his second season.  Tonight Lopez exploded for 31 points and 14 rebounds and thoroughly dominated Tyson Chandler on the block.

Also in this game D.J. Augustin received his first ever DNP CD (Did Not Play Coach’s Decision).

Augustin has struggled all season and after showing flashes of brilliance during his rookie year, has never looked the same since coming back from an abdominal injury last Spring.  D.J.’s miserable 5ppg / 2apg averages are only surpassed by his 35% shooting from the field.  His current PER is just 7.  Lopez currently rocks a steady 19.

Why the Bobcats selected Augustin ahead of Lopez, I’ll never understand.  You can’t teach size.  We all know that.  And given Jordan’s pathetic draft record, why not go for the safe bet in Lopez?  Selecting D.J. over Brook and Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy (as well as the Kwame disaster in D.C.) are marks of either a gambler or a moron and I am very afraid that this franchise is being run by some horrible combination of the two.

Remember: If the Bobcats select Lopez, not only do they have their shot-blocking, rebounding, intelligent, low-post presence for the next decade plus, they also don’t have to move Emeka Okafor for an overpaid Tyson Chandler and could instead experiment with them together in the frontcourt or find a solid PG in exchange via trade.  Ugh.

2. Boris Diaw: “Rebounding is so bourgeois.”

Is Diaw passive-aggressively demanding a trade?  He knows what Larry Brown expects of him and injury or no, Boris needs to at least provide the consistent effort that he’s capable of or Brown will ship him out for someone who can.

Both Golden State and New York would love to have him and I’m sure the Suns wouldn’t turn him down.  There’s been some chatter of a Jared Jeffries/David Lee deal out there and I could definitely see the Bobcats jumping on that one provided they get a feel for Lee’s intentions going into a contract year this summer.  A Brandon Wright/Ronny Turiaf package from the Warriors might be enticing as well and Bobcats GM Rod Higgins seems to be running both front offices anyway so that might work.

Either way, when the team’s SF is outrebounding you 20-3 and you are averaging under 5 boards a game as an NBA starting PF, it doesn’t matter how good of a passer you are.  I’m a big fan of Motivated Boris but Lazy Boris?  He’s gotta go.

3. Silver Linings

Raymond Felton played a superb game going for 28 points on 11-14 shooting.  He only turned the ball over twice in just under 40 minutes and went on a personal 9 point run for the team when nobody else could score in the 4th quarter.  Again, Felton is not an elite PG but he’s starting to find his niche as a Derek Fisher-type who takes care of the ball and makes open shots.  Great effort by Raymond.

I mentioned it earlier but Gerald Wallace had 20 rebounds tonight.  Crash has never averaged more than 7.8rpg for his career and is suddenly pushing 12.  Simply outstanding.  Another incredible effort from The Original.

Stephen Jackson is doing exactly as advertised: 28 points tonight on a high volume 10-23 shooting over 43 minutes.  JAX makes baskets, plays good D and logs a ton of minutes.  Say what you want about Jordan’s drafts picks (THEY ARE WORSE THAN TERRIBLE) but his trading skills aren’t so bad.


The sad irony in Larry Brown shortening his bench to just 8 players this evening is that he DNP’d all of his youngsters.  Neither Derrick Brown, Augustin or Gerald Henderson sniffed any PT.  This is especially disconcerting since the top six players tonight for the Nets were under the age of 26 and are paid a combined $16 million dollars.  The Nets top two players this evening (Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee, who exploded for 27 points and basically sealed the win with a steal late in the 4th) are on rookie contracts.  Chris Douglas Roberts and Josh Boone are late round draft picks.  Terrence Williams is this year’s lottery pick.  The Nets may be bad now but their future looks a heck of a lot brighter than the team they beat tonight.

Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans


The RaymondHater Manifesto


A couple of notes before we get started:  1) I originally started writing this as a comment to my colleague’s “RaymondHater” post from earlier today, which itself was a comment on Rick Bonnell’s weekend story from the Charlotte Observer that briefly ran down the different options for dealing with Raymond Felton.  But my comment quickly got way too long, so I just decided to keep going and make it a post of its own.  Be sure to check out that original post, especially for the awesome photoshopped banner pic.

And 2) Please be assured that I am not really “hating” on Raymond.  I use the term facetiously.  As discussed earlier this week by Simmons, the word has been beat into the ground.  Anyways, I really like Raymond.  His heart, durability, and overall “good-guy-ness” are off the charts, yet don’t show up in any statistics.  A strong argument could easily be made that we’d have been better served drafting Brook Lopez, clearing a little cap space this year (instead of adding salary) and resigning Felton to be the long-term point guard.

Alas, that hasn’t happened, so we’ll now proceed with my long-winded defense of trading Raymond.


It must suck to be Bonnell and have to write these pithy articles aimed at the mainstream/casual fan about really complicated decisions.  (Then again, it must be pretty cool to be Bonnell and get to cover basketball for a living.)

Though the long term salary cap ramifications are THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS underlying the decision about what to do with Raymond, there is precious little mention of them in the article.

The fact of the matter is that, between Wallace, Okafor, Diaw, Diop, Mohammed and Radmanovic, this team has tied up a trememdous amount of their salary cap for the next several years.  Go ahead, click on that link — it takes you to the Bobcats salary page on HoopsHype.  Then tool around a bit and sample some other team’s payrolls.  Not many teams have so much money committed that far out in the future.  And if they do, they are playoff teams with superstars.

The economics of the NBA, especially for a small market team trying to avoid the luxury tax, dictate that young players on their rookie deals who show signs of panning out be given every opportunity to develop and contribute.   Simply put, such players are cost-effective and locked in to the team that drafted them for four seasons.  The Bobcats have such a player: DJ Augustin — he’s making 2.2 million this year, and gets incremental increases up to 3.2 million in his fourth year, 2011-12.

Statistically, the rookie Augustin is already a better player than Raymond:  DJ’s Assist Ratio (percentage of a player’s possessions that result in an assist) is only slightly lower than Raymond’s: 23.5% to 28.4%.  DJ’s Turnover Ratio (percentage of a player’s possessions that result in a turnover) is better than Raymond’s (though only nominally): 11.4% to 11.7%.

More importantly, DJ’s True Shooting Percentage (which takes into account FG, FT and 3PT shooting) is SIGNIFICANTLY better than Raymond’s: 57.2% to 47.2%.  And by overall PER (Player Efficiency Rating, which takes into account these and other advanced metrics), DJ is better than Raymond: 14.45 to 13.20.

Keep in mind, DJ has accumulated these stats as a rookie, and almost always playing either with the second unit, or out of position as an undersized 2 guard with the first unit (i.e., when DJ and Raymond play together, DJ generally guards the other team’s PG on defense, but more often functions as the 2 on offense).  We can only speculate how much better he’s going to get.

DJ needs to be given the reins.  Keeping Raymond around will not only kill our cap, it will impede DJ’s progress; just like having Brevin Knight and Jeff McInnis around in recent years likely impeded Raymond’s development a bit.  Let’s not make the same mistake again, people.

It would be great to be able to keep Raymond around as a backup — maybe as a 6th man who can play the 1, or the 2 against smaller lineups.  But on the open market, he will demand a starter’s salary (probably 8-9 million per) from a team desperate for a decent PG.  He should and will take it, and the Bobcats shouldn’t match.  Doing so would give us a ridiculous fifth player (in addition to Okafor, Wallace, Diaw and Diop) making 7 million plus in 2011-12; or to look at it another way, 3/4 of our cap would be taken up by five guys, 2 of them (Felton and Diop) non-starters and none of them superstars.  That’s not how you build a playoff team.

The only thing that gives me pause is that we’re learning more and more about how much financial trouble some teams and owners are in.  The salary cap will likely be reduced in the coming years, as opposed to the incremental raises we usually see.  It means that this is a pretty miserable time to be a free agent.

Might we be able to keep Raymond for significantly less than we figured at the start of the season (maybe like 6 million per)?  And maybe for a shorter deal than otherwise would be customary?  What we’ll likely see is that young veterans, like Raymond, will be looking to sign shorter deals than usual, in hopes that the economy will have turned around in time for their next contract year.  So I suppose it’s a possibility.  But in the spirit of “either shit or get off the pot” I think it’s a bad idea.

What I would rather see the Bobcats do is to improve the long-term prospects of the franchise by trading Raymond now.  Not only will DJ benefit, but we might be able to pick up some cap relief, and extra draft pick or two, or even a reasonably priced rotation player.  This is obviously contingent on finding a team that is somewhat desperate for a short-term solution at PG; or a team that wants to audition him before bidding major money on him in free agency.

Orlando (ready for a playoff run, but with their PG Jameer Nelson likely done for the year) or Dallas (in need of some depth behind an aging Jason Kidd and an injured Jason Terry) might fit the bill.

What would/should we be looking for in return?  Ideally, we package Nazr Mohammed and his awful contract (2 more years remaining after this one, at 6.5 and 6.9 million, respectively) with Raymond for cap relief and flexibility.  If a team was willing to take Mohammed, all the Bobcats would likely be happy to take back a pu-pu platter of expiring contracts and draft picks in return.

If no one is desperate enough to take on Mohammed (very likely in this economic climate), we’d probably do good enough to just get back a rotation player who’s signed to a nice deal.

I think Orlando might be the most likely partner here.  All indications are that Jameer Nelson will have surgery on his busted shoulder and be done for the year.  That leaves Orlando with Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue at PG.  Now they certainly could just roll  into the playoffs with that, and risk getting embarrassed in the first round, but wouldn’t Raymond be better for them?  At least they get to the second round with Raymond, and everyone benefits from the playoff experience.

But would Orlando be willing to part with enough to do this?  Raymond Felton for rookie SG Courtney Lee (plus Brian Cook to balance the salaries) works, but it’s hard to imagine Orlando giving up their promising rookie.

What about Raymond for Mickael Pietrus (Charlotte would have to add in Alexis Ajinca for this to work).  Orlando has already shown that they are fine without Pietrus, as they played well when he was out with an injury earlier this year.  And for Charlotte, he’d be a great option to take over at SG for Raja Bell, who is aging and getting brittle, and only singed through next year.  Pietrus is signed to a very reasonable deal (5.3 per through 2011-12) and would be a perfect long defender to pair with DJ in the backcourt for years to come.

So there you go; thanks for reading.  And if you can make a more convincing case for tying up our cap with Raymond for 4-5 years at 6-9 million when we have a better option available in DJ at less than half that… please do.