Marco YOLO | Explaining Hornets Draft Day 2016


It’s that time of year again. Time for my annual post aimed to cool reactionary fans angered by Rich Cho’s refusal to do exactly what they want him to do. As in years past, Draft Day 2016 can only be understood if we place the move in context within the roster building to follow. Let’s break it down thus far…

The Mystery Trade

The only details about the trade that we know for certain is that Marco Belinelli will be a Hornet and Charlotte’s 22nd overall pick (Malachi Richardson) will be moving on to Sacramento. The trade hasn’t been officially announced and won’t be until after the free agency moratorium ends on July 7th. Other players and picks could be included on either side but for now, let’s assume it’s the vanilla version and call it Version 1A.


Let’s start with the obvious. On the court, Belinelli makes a ton of sense for Charlotte. He can play on ball and off, can stroke the three, create off the dribble and has proven to be a capable system defender when the system is good. Think of him as a defensively inferior, offensively superior Courtney Lee. Done.

Off the court, things get a little trickier. As a cap enthusiast, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why and how this is supposed to work:

If the deal is strictly Marco for the 22nd pick, you’re looking at $6.3m coming in and around $1.2m going out. Charlotte doesn’t have any trade exceptions of that size to absorb the extra money, so if it’s strictly one to one, they’d have to move Marco into cap space.

This is a problem because the Hornets won’t have any cap space until they renounce some of their unrestricted free agents after the moratorium – which would have to be done immediately before the trade is made official.

According to my numbers, the Hornets are sitting currently at around $112m – factoring in all of their cap holds – which is roughly $17m over next year’s projected $94m cap.

To absorb Marco’s extra $5.1m, Charlotte would have to renounce around $22m worth of salaries. Renouncing Al Jefferson, Troy Daniels, Jorge Gutierrez, Jeremy Lin and Tyler Hansbrough seems like the obvious way to get there.

One downside: You’d lose potential sign & trade scenarios with Big Al (using his Bird’s rights) but it’s doubtful many of those scenarios exist on the market anyways.

Renouncing Lin (more on Jeremy later) and Daniels seems alarming at first but given that both players are non-Bird’s rights free agents, the team will have to go into their cap room (or the MLE in Daniels’ case) to bring them back anyway.

So how do we grade Version 1A of the trade? The Hornets, in a maelstrom of unrestricted free agency decisions, figure out a way to replace Courtney Lee with a similarly-aged, cost-controlled, two year rental. In return, they give up whatever potential a cheap-salaried, late round pick could give them.

A Small Sacrifice

In an alternate reality, Charlotte could’ve kept the pick, taken a project wing and then used their Bird Rights to overpay Lee to make sure he stays (think between $10-14m per year). Instead, they get a similar player who’s the same age at around half the price who’ll most likely be on a shorter deal.

Factor in the salary for the 22nd pick and you’re looking at an immediate savings of around $7-$8m in cap space depending on what Lee ultimately gets on the market. This added flexibility could be just enough for Charlotte to retain Lin via cap room (see salary chart below) while paying him market value.

So, even in Version 1A of the trade, the Hornets could (and likely will) end up ostensibly getting two ready-to-play rotation players for the relatively small price of a late round pick in a weak Draft (and let’s face it, Clifford wouldn’t play that late round pick for two years anyway).

Belinelli Trade Salaries Hypothetical

GRADE: TBD in July


Version 1B of this trade is based on some chatter that the Hornets were able to attach one of Jeremy Lamb or Spencer Hawes to the pick in a salary dump.

I was a lot more excited to write about this version of the deal until I actually got around to thinking about it. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters much if either of those players is involved in the trade because:

  1. Neither players’ contract is an albatross
  2. One of the Hornets’ strengths last season was their depth and both players have proven themselves rotation capable during the regular season
  3. With so much cap room available and so few quality free agents, it won’t be hard for the Hornets to find a taker for either player later in free agency

With either Version of the trade, Draft Day 2016 can’t be properly evaluated until we see what Cho & Co are able to do in July.

Get ready Hornets fans because, to quote the esteemed Jim Ross, “Business is about to pick up.


9 thoughts on “Marco YOLO | Explaining Hornets Draft Day 2016

  1. Chuck B

    Are you sure it’s Linn and not Marvin williams that the hornets would resign? I really like Linn on the team but he is going to be courted by the whole league. Marvin still seems to be active with the team even without a contract.

    • The Hornets have Marvin’s Early Bird rights which allow them to go over the cap and pay him up to 175% of his previous season’s salary ($12.25m). This could come in handy because his cap hold is only $9.1m, meaning that the team could offer him the deal and then wait and sign it after adding in players that have to be signed exclusively under the cap – effectively giving the Hornets another $3m in cap room to play with in the meantime.

      I’m assuming the team wants Marv back at around that number. It’s high given his age and if they offer him the full four year Early Bird deal with 7.5% max raises (around $54m) – it could get ugly down the line at age 34. But that’s the market price these days I’m afraid. Anything above it and you simply have to bite the bullet and let him walk whether Frank is ready or not.

      • Chuck B

        Great news! I like Marvin coming back. Marvin at 34 may be a disaster contract but there are going to be a lot of inflated contracts handed out this year.

        Can we agree that Linn is probably the best pg on the market this year? Not that he’s fantastic but weak year at pg. so I have to estimate that the number of teams looking for a pg is going to inflate his value. Average starter salary next year $15 mil? I am not seeing how the hornets can match that number.

          • Lin is the best free agent PG not named Mike Conley. Rondo is a better player but comes with baggage. Deron Williams comes with injury concerns. Would love to get him back on a $12m per deal over 4yrs. It all depends if he wants to start or not.

  2. Leroy

    I like the idea of keeping Marvin instead of Lin. Most teams won’t offer Marvin tons of money because he is on his way to decline but he was vital to the Hornets on both side of the floor last season.

    If we have to give up Jeremy Lamb (Which I don’t want to), do a trade with Utah to get one of their backup PGs plus another player?

    Jeremy for Trey Burke and Jeff Whitney?

    • See my reply to the comment above for Marvin’s situation. As far as the trade market goes, Utah is the go to for backup PGs it seems. I’m not a Burke guy mainly b/c he’d have a difficult time playing alongside Kemba. Prefer a bigger PG who can slide over to the two for chunks of time ala Lin.

  3. Berdj Joseph Rassam

    These moves are things that could improve the Hornets at the margins but not enough to make them championship contenders.

    • Building a championship contender is no easy task. The Hornets have to maintain relevance in order to make themselves a free agent destination for a star. Check out my Offseason Review – they are poised to have that potential in 2018 – especially if MKG can become an All-Star or near AS type player.

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