NBA Rumors: Charlotte Hornets Offseason Overhaul Underway

Jan 23, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; The Charlotte Hornets bench looks on against the Utah Jazz in the second quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets offseason can’t come soon enough. The team is among those most looking forward to next season after a horrendous 2022-23 campaign. The Hornets’ season got off to a rocky start before the year started, as star forward Miles Bridges missed last season after being arrested for domestic violence. Then LaMelo Ball missed 23 of the first 26 games and was shut down after fracturing his right ankle at the end of February. Ball appeared in just 36 games. Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre Jr.,  Dennis Smith Jr., and 2922 first-round draft pick Mark Williams all played in fewer than 6o games. They also dealt Jalen McDaniels and Mason Plumlee at the trade deadline.

NBA Rumors: Charlotte Hornets Offseason Overhaul in Full Swing

As a result of all the injuries, Charlotte finished last in the Southeast division for the first time since 2012 with a 27-55 record. It was the seventh straight season that the Hornets missed the playoffs. The 27 victories were also their second-fewest victories in this seventh-year stretch.

The Hornets used 26 starting lineups and 19th players this year. Offense was their biggest problem as the Hornets finished 30th in the league in offensive rating as they finished 29th in field goal percentage and 29th in 3-point percentage. They also finished 20th in defensive rating.

Despite this, Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchack doesn’t plan on making any drastic changes. Following the season, Kupchack told reporters that the Hornets will instead look to retain its own free agents and add talent through the draft.

“Although we have a lot of financial flexibility, we don’t typically go big-game hunting with our free agent money.Maybe one day we will get to the point where a marquee free agent would look at our team and we’re winning a bunch of games and he’ll say, ’Hey, that’s a place I really want to go,” he said. “But right now, I don’t think that’s realistic. We’ve got to do it through the draft primarily.”

Charlotte 2023 Free Agent/Draft Situation

Charlotte has 11 players under contract for 2023-24, with salaries totaling $95.3 million. Kobi Simmons ($2.0 million) and JT Thor ($1.8 million) have nonguaranteed deals.

The Hornets project to have around $31 million in cap space and are over $66.6 million beneath the luxury tax. If the Hornets stay below the luxury tax apron, they will have a non-taxpayer Mid-level exception worth $12. 2 million to go with their $4.48 million bi-annual exception.

P.J. Washington and Bridges are potential restricted free agents. The Hornets are expected to keep both players as both are considered a top priority for the franchise. Meanwhile, Oubre Jr., Svi Mykhailiuk, and Smith Jr. are unrestricted free agents. All three have said they are interested in returning.

Charlotte also has five draft 2023 draft picks, including two first-round draft picks. The Hornets project to have the No. 4 pick in the draft, with a 12.5% chance of obtaining the top pick, and are guaranteed that the selection won’t fall below eighth. They also own the No. 27 (via Denver), No. 34, No. 39, and No. 42 selections.

Additionally, Charlotte has extension decisions. The Hornets have to make qualifying offers to Washington, Bridges, and Theo Madelon (2-way) before June 30 to prevent them from being unrestricted free agents. The Hornets also have the end of June to decide whether to pick up the club option on James Bouknight, Kai Jones, and Williams for 2024-25. If they don’t, those three will be restricted free agents in 2024.

Ball is eligible for a max rookie scale extension, which he is almost guaranteed to receive. The Hornets have until the beginning of the 2023-24 campaign to decide whether the 21-year-old point guard will be a restricted free agent next summer.

P.J. Washington

Washington is guaranteed to receive a qualifying offer from the Hornets of $8.4 million. The 24-year-old forward was the Hornets’ most reliable player last year, appearing in a team-best 73 games, and he averaged a career-best 15.7 points and 2.0 3-pointers a contest. He is pretty good efficient around the basket and has become pretty accurate from 16 feet and in over the last two seasons. Washington also is a solid physical defender who can guard on the perimeter.

According to Mark Stein, via Stein’s Substack, the Hornet’s interest in re-signing the 6-7 forward is much greater than it was last summer. However, it may ultimately come down to his asking price. It is believed that Williams will get between $14-16 million, but there is a chance that other teams could throw more money at him.

For his part, Washington told Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer that he wants to remain with the Hornets.

“I definitely want to be here in Charlotte.This is like home to me now, so this is where I want to be. I haven’t thought about being anywhere else.”

Miles Bridges

The Hornets will also certainly at least make Bridges the required $7.9 million qualifying offer by June 29. This is despite his arrest and subsequent 30-game suspension, which he still has to serve 10 of those contests. He could receive over $20 million on his new contract. He was in line to sign a five-year, $170 million pact last summer.

Bridges have improved every year in the NBA. The 25-year-old combo forward averaged 20.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 2021-22.

It seems likely Bridges will remain with the organization. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted back on December 23, 2022, that Charlotte and Bridges were making traction on a new contract. More recently, Stein, in his April 3o Substack, said that rival NBA front offices believe Bridges will re-sign with Charlotte.

Dennis Smith Jr.

Smith Jr. is expected to get a new contract with Charlotte. Last year, he made $1.8 million and could get a slight bump in a multi-year deal.

Smith had a pretty good season in his first season with the Hornets. The 25-year-old still can’t shoot, but he ran the offense excellently, compiling a 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also did a solid job defensively, and the Hornets improved drastically as the season progressed with him on the floor.

Smith averaged 8.8 points this past season with a shooting slash line of .412/.216/.736. He averaged 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.5 turnovers in 25.7 minutes a game.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Oubre’s potential return could be tied to offers he receives from other teams. The 27-year-old wing is coming off a great season, setting career-high in a few categories. He signed a two-year, $25 million deal with Charlotte two summers ago.

“It would mean a lot. My family (wife, daughter) loves it here. I love it here. I love the organization, the city, my teammates so it would mean a lot to me for sure,” Oubre said of possibly reaching terms on a new contract to remain in Charlotte.

Oubre is a three-level scorer who loves to launch from the 3-point line. He is a decent defensive rebounder and doesn’t hurt teams defensively.

This past season, Oubre put up 20.3 points and 2.3 treys on 41.3% shooting from the field and 31.9% from the 3-point line. He also compiled 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.4 steals in 48 games.

Svi Mykhailiuk Unlikely To Return to Charlotte

Myjhailiuk will likely not be back in a Hornets uniform. The 25-year-old wing produced an excellent season and had an impact with the Hornets after coming over from New York. He averaged 10.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists while producing a shooting line of .441/.404/.676 in 19 appearances.