Hornets Rumors: Miles Bridges, Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball, Montrezl Harrell, Coach Search

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HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Hornets beat writer Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer discuss two of the biggest storylines this offseason, the free agency of Miles Bridges and the trade market for Gordon Hayward. The duo also discussed the latest on Charlotte’s coaching search and free agency for Montrezl Harrell, Cody Martin and Isaiah Thomas on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.

:55 Miles Bridges’ Free Agency Future

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Scotto: Miles Bridges enters the offseason as one of the top free agents on the market. He’s currently sixth overall on our HoopsHype free-agent rankings. Four NBA executives told me he could earn $25 million annually or more in free agency. If there becomes a bidding war for Bridges, he could get a max contract.

One executive told me, “Bridges will get close to, if not the max, at this point. He’s 23 years old and a big wing. Those guys are so rare. If Portland can’t trade for Jerami Grant, they’ll probably look in Bridges’ direction. These teams with cap space that are debating where to spend money would probably go for a young wing. They’re hard guys to get. I think he’s getting $25 million to the max annually.”

Another executive said, “I can see Bridges getting $25 million or more. He’s got leverage now. The teams that have room are teams that’ll have interest in Miles. Rich Paul can figure out a team to give him an offer that Charlotte would have to match.” He added, “Bridges has to fit your style. He’s improved so much as a perimeter shooter. I think he’s a two-way guy. I like his athleticism in transition. He’s got a pretty good IQ. He and LaMelo Ball have a good thing going. So many of their assists are instinctual where the defender isn’t looking, and Miles back cuts around him and gets an alley-oop. I can see LaMelo saying he wants the team to keep him.”

Boone: He can command a large salary because you’ve got guys like Jaren Jackson Jr., who was his school mate at Michigan State, got a $100 million contract extension. I think Miles is in that same range. He had a career year. He was one of the top players to improve his scoring around 7.5 points per game. He became the team’s leading scorer. When you’re the top scorer on a team, you should command the top salary on the team or close to it. I think he’s definitely worth that $25 million. He’s young, and you can plug in the lineup for the next four or five years in his prime.

The Hornets’ up-tempo style is perfect for him. He’s grown. He’s a leaper and dunker, but beyond that, the Hornets like to shoot a lot of three-pointers. He has evolved in that part of his game. His market is going to be robust. I think when it’s all said and done, he wants to remain with the Hornets. Unless, for some reason, they can’t match the offer sheet he’ll get from another team, I think he’ll come back because there’s unfinished business for the Hornets, LaMelo Ball and him. They’re like brothers, along with Terry Rozier. I don’t think he’ll leave barring a deal the Hornets can’t match with a poison pill. He wants to be here, and they want him here for sure.

Scotto: You talked about the relationship between Bridges and LaMelo. I certainly think that’s an important factor. You always want to keep your star happy… Charlotte had a chance to extend Bridges before the season, and it didn’t get done. It seemed like they were far apart. Now, by not doing that, he’s put himself in a position to get a much bigger bag… I think there are some teams out there that feel they have at least a chance to go after him with a high offer sheet, given the way Charlotte has done business in the past. You saw them not retain Kemba Walker years ago. Charlotte, when it comes to the luxury tax, doesn’t really like to go that far unless they’re going to have a team that’s really going to be something.

Boone: I think this could be a case where you have a homegrown product that you drafted and essentially traded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to bring him in, you groomed him for four seasons, and he has basically his brother, LaMelo, where they coincide. If there’s ever a time for them to go above the tax if they have to, this is it. I think they view Miles as a core piece. You don’t want to develop somebody to let him get away and essentially start from scratch.

The Hornets, even though Gordon Hayward signed a couple of seasons ago, they don’t really get a lot of free agents in Charlotte. It’s been a little bit of a struggle for them to get guys to come here and take their money and play. It’s a great place to live, but it’s not by a beach or a major metropolitan area.

Scotto: When Charlotte was trying to do extension talks at the time, they were looking to see if this was a guy they wanted to pay even $20 million at the time. Now, you can throw that number out the window. That’s going way up.

9:01 Gordon Hayward’s Trade Market

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Scotto: With Miles Bridges projected to earn close to, if not, a max contract, Gordon Hayward is a name to keep an eye on regarding the trade market. In talking to several executives, Hayward is viewed as a neutral asset who’s a good player, but one who’s been injury-prone the past three seasons.

I thought one executive I spoke to summed it up nicely. The executive said, “I’m sure they can trade him. I don’t think they’ll get off a ton of money. They’ll take players back that cost a little less. They overpaid to get Hayward, which they had to do to get him in the first place, but they’re also paying Nicolas Batum’s dead money to sign him. His effective cost is $40 million because of that. I don’t think he has plus value on that deal and his injuries are starting to add up with age. Maybe you’re able to trade him for two pieces making $10-15 million a year. I’m sure there will be a market for him because at the end of the day, he’s a really good wing player.”

Boone: It’s going to be one of the things to watch this offseason. Is there really a big market for a player making $30 million, who has two years on his contract left at that number and has been injured his first two seasons here? To me, that’s a team that either wants to bring him closer to home like the Pacers or a team that is in transition and feels like maybe they want to move salaries to get to where they want to go.

Even going to the Russell Westbrook thing that’s a rumor out there. Where’s he going to play? You’re going to put him beside LaMelo in the starting lineup? How’s that going to work? You’re going to put Terry Rozier on the bench? I don’t understand that thinking.

Scotto: The New York Knicks came close to being in the ballpark of that Charlotte Hornets deal when Hayward was looking for a new home, I’m told. He already committed to Charlotte at the time, and that’s why he didn’t end up going to New York. Indiana was previously interested in looking at Hayward as a trade candidate when they had Domantas Sabonis. Now, they’ve pivoted and gone in a different direction. I don’t know if you can look at him there as a fit.

14:24 Charlotte’s Coaching Search

Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

Scotto: Some people in the organization found out James Borrego was fired on Twitter and were surprised by the decision to part ways with Borrego, I’m told.

Mike D’Antoni, is reportedly a serious candidate for the job, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, but given Charlotte’s coaching history, I’m not sure they’re willing to spend that much for a guy like D’Antoni.

Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Sean Sweeney are all considered top assistant coaches currently that could make a play (for the job). Atkinson would certainly add to the culture of this team. It reminds me of when he was with the Nets as a young team looking to take that next step. Ham has been around a winning coach and program in Atlanta and Milwaukee with Mike Budenholzer. Sweeney has always been on the radar as a guy that’s next up, and he’s done great things in Dallas.

Boone: This hire is very important for this franchise. LaMelo has two years left. He’s in that middle phase of his rookie contract, where he’ll be up for an extension in a couple of seasons. You want to make sure he’s happy and he’s playing in a system he likes that works well in his favor. D’Antoni turns 71, I believe, on May 8th. I’m not sure how you can go out there and bring in someone like him if he’s not going to be around for two or three more years.

Scotto: I think a lot of people around the league have always kept an eye on the Philadelphia 76ers’ situation and how far they go in the playoffs. If Doc Rivers is let go and Philadelphia feels they need to make a change, Mike D’Antoni is certainly a guy that many people around the league think would be on the radar there given his relationship with Daryl Morey and James Harden.

20:22 LaMelo Ball’s Long-term Future

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Scotto: If you’re Charlotte, when the time comes, you’re going to have to throw him a max extension offer and hope he takes it. Even if you do that, you have to keep him as happy as possible because it’s so hard for teams like Charlotte in their markets to land a young and rising star like that. At the end of the day, he changes everything from a box office perspective to the value of the team, even if they’re a fringe playoff team. He just became an All-Star.

Boone: The dude is doing commercials. When’s the last time you’ve seen a guy from the Hornets doing national TV commercials?

Scotto: When LaVar Ball says, “There he is. There’s nothing my son can’t do,” it cracks me up every time.

22:08 Montrezl Harrell’s Free Agent Market

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Scotto: Several NBA executives I spoke to don’t believe Montrezl Harrell will command the non-taxpayer mid-level exception range he previously commanded in free agency. Instead, they’re viewing him as closer to a taxpayer mid-level exception guy or less, which would be around $6 million annually or less. He’s been on four teams in four seasons and could be headed for his fifth team in as many years this offseason.

Boone: I think he was good for them. He’s from North Carolina. When you’re from the state, and you’re playing at home a couple of hours away, he gets a chance to see his family and friends at games all the time. He was in a different atmosphere at a place and a level where he was happy. His kids were around, and he was thrilled. He gave them some toughness and juice inside.

He’s really good buddies with Terry Rozier, his college teammate. You also factor in the fact that he didn’t feel he was used the right way towards the end of the season. He didn’t play very much against the Hawks in that Play-In game. He kind of voiced his frustrations a bit after the season was over. With a coaching change coming and all the other factors, if the number is right and both sides think it’s good to continue this partnership, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be a good fit for them coming back.

25:06 PJ Washington, Cody Martin and Isaiah Thomas Updates

AP Photo/Rusty Jones

Scotto: PJ Washington’s name popped up in the Myles Turner trade packages when they were discussing him. PJ’s name will pop up in trade rumors this offseason. Teams see him as a piece on Charlotte they’d like. If you’re Charlotte, he’s a movable piece.

Cody Martin will be due a pay raise after a nice season with Charlotte.

Isaiah Thomas is a free agent, but I think they’d like to bring him back. They had a nice record with him.

Boone: Cody Martin is one of the core players here. It depends on who the new coach will be and what he thinks of his all-around game, and what he brings to the team. With coach Borrego, that was the first guy he brought off the bench pretty much every game as his sixth man, especially for defensive purposes. I think barring something crazy, they’ll probably try to find common ground. I think he wants to be here.

As for Isaiah Thomas, I know for a fact, I asked him several times during and after the season. He wants to be back. LaMelo Ball likes him a lot, and he thought Isaiah helped him out. They have a good rapport out there.

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Rod Boone (@RodBoone) on Twitter.

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