Summer agenda: Hornets, Pelicans must improve by making tweaks

The Vertical
Yahoo Sports
The Hornets and Pelicans need to be creative in getting help for Kemba Walker and Anthony Davis, respectively. (AP)
The Hornets and Pelicans need to be creative in getting help for Kemba Walker and Anthony Davis, respectively. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

Previous teams in the series: Nets and Suns | Timberwolves and 76ers | Magic and Kings

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Offseason focus

1. Get back to basics

Charlotte will need to re-establish its defensive identity, which faltered at times this past season. The Hornets went from ninth in defensive efficiency last season to 15th this year. Questions surround the roster’s physical toughness and if the players can implement coach Steve Clifford’s principles on the defensive end. The key is for players such as Kemba Walker to organize offseason workouts so the team can improve from within during the summer and not when training camp starts.

2. Build the bench, starting at point guard

The Hornets felt the absence of Jeremy Lin. Veterans Ramon Sessions and Brian Roberts were signed to fill the void, but they didn’t play more than 50 games because of injury and inconsistent play. Charlotte will need to make a decision on Sessions, who has a $6.2 million team option for next season. Declining the option would not give Charlotte cap space to replace him. If the Hornets go that direction, a backup point guard would need to be found in the draft or by using the team’s $8.4 million room mid-level exception.

3. Hit singles in the offseason

Charlotte does not need to make drastic changes to a roster that won 46 games a year ago and returned most of the players from that team. However, what the Hornets cannot do is be content and blame this past season on injuries and bad fortune at the end of games. Starting with the draft and into free agency, Charlotte needs to make positive tweaks but not blow up the roster or risk future assets for a short-term approach.

Hornets salary cap

Guaranteed                                         2017-18                             Insider info
Nicolas Batum                                  $22,434,783
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist                     $13,000,000
Marvin Williams                                $13,168,750
Cody Zeller                                        $12,584,270
Miles Plumlee                                   $12,500,000
Kemba Walker                                  $12,000,000                    Extension eligible
Jeremy Lamb                                     $7,000,000                     Extension eligible
Marco Belinelli                                 $6,606,060
Frank Kaminsky                                $2,847,600

Non/partial                                          2017-18                         Guarantee date
Ramon Sessions                               $6,270,000                   Team option June 29
Treveon Graham                                $1,312,611
Briante Weber                                   $1,471,382                                Aug. 1
Johnny O’Bryant                                $1,524,305                               Aug. 1

FA cap hold                                        2017-18                              FA status
Brian Roberts                                    $1,471,382                            Non-Bird
Christian Wood                                 $1,471,382                             Non-Bird

First-round cap hold                         2017-18
Projected No. 11 selection              $2,904,480

Salary table                                          2017
Guaranteed salaries                      $102,141,463
Non-guaranteed                             $10,578,298
Tax variance                                       $158,771
FA/draft cap holds                          $5,847,244
Salaries: cap                                  $118,567,005
Salaries: tax                                   $112,878,532
Salary cap                                      $101,000,000
Luxury tax                                      $121,000,000
Cap space                             None ($17,567,005 over)
Tax room                                           $8,121,468

Projected cap space

Expect a quiet summer for the Hornets when free agency begins.

The Hornets have nine players who have $102 million in guaranteed contracts combined. Those players alone put Charlotte $1 million over the salary cap.

Charlotte’s focus now is on staying out of the luxury tax.

Charlotte is currently $6.6 million below the tax, but does have the flexibility of $12 million in non-guaranteed contracts, including Sessions’ $6.2 million team option.

The Hornets will have the $8.4 million mid-level and $3.2 million bi-annual exceptions to use.

June draft picks

Charlotte has its own first-round pick at No. 11 and its own second-round pick at No. 41.

Future draft picks

The Hornets own their future first-round picks.

The Pelicans need to figure out how much Jrue Holiday is worth to them. (AP)
The Pelicans need to figure out how much Jrue Holiday is worth to them. (AP)

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Offseason focus

1. The value of Jrue Holiday

Holiday is in the prime of his career – he’ll be 27 when free agency begins – but has missed more than 100 games because of injury in his four seasons with New Orleans. He does have leverage because of the Pelicans’ cap situation and because the top free-agent point guards will likely remain with their own teams. The Pelicans went 2-12 when he was out of the lineup to start the season and he has versatility to play both guard spots. But his value will be interesting to monitor. Holiday has averaged 66 games the past two seasons as the team has averaged 32 wins.

2. Getting creative with limited flexibility

New Orleans has $88 million in guaranteed contracts. There will be no cap space for free agency until a decision on Holiday is made. The Pelicans have the $8.4 million mid-level and $3.2 million bi-annual exceptions, and the No. 40 pick in the draft to improve the roster. They also have $14 million counting against the cap in Quincy Pondexter and Omer Asik. Pondexter has missed the past two seasons with injuries, and Asik appeared in only 31 games this past season.

3. The future of DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins is entering the last year of his contract, which is worth $18.1 million. He is extension eligible, but the Pelicans cannot renegotiate because of salary-cap limitations. After acquiring the All-Star before the trade deadline, New Orleans went 7-10 and had difficulty implementing a system that fit both Cousins and Anthony Davis. A long-term commitment to Cousins would be a contract starting at $30.6 million in 2018, which would hamstring the Pelicans’ roster.

Pelicans cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                        2017-18                               Insider info
Anthony Davis                                $23,775,506
DeMarcus Cousins                         $18,063,850                        Extension eligible
Solomon Hill                                  $12,236,535
Omer Asik                                       $10,595,505                        Extension eligible
E’Twaun Moore                                $8,445,024
Alexis Ajinca                                    $4,961,798                          Extension eligible
Quincy Pondexter                            $3,853,931                         Extension eligible
Dante Cunningham                         $3,106,500                       Player option June 21
Tim Frazier                                      $2,000,000
Cheick Diallo                                    $1,312,611

Non/partial                                        2017-18                             Guarantee date
Jordan Crawford                              $1,709,538
Axel Toupane                                   $1,471,382
Quinn Cook                                      $1,312,611

FA cap hold                                        2017-18                                  FA status
Jrue Holiday                                    $16,929,777                                   Bird
Donatas Motiejunas                         $1,471,382                                Non-Bird

Salary table                                          2017
Guaranteed salaries                       $88,351,260
Non-guaranteed                              $4,493,531
Tax variance                                       $158,771
Free-Agent cap holds                      $18,401,159
Salaries: cap                                    $111,245,950
Salaries: tax                                     $93,003,562
Salary cap                                       $101,000,000
Luxury tax                                       $121,000,000
Cap space                               None ($10,245,950 over)
Tax room                                          $27,996,438

Projected cap space

New Orleans will not be in position to use cap space this summer.

With $87 million in guaranteed contracts and the pending free agency of Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans are right at the salary cap for next year.

The issue for New Orleans is that if Holiday signs elsewhere, it will have only $13 million to find a replacement from a limited point-guard pool.

If the Pelicans and Holiday are able to find middle ground in contract talks, New Orleans has the $8.4 million mid-level and $3.2 million bi-annual exceptions to improve.

June draft picks

As part of the trade to acquire Cousins, New Orleans sent the Kings its first-round pick, protected Nos. 1-3.

The Pelicans have their own second-round pick at No. 40.

Future draft picks

New Orleans will owe Sacramento a first in 2018, 2019 or 2020, which is protected for the No. 1 pick overall, and an unprotected pick in 2021 if the selection in 2017 is not conveyed.

Popular video from The Vertical:

What to Read Next