Summer rewind: Charlotte Hornets

Nicolas Batum is a key part of the Hornets' core. (Getty)
Nicolas Batum is a key part of the Hornets’ core. (Getty)

A look at the key offseason moves and changes for every team in the league. Next up are the Charlotte Hornets.

Free agents

Nicolas Batum
Marvin Williams
Ramon Sessions
Roy Hibbert
Brian Roberts
Christian Wood
Mike Tobey
Treveon Graham

Marco Belinelli

Shooting guard depth

The draft-night acquisition of veteran Marco Belinelli gave Charlotte protection with the free agency of Courtney Lee. Belinelli’s $6.3 million salary is half of what the New York Knicks will pay Lee in 2016-17.

Belinelli, as he showed in Chicago and San Antonio, is more of a system player and should fit coach Steve Clifford’s style.

The financial flexibility also helped the Hornets address their bench needs.

The top priority
Faced with the salary-cap dilemma of keeping their own free agents, the Hornets first addressed their primary target: Nicolas Batum.

Since acquiring Batum last June, the Hornets made it clear they wanted him long term and gave him a five-year, $120 million contract.

Batum and former first-round pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist give Charlotte one of the most formidable defensive wing tandems in the league.

Taking advantage of early Bird rights
Charlotte used the early Bird rights of Marvin Williams to find a backup point guard in Ramon Sessions and center Roy Hibbert.

Because Williams’ starting salary is $12.25 million, Charlotte was able to leave his $9.1 million cap hold on the books and use cap space to sign Sessions and Hibbert before Williams was signed.

Player 2016

1. Nicolas Batum $20,869,566
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist $13,000,000
3. Marvin Williams $12,250,000
4. Kemba Walker $12,000,000
5. Spencer Hawes $6,348,759
6. Jeremy Lamb $6,511,628
7. Marco Belinelli $6,333,333
8. Ramon Sessions $6,000,000
9. Cody Zeller $5,318,313
10. Roy Hibbert $5,000,000
11. Frank Kaminsky $2,730,000
12. Brian Roberts $980,431
13. Christian Wood $874,636

Partial-non guaranteed 2016
14. Aaron Harrison $874,636
15. Mike Tobey $543,471
16. Treveon Graham $543,471

Salary table 2016
Guaranteed salaries $98,366,666
Dead money $0
Non-guaranteed $1,811,578
Tax variance $1,055,510
Free-agent cap holds $0
Incomplete roster charge $0
Salaries: cap $100,178,244
Salaries: tax $101,263,754
Salary cap $94,143,000
Luxury tax $113,287,000
Cap space None ($6,035,244 over)
Tax room $12,023,246

Charlotte had no cap space before free agency started.

The Hornets were able to create room when the Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin cap holds were released.

Once the room was created, Charlotte was able to complete the draft-night trade for Belinelli and sign Hibbert and Sessions with cap space.

The Hornets benefited with the early Bird and full Bird rights of Williams and Batum, respectively.

Both players were signed once all the cap space was used.

Former Hornet Brian Roberts and summer-league sensation Christian Wood were signed to the minimum exception.

Free agents signed in the offseason cannot be traded until either Dec. 15, Jan. 15 or for three months if they signed after Sept. 15.

Batum and Williams cannot be traded until Jan. 15. Because both players were signed using Bird rights and their current contracts are more than 20 percent from the previous season, Jan. 15 is used as the date for the signing restriction.

Sessions, Hibbert, Wood, Tobey, Graham and Roberts cannot be traded until Dec. 15.


Cody Zeller, a 2013 first-round pick, is in the final year of his rookie contract and is eligible to have his deal extended until Oct. 31.

Because the Hornets are unlikely to have cap space next summer, Charlotte, unlike teams with potential cap space, can be more aggressive in extension talks with Zeller.

Zeller has a $13.2 million cap hold and will find a comparable salary next July.


Starter Bench Bench
PG Kemba Walker Ramon Sessions Brian Roberts
SG Nicolas Batum Jeremy Lamb Aaron Harrison
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Marco Belinelli Treveon Graham
PF Marvin Williams Frank Kaminsky Christian Wood
C Cody Zeller Roy Hibbert Spencer Hawes/Mike Tobey

The Hornets currently have 13 guaranteed contracts and three players with partial/non-guaranteed contracts: Harrison, Graham and Tobey.

The Hornets’ new NBA Development League team in Greensboro will serve as a foundation to develop their young players now and act as a safety net if players are released during camp.

Charlotte still has the $2.89 million room mid-level to use if needed.

Charlotte used the first few weeks of free agency to lock up their core.

Doing so, however, likely eliminated the Hornets from having cap space and flexibility next July.

The Hornets will benefit with 10 players returning and a strong foundation in place.

Charlotte will focus on the June draft and retaining restricted free agent Cody Zeller.

The health of Kidd-Gilchrist

The impact of Kidd-Gilchrist was on full display last winter, when the Hornets won five of seven.

Kidd-Gilchrist had returned from right shoulder surgery, but his stay on the court was brief because a second shoulder injury in February sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Charlotte’s return to the playoffs will depend not only on its free-agent additions but the health of Kidd-Gilchrist.

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