Feb 1, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) stand side by side during the fourth quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. The Heat defeated the Knicks 106-91. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

How the Charlotte Hornets Could Sign a Max Player

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have recently said they both are opting out of their contracts, making them unrestricted free agents.  It would be the longest of shots, but here’s how the Charlotte Hornets could free enough money to make an offer to a max contract player.  It gets complicated based on the NBA salary cap, but Charlotte just needs to make a few minor roster moves to have money available.

First the numbers:

So how much is a max contract?  It’s way more complicated than you might think.  But it starts with the first year of a max contract can be 105% of what the player made last year.  So signing Carmelo would cost more that signing LeBron because the king took less money to sign with Miami.

signing Carmelo would cost more that signing LeBron because the king took less money to sign with Miami, which affects what his max contract can be.

The league wide max is a little over $19 million, and Carmelo was able to go over that based on how the last CBA was done.  Again, it gets complicated but since James took less than the max to go to Miami, LeBron’s max number will be affected by what next year’s league wide max becomes. To keep this simple, let’s say it stays similar to 2013-2014.  We know Carmelo’s max will be slightly more than LeBron’s max.

Signing Carmelo – first year ~ $22.5 million

Signing LeBron – first year ~ $20 million

Enough of the details, if you’re interested in more info on the salary cap, Google “NBA max contract” and watch your head spin. For the sake of argument let’s see if the Hornets can free up $23 million for next season to comfortably sign either player.  If the numbers bore you, skip down to the 3 steps listed in bold below.

Here’s the salary situation for Charlotte per Hoopshype.com.

hoopshype The NBA announced in April this year they expect the 2014-2015 salary cap to be around $63.2 million with the luxury tax being around $77 million (again the exact number will be announced in July).  So as you can see, if Jeff Taylor‘s team option is not picked up, the Hornets have around $40.4 million on the books next season. This does not include resigning Josh McRoberts or Chris Douglas-Roberts yet so this includes 8 total players on the roster.

They will have two first round picks and a second round pick in the NBA Draft this Thursday.  Let’s say the first rounders sign and the second rounder does not for simplicity’s sake.  The rookie wage scale would dictate then that the #9 and #24 picks add $3.2 million total.  We now have 10 players on the roster.

So Charlotte has $43.6 million on the books next year, and they need to get to $40.2 million to leave $23 million for a max guy.  Note: my fake trades below are assuming $0 returning salary, such as trading for future 1st or 2nd round draft picks.

1)  Trade the expiring contracts of Gary Neal and Brendan Haywood, opening $5.25 million.  Boom.  We can sign a Max Player!

But they need more players because this brings us to a total of 9. To maximize flexibility of building a contender in Charlotte, let’s see how much money can be freed up.

2) Trade Bismack Biyombo.  This frees $4.08 million, and he can be considered an expiring deal because the receiving team does not have to make him a qualifying offer, making him easier to trade.  Kemba Walker is in this position as well but not likely to be traded.  Kemba’s a keeper.

3) Trade MKG.  Saves $5.2 million, but this one hurts.  I love Kidd-Gilchrist, but he’s the most likely trade piece to get something of value in return, and the Hornets don’t need him to guard LeBron if they have LeBron.

That gives Charlotte around $11.1 million to fill out the roster, leaving Kemba, Henderson, Max Contract, Zeller, Big Al, and the 2 draft picks. Another player could be moved as well for even more flexibility.  They could always decide to bring back Jeff Taylor since he was making less than a million. It might make sense that they end up signing the second round pick from this draft as well since that will also be around $1 million or less.  Again, this is the longest of shots, not likely to happen.  But you never know..

I’ll let Rich Cho make the rest of the decisions.  I got him an All-Star, he can take it from here.

Tags: Charlotte Hornets

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