There is an old adage commonly used in professional sports, “if you are not getting better, you are getting worse.” The Charlotte Hornets made a major move to get better by signing Gordon Hayward to a 4 year, $63 million offer sheet early Thursday. The Utah Jazz have until 11:59 pm on Sunday, July 13, to match the offer, or let Hayward go to Charlotte. All signs point toward Utah matching the offer, leaving the Hornets with a very real chance of getting left behind in free agency.
Until the Jazz decide Gordon Hayward’s fate, over $15 million of Charlotte cap space will remain tied-up. During this time, Charlotte’s ability to sign meaningful free agents is virtually zero.
If I am Rich Cho, and newly-hired assistant General Manager Chad Buchanan, my plan for the next 72 hours would look something like this:
1. Hope I gambled correctly on Hayward. Many fans and national pundits seem to think the max contract Hayward signed was an overpay. By now, we all know the facts. Hayward’s shooting percentages have dropped each year, including connecting on only 30% from three last season. Hayward has never been a top-flight defender, and has a propensity for turning the ball over. But just listen to what Head Coach Steve Clifford had to say about Hayward, and you’ll know why Rich Cho & Co. are keeping their fingers crossed for the talented young wing.
2. Contact Lance Stephenson. One week ago, Stephenson turned down a 5 years, $44 million contract from Indiana gambling on himself that he will get a better deal. If I am Rich Cho, I prepare a contingency to easily top the deal to bring Lance, and all his ear-blowing antics, to Charlotte. Like him or not, Lance Stephenson is an elite NBA talent. He led the NBA in triple-doubles last season, averaged 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists to go along with nearly 14 points a game. His defense alone would be an upgrade over Gerald Henderson, and along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Lance could give Charlotte one of the better wing defenses in the NBA.
3. Don’t overpay mid-level players. Reports have placed the Hornets as pursuing power forward Marvin Williams. Last year, Williams earned $7.5 million, producing a little over 9 points and 5 rebounds a game. Yes, Josh McRoberts left for Miami leaving a hole at the power forward position, but signing Williams to anything close to $7.5 million would be laughable. Charlotte is also looking for replacements for back-up point guards Luke Ridnour and Jannero Pargo. The free agent market is full of point guards Charlotte should be able to get on short, reasonable deals. The most attractive candidates look to be Ramon Sessions, Jameer Nelson and Kirk Hinrich. Signing any of these would be an improvement over Ridnour, and would certainly stabilize the second unit. Something in the ballpark of 2 years, $6 million seems reasonable.
So what do you think the Hornets should focus on while we await the Hayward decision? Leave your opinions in the comments section below!
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