While the 2020-21 free-agent market is shaky, several teams could turn to the Charlotte Hornets for relief.
The Charlotte Hornets’ rebuild appears ahead of schedule, but unforeseeable circumstances have lead to an uncertain NBA offseason.
The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of play in early March has set forth an unprecedented scramble to piece together the NBA’s financial future.
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Pre-COVID, early projections had the salary cap rising to $115 million for the 2020-21 season due to revenue growth, opening additional cap space for teams at and below the limit, as well as bouncing a few luxury tax teams below the threshold.
Discourse and speculation on the impact the pandemic would have toward the cap is pervasive online, and the Athletic’s John Hollinger reported that, with the continued absence of fans in arenas and those ticket revenues, the cap will most likely remain flat at $109 million with a tax threshold of $123 million—down from $132 million in 2019-20.
This precarious offseason puts teams with significant cap space—like the Charlotte Hornets—in a unique position. With the uncertain timeline concerning the return of fans in arenas, perennial big spenders and luxury tax teams may be looking to shed salary.
If all likely team and player options are picked up, all-cap holds renounced (for the sake of fielding a full roster, this probably won’t be the case), and factoring in the cap hold for the #3 pick in this year’s draft (around $7.8 million based on R.J. Barrett’s salary), the Charlotte Hornets are looking at roughly $20 million in space, give or take.
While they have the leverage to outbid many teams in this year’s weak free-agent class, Charlotte Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak has made it clear the team won’t be headhunting for the top talent among this year’s free agents and instead will stay committed to building the team via drafting and trades to avoid overpaying.
This leaves that $20 million dollar cap cushion available to absorb big contracts from teams that need to clean up the books for one reason or another. In a market full of bloated contracts, cap space can be as valuable an asset as a draft pick—just look to Memphis’ acquisition of Andre Iguodala and a future first-round pick from the Warriors last season as a recent example of how this can play to an organization’s advantage outside of the free-agent market.
That said, let’s take a look at some logical trade partners for the Charlotte Hornets around the league and what kinds of deals the team could be looking at to bolster the roster as well as the asset trove.